The Cleveland Browns, who opted not to use one of their three first-round picks on a quarterback Thursday night, decided to go that route in Round 2 on Friday, selecting DeShone Kizer with the 52nd pick overall.
Quarterback has been a position of need for the Browns for years. Cleveland has had 26 different starting QBs since it returned to the NFL in 1999.
After ignoring their most pressing need in the first round and sidestepping quarterbacks, including hometown hero Mitchell Trubisky, who was chosen second overall by Chicago, the Browns selected Kizer in the second round with the No. 52 overall pick. The 6-foot-4, 233-pounder struggled last season for the Fighting Irish, but the Browns are intrigued with his size, arm and upside.
“Obviously, he has the measureables,” said coach Hue Jackson. “A big, physical quarterback who can make all the throws that anybody needs to make in the National Football League. He’s intelligent. So he has the characteristics that we’re looking for.”
The Browns’ inability to find a dependable QB capable of lasting more than a year or two has been the single biggest reason for decades of ineptitude.
They’ve tried trading for QBs, signing them in free agency and acquiring them in trades. Nothing has worked.
Kizer hopes to end the Browns’ vicious cycle of futility. After spending Thursday night at the first-round festivities in Philadelphia, where he agonized as other players were chosen ahead of him, Kizer went back home.
He’ll be staying around for a while.
“It was well worth the wait now that I’m going to stay home and be a Cleveland Brown,” he said.
While it’s way too early to know if Kizer, who left Notre Dame after his junior season, is Cleveland’s future, he at least gives Jackson another option next season along with Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan.
Jackson isn’t ready to commit to a starter.
“We need to get him here, just like all of them, and give him an opportunity to compete,” Jackson said. “We’re going to give all our guys an opportunity to compete. I think that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about who is the starter, who is this. Let’s let these guys get here and learn our offense and spend time with myself and (quarterbacks) coach (David) Lee and go out on the field and let’s see how it all turns out.”
With the first pick in the third round, the Browns went back to defense, selecting tackle Larry Ogunjobi from Charlotte. The 6-foot-3, 253-pounder is the first player from the school to get drafted.
After passing on a chance to take a quarterback on Thursday night, Sashi Brown, the team’s head of football operations, said the Browns wouldn’t “force” picking a QB and would patiently wait for the right moment to grab one.
As the second round unfolded, Kizer was still on the board and Cleveland didn’t let him slip by. The Browns conducted pre-draft private workouts with Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and Kizer in anticipation of taking one of them.
“We went out and did our diligence on all the quarterbacks,” Brown said. “We felt like we knew him well and were surprised that he was there and available to us at 52.”
Kizer didn’t grow up a Browns fan, but he’s very familiar with their plight.
“My whole family is Cleveland Browns fans,” he said. “After making the decision to go to the NFL, there is an obvious connection between myself and their situation. From the experiences I was able to go through in this 2016 season, the experiences of going through the 2015 season and comparing them, from having some success to not as much success, I will be able to hopefully bring that over and continue to learn as much as I possibly can, and then try to do whatever I can to contribute to winning some games.”
The selection of Kizer would seem to end any speculation about the Browns bundling picks and trading for a veteran quarterback. New England’s Jimmy Garoppolo was thought to be a possible target for Cleveland, which played six quarterbacks last season.