Tue Apr 24 3:41pm ET
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
In this April 19, 2018, file photo, Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey answers questions about the draft during a news conference at the NFL football team's training camp facility, in Berea, Ohio. With the NFL draft quickly approaching, the teams die-hard supporters, and there have been few groups in NFL history to suffer like this one has the past two seasons, are divided over which of the top four college QBs the team should select. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)
CLEVELAND (AP) As far as Cleveland fans are concerned, only one quarterback fits all the essential criteria for the Browns to draft him with the No. 1 overall pick.
His last name? Darnoldallenrosenmayfield.
With the NFL draft quickly approaching, the team's die-hard supporters, and there have been few groups in NFL history to suffer like this one has the past two seasons, are divided over which of the top four college QBs the team should select.
There's the Sam Darnold contingent, which sees the two-year Southern Cal starter as the safest choice, the one who checks all the positive boxes. Josh Allen's supporters point to the big Wyoming QB's high-velocity arm, which could help him knife passes through those tricky home winds off Lake Erie.
Josh Rosen's backers love the UCLA star's accuracy and his cerebral game. And of course there's the Baker Mayfield army, which dismiss his 6-foot frame and believe Oklahoma's swaggering Heisman Trophy winner is the next Brett Favre.
Oh, and let's not forget the fans who feel Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is worthy of going first and that the Browns can wait until No. 4 to get their quarterback.
But while there's no clear consensus between fans as the Browns prepare for a franchise-changing draft, general manager John Dorsey and his staff will have presumably reached an accord by the time Commissioner Roger Goodell is handed their card on the stage at AT&T Stadium.
If not, well, these are the bumbling Browns.
Cleveland's inability to find a franchise quarterback - they've had 28 starters since 1999 - is the biggest reason for the team's sustained misery. And once again they have the chance to correct the problem after passing on Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson in the past two drafts.
Dorsey, who as Kanas City's GM got the Chiefs turned around with some solid drafts, has been aggressive in fixing mistakes by previous Cleveland regimes. Since December, he's traded for QB Tyrod Taylor and Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry, revamped the secondary and spent months scouting the top quarterbacks.
He knows what he's looking for.
''The only thing I really care about is do the guys win?'' he said ''Does he have accuracy? Does he have a strong arm? Can he throw the ball in the red zone and in tight windows? Can he drive the ball? At the end of the game, does he win? That is kind of what I look for.''
Dorsey insists he's keeping his options open, and that he'd trade the top pick for the right package. ''My phone always rings,'' he said. And with several teams in the market for a quarterback, it's likely the Browns will entertain offers. However, that doesn't mean Dorsey will make a deal.
The Browns remain haunted by their decision to trade first-round picks with Philadelphia and Houston the past two years, swaps that cost them Wentz and Watson.
Dorsey raised some eyebrows last week when he cited the importance of hand size as one of his top criteria in selecting a quarterback. Cleveland's inclement weather can make gripping the ball a challenge, and therefore the bigger the hand, the better.
Using hands as an exclusive measuring stick, Allen (10 1/8 inches) would be Dorsey's favorite over Rosen (9 7/8), Darnold (9 3/8) and Mayfield (9 1/4).
The top pick isn't the only tough choice for the Browns, who may be torn at No. 4 between taking Barkley (if he's still available) or North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb.
The 6-foot-4, 270 pound Chubb would be a perfect complement to Myles Garrett, last year's top overall pick who had a solid rookie season despite being slowed by an ankle injury. Chubb led the ACC with 10 sacks last season, and the thought of having to block him and Garrett would give an NFL offensive coordinator nightmares.
''I would be thrilled to have a guy like that because he fits all of the models we talk about,'' Dorsey said. ''He is a good football player. He is a man of character. He would be great in the locker room. Really, he is a super kid.''
HITS, MISSES AND BARGAINS
Garrett was a smart pick, but the Browns haven't been so savvy in recent years. Of the team's 11 first-round selections since 2012, only four are still with the team - and three were selected last year.
Wide receiver Corey Coleman (No. 15 in 2016) has struggled with injuries and inconsistency. The Browns did find a late-round gem that year in linebacker Joe Schobert (No. 99 overall), who made the Pro Bowl in his second season.
