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Browns Mailbag

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Browns Mailbag: What does performance vs. Ohio State say about Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield?

We missed Friday’s edition of the Browns Mailbag, so we’ll be doubling up this week.

Part 1 begins now.

Make a trade with the Giants (who have stated they want to draft a QB because Eli Manning is on a short leash) and offer them the Browns’ No. 4 pick and first pick next year and then the Browns draft Saquon Barkley and the Giants still get their QB in Josh Allen or Josh Rosen, whichever one is left. Then the Browns have a real “thunder and lightning" in Carlos Hyde and Saquon Barkley. Sam Darnold with a year behind Tyrod Taylor to get ready and it’s on to BIG TIMES! -- Ernie P., Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

I just got done watching Darnold’s Pro Day, so pardon the pun, but there are a few things to pour water upon with this particular scenario.

The first would be thinking the Browns need to fork over a future first-round pick to move up from No. 4 to No. 2. Back in 2012, the Browns parted with picks in the fourth, fifth and seventh rounds to move from No. 4 to No. 3. Last year, Chicago parted with a third-rounder, fourth-rounder and a future third to go from No. 3 to No. 2. So it’d take picks; just not a future first.

The second point is twofold. If the Giants are set on taking a quarterback, they’re likely not going to want to move back two spots and risk losing their top choice. Even at No. 2, the Giants’ top-ranked quarterback could be gone based on what the Browns do. The Jets recently made a trade with a Colts to move up from No. 6 to No. 3, a signal most teams would have to assume means they’re looking to grab a quarterback. So in that situation, if you’re assuming the Giants and Jets are taking quarterbacks, why not just grab Barkley -- or whomever else you view as the top non-quarterback in the draft -- at No. 4 without giving up any assets?

Why is no one talking about Quenton Nelson at pick 4 as a replacement for Joe Thomas? I know he's listed as a guard but at 6-foot-4. 335 pounds, why can't he bump out to left tackle? He's widely thought to be a can't-miss, sure-thing lineman. -- Jim K., Easton, Maryland

It’s common to see college tackles bump to guard when they arrive in the NFL -- Browns left guard Joel Bitonio comes to mind -- but you rarely see it go the other way. Nelson hasn’t played left tackle since high school, as he emerged as an every-game starter at guard in 2015 next to future top-10 left tackle Ronnie Stanley. Over the past two years, he’s lined up next to Mike McGlinchey, who is also a projected first-round pick, but not as high as Nelson. The reason why Nelson is such a coveted prospect is because he’s such a dominant guard. Anything else would be a projection that would not likely result in a top-five pick if your plans were to play him somewhere other than where he’s best.

With the mighty Joe Thomas retiring, do you think the Browns will try to get him as an OL/DL assistant coach? With his experience, knowledge, leadership and earned respect, I think he would be a great addition to the Browns coaching staff. -- Jim K., New Albany, Indiana

Thomas said Wednesday he’s mulling his next move, and that might be a process that takes a little time. He’s balancing whether to pursue a career in football or outside the game as a media analyst. Either way, he’ll be involved with football one way or the other, and if he decides it’s within the game, the Browns have made it clear their door is open.

“This is still his football team,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said. “He still has a [key] fob that gets in the door. His locker will stay the same. It will be in the same place. His place on the plane will be the same if he wants to go. That is how much I think of Joe Thomas. He will be missed.”

Should the fact that Baker Mayfield torched Ohio State’s NFL style defense for 386 yards and 3 TDs give any weight to his standing in the QB pool? Darnold threw for 356 yards but no TDS and 1 INT … and lost to the Buckeyes. -- Rob M., Fairmont, West Virginia

This is a dangerous way to evaluate prospects. I’ll provide one example but there are certainly many more.

Iowa’s Akrum Wadley ran for 118 yards with an average of nearly 6 yards per carry in a rout of the Buckeyes. His backup, James Butler, chipped in 74 yards on 10 carries. One week earlier, Saquon Barkley ran for 44 yards on 21 carries in a loss to the Buckeyes. There aren’t many draft rankings that have Wadley or Butler in the same stratosphere as Barkley, who is considered by almost everyone to be the top running back in this year’s class.

That’s extreme, sure, but it’s important to realize these big games are parts of a much bigger picture teams create for each prospect. If that weren’t the case, the Houston Texans might have submitted their No. 1 pick to the NFL right after Vince Young’s performance in the 2006 Rose Bowl.

“I would tell you we're all human and we can all get caught up in big moments and the emotion of big games but part of our charge in personnel and as scouts is to make sure we're taking everything in context and taking in consideration the total body of work,” Browns vice president of personnel Andrew Berry said during an interview at last year’s Senior Bowl.

“It's a very impressionable moment when any player responds in some of the biggest games or biggest moments. Ultimately it is just a piece of the total body of work for the prospect. It's not something that should necessarily be weighted too heavily but it's certainly something you remember through the evaluation process.”

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