ARLINGTON, Texas — The stunner happened early.
With the quarterback-starved Browns widely expected to take either USC’s Sam Darnold or Wyoming’s Josh Allen with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft, they instead went with the most controversial player on the board: Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Though Mayfield is not even 6-1, played in a spread offense, was arrested in February 2017 and taunted opponents last season with some questionable antics, the Browns have staked their future on the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.
“In doing all of our research with Baker Mayfield, he has earned it. From high school to college, he has earned it,” Browns general manager John Dorsey said. “I have no qualms whatsoever about him as a man or as a football player.”
Mayfield threw 43 touchdown passes and only six interceptions last year in leading the Sooners to a 12-2 record. He made the team in 2015 as a walk-on a year after walking on at Texas Tech in 2014.
Although Mayfield was arrested and charged with public intoxication, disorderly conduct, fleeing and resisting arrest, Dorsey said he isn’t worried about any character issues. Mayfield reached a plea deal in June and did not serve any jail time.
“For the Cleveland Browns, he was the best available player,” Dorsey said. “I felt this was the best fit for this organization moving forward.”
Mayfield was the first of four QBs taken among the first 10 picks, a modern-era record.
After the Giants selected Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, the Jets took Darnold, considered by many scouts to be the top quarterback in the draft. The Broncos reportedly were in the market for a quarterback at No. 5 but instead went for North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb, who joins All-Pro pass rusher Von Miller.
After the Colts took Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson with the sixth pick, the Bills traded up with the Bucs from No. 12 to take Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, who has the strongest arm of any quarterback in this year’s class. He doesn’t come without controversy, though; he has acknowledged that he sent out racially charged tweets in high school.
The Bears took linebacker Roquan Smith at No. 8, followed by the 49ers, who took Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey.
With the Dolphins potentially interested in UCLA’s Josh Rosen at No. 11, the Cardinals traded up with the Raiders at No. 10 to take Rosen. “I thought I should have been picked at one, two or three,” he said. “ . . . I was really, really angry.”
He added, “There were nine mistakes ahead of me.’’
With the top quarterbacks off the board, Miami looked to bolster its secondary by taking highly touted Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and the Bucs followed with the selection of Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea. The Redskins also went defensive tackle with Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne at 13.
The Saints moved up to Green Bay’s 14th pick, and New Orleans picked up defensive end Marcus Davenport of Texas-San Antonio. Oakland, which had traded down with the Cardinals, took UCLA tackle Kolton Miller.
The Bills then took Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (whose brother, Virginia Tech safety Terrell Edmunds, was taken by the Steelers with the 28th pick).
The Chargers took Florida State safety Derwin James and the Packers took Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander. The Cowboys went with linebacker Leighton Vander Esch of Boise State and the Lions took Arkansas center Frank Ragnow to round out the top 20.
Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, was the final pick of the first round, as the Ravens traded with the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles at No. 32.
The Patriots had shown significant interest in Jackson, working him out in Florida and then again at the team’s training complex. But with their second of two first-round picks, they took Georgia running back Sony Michel at 31st overall. Jackson’s selection by Baltimore will put pressure on former first-round pick Joe Flacco, who has struggled since leading the team to the Super Bowl championship after the 2012 season.