Chicago Bears tight end Adam Shaheen's Week 1 status is in doubt due to a right ankle sprain. Shaheen rolled the ankle hauling in his third reception of the game against the Bengals on August 9. Shaheen racked up 53 yards in the preseason affair but this is just another injury that could stunt his development. Shaheen also had a strong performance last season against the Bengals but exited that game as well with a chest injury at the time. The sprain is not being characterized as serious right now but this certainly hurts his value as a TE2 in deeper leagues moving forward. Expect Shaheen to miss the rest of the preseason.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson made his preseason debut against the Broncos last Saturday. It has been a long road back from a torn ACL for the talented receiver and his appearance marks his first game action since the injury in Week 1 of last season. The free-agent acquisition was not targeted in the game but his rehab is right on course to begin the season at full speed. When healthy, Robinson is a professional route runner with the physical tools to win on 50-50 balls and is a big-time red zone threat. He currently is being slotted as a low-end WR1 and is in line for tons of targets in the Bears revamped offense.
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley missed practice for the sixth straight day with a tweaked hamstring on Tuesday. Barkley was not in uniform for the team's second preseason game last Friday and the team is being ultra cautious with their top draft pick. Barkley has the talent and skill-set to deserve the top-6 fantasy status he currently is getting in most rankings. At this time, the Giants will do everything they can to get their rookie up to 100% before Week 1 and should be ready to roll when the lights come on. His draft status should not be altered because of this injury for now.
Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman will once again be inactive for the third preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Freeman has not yet seen a single minute of preseason action, and it now looks increasingly likely that he will not suit up at all this preseason. Freeman not playing in the preseason is not an issue for his fantasy value entering the season. If anything, given his history of concussions, not playing is a bonus to his fantasy value. If Freeman can stay healthy for the majority of the season he should be in contention to be a top-10 running back at the end of the season.
Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant will kick again in Wednesday's practice. Bryant has an undisclosed injury and has not played in either of the first two preseason games. He did kick 15 balls last week, but that was not enough to convince the Falcons to activate him for the second preseason game. How Bryant fairs Wednesday could determine his status for the third preseason game. Right now Bryant is still the front runner to remain the Falcons kicker into the season, and he should be treated as such in fantasy drafts.
Tennessee Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews has missed all of training camp dealing with an undisclosed injury, however, head coach Mike Vrabel said on Tuesday that he is hopeful the receiver will return shortly. Lack of injury updates and the emergence of Taywan Taylor have both caused a bit of a drop in Matthews' draft stock this year, but should he be able to return early in the season, he still has a chance to be Mariota's favorite weapon. Despite the possible value, proceed with caution regarding Matthews until we receive news that he is able to return to practice.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones will not suit up against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Falcons third preseason game. Given that the third game is often the one where the starters play the most time, it is now looking as if Jones is not going to suit up for any preseason games. This should not be an issue for fantasy owners entering the season. As long as Jones remains present at Falcons practice you should consider him good to go when the season begins. As it stands Jones remains a top-five fantasy wide receiver, despite the lack of preseason action.
Chicago Bears tight end Trey Burton gave fantasy owners a taste of his forthcoming expanded role with his new team in the Bears 24-23 preseason win over the Broncos. Burton caught four passes for 45 yards, including a touchdown catch on a fantastic play drawn up by new head coach Matt Nagy. Burton was used in motion on several plays out of the slot, including an excellent sideline catch for 12 yards for a first down. Burton's career high for receptions in a season is only 37 but glimpses at the new Bears offense indicate he could blow by that number. Burton's value will continue to rise leading up to fantasy drafts over the next few weeks.
The New Orleans Saints have released running back Terrance West, according to the NFL Network. West racked up 36 yards on seven carries over two preseason games, including a 21-yard run. The team appears to be favoring youth and running back Jonathan Williams has continued to impress in camp. The team is looking for a player to combo with Alvin Kamara while Mark Ingram serves his suspension to begin the season. West enjoyed his best season in 2016 when he racked up six total touchdowns and 1,010 all-purpose yards for the Ravens. West surely will get a look with another team at some point this season.
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (knee) could realistically make his preseason debut on Friday against the Seattle Seahawks. Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo mentioned that the team is "looking forward to possibly seeing him out there". While it seems like a foregone conclusion that Cook will play in Week 1 of the regular season, it would still be nice to get a glimpse of him before preseason is over. There have been rumblings about Cook and fellow RB Latavius Murray splitting carries during the season, but there is no doubt that Cook is the more dynamic of the two. He should still be drafted with RB1 upside, while Murray would be a smart handcuff to grab in later rounds.
