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NFL Network analysts believe Sam Darnold still favorite for Browns at No. 1

In the eyes of two of NFL Network's top analysts, the Browns should draft Sam Darnold.

That's the opinion of Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks, who reiterated their longstanding belief that the former USC standout can be Cleveland's quarterback of the future on a Wednesday conference call with reporters.

"I think he's the right guy there," Jeremiah said. "At 20 years old, he's just scratching the surface of what he can do."

Darnold, who's widely regarded to be the top signal-caller by other evaluators, is among a host of candidates the Browns can select with either the first or fourth overall picks later this month.

In search of its quarterback of the future, Cleveland is in the process of hosting this year's top passers — a group that includes Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen, Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield, Wyoming's Josh Allen and Louisville's Lamar Jackson — on pre-draft visits. While Jeremiah and Brooks believe Allen could make a push to be the first pick, they said Darnold has separated himself from the class in recent weeks, thanks in part to his arm talent, prototypical size, poise and leadership qualities. Those kinds of traits, Brooks said, give Darnold a leg up over his peers.

"I've seen him shine in the big game, I've seen him display the 'it factor' and the leadership qualities when the team is down," he said. "I think you've seen that hope and optimism play out when he has the ball in his hands with the game on the line."

Darnold, who visited the Browns' facility last week, completed 65 percent of his passes for 7,229 yards, 57 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in two seasons at USC. At his Pro Day three weeks ago in Los Angeles, Darnold shined in front of a large contingent from Cleveland, including general manager John Dorsey and head coach Hue Jackson, despite a rainstorm.

Much like Jackson and Dorsey, who said they came away impressed from the performance, Jeremiah said Darnold only helped himself with a strong showing that afternoon.  

"I thought it was a lights out pro day," Jeremiah said. "I think a lot of us said, 'This is done, this is over. He's the guy.' That's what I would've done and that's what I would do."

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