Philadelphia Eagles running backs Wendell Smallwood and Matt Jones could have good outings on Thursday, making them both potentially solid DFS picks. The two backups are expected to be the only active running backs for Philadelphia's third preseason game. Darren Sproles has already been ruled out and Jay Ajayi is unlikely to play due to a lower body injury. Smallwood and Jones won't have much value during the regular season, but they could be sneaky good running backs for this week's DFS slate.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles will play "about a half" in Thursday's preseason game according to coach Doug Pederson. Foles was forced to leave the second preseason game because of a shoulder injury, but he recovered quickly and will be in there to face the Cleveland Browns in the regular season dress rehearsal. If Carson Wentz (knee) ends up not being able to start Week 1, Foles will be in there to start.
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Sam Bradford has stated that he has been given a large degree of control over play-calling under offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. McCoy has previously worked with quarterbacks Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning, giving them the freedom to change in and out of plays and put up big numbers in the process. This is good news for Bradford fantasy owners, as the veteran quarterback could put up a solid QB2 campaign in his new offense.
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Mike Glennon (forearm) is still nursing the same injury that kept him out of the team's second preseason game. Although he is making progress, his availability for this weekend's game against the Cowboys is still up in the air. Glennon projects to be the third quarterback on the depth chart, making his fantasy value virtually nothing for the 2018 season.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Brice Butler (foot) missed the team's game last week and is day-to-day heading into Week 3. However, head coach Steve Wilks is confident that the veteran receiver will be able to play. Butler has a bit of catching up to do, having lost the team's second wide receiver job to either Christian Kirk or Chad Williams for now. If Butler is able to reclaim the starting job, expect him to be a flex option this season. However, if not, Butler will likely have minimal fantasy value in 2018.
Oft-injured Baltimore Ravens running back Kenneth Dixon had a strong preseason debut Monday night against the Colts. The shifty running back averaged over five yards per carry and reeled in all three of his targets Monday night. Dixon will need to continue his strong showing to close out the preseason in an effort to grab hold of the backup running back role from teammate Javorious Allen. Allen also had a solid showing Monday night, but Dixon has shown to be the more skilled of the two when he manages to stay healthy. Alex Collins has a firm grasp on the lead-back duties in Baltimore's offense, but monitor this situation closely as his hand-cuff should emerge from one of Allen or Dixon.
Newly-acquired Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Michael Crabtree hauled in his only target from quarterback Joe Flacco in Monday night's preseason match-up with the Colts. The connection was good for a 29-yard gain along the sidelines. Both Crabtree and new teammate John Brown, who was also a free agent signing, have shown early chemistry with their new quarterback thus far. This chemistry should translate to the regular season and boosts the fantasy stock of both Flacco and his new receivers. Crabtree is coming off draft boards much earlier than Brown, but could be a candidate for double-digit touchdowns this season. Look to draft him in the middle rounds of your fantasy drafts.
Los Angeles Rams linebacker Mark Barron returned to practice. The former safety has excelled since converting to linebacker, and he is great in coverage. He flies around the field making tackles, which makes him a great play in IDP (individual defensive player) leagues. His return can also help soften the blow of Aaron Donald's absence if his holdout extends into the regular season. Head coach Sean McVay is hoping to have him back for the start of the season. If he progresses well, he will help strengthen the Rams' defense biggest weakness, which is the linebacker position. Linebacker is the position group management did not address this offseason, so Barron will have to take that next step.
Baltimore Ravens rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson had a quiet showing on Monday night against the Colts. The quarterback got off to a slow start, but flashed some elusiveness in avoiding Indianapolis' pass-rush on his first drive of the game. Jackson said after the game that he has not performed as well as he has hoped in the preseason, but, despite that, the quarterback still managed to connect for a touchdown pass in the game. Teammate Joe Flacco's strong preseason has solidified Baltimore's original plan to go into the season with the veteran having a firm hold on the starting quarterback job, so Jackson will have plenty of time to become more efficient. He is still an attractive dynasty league asset, and could have some nice value in the event of an injury to Flacco. Jackson should be drafted as the third rookie quarterback off the board in your dynasty drafts.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco continued his strong preseason showing on Monday night against the Colts. The veteran completed seven of his nine passes, including a touchdown strike to newly acquired wide receiver John Brown. Flacco has performed well in both of his preseason appearances, throwing for touchdowns in both. It is possible that Flacco has a new-found sense of motivation going into this season after the team drafted Lamar Jackson in the first-round to be the heir to their quarterback throne. Flacco is worth a flier for owners who wait on drafting a quarterback until late, as he has shown early chemistry with his new wide receivers and his offensive line is back at full strength.