In most businesses, a young, eager perspective candidate, fresh out of college or university has a choice about which company he or she can work for. Major American sports, such as the NFL, buck that trend and the star collegiate athlete has no, or very little, say on where he or she will start their professional sporting careers. This is the way of the draft system of which I, for one, am a fan of.
However, there have been occasions where top prospects have looked to have more of a say of where they get drafted. John Elway is one case where he refused to play for the Colts and was subsequently traded to the Broncos. Eli Manning is another, originally drafted by the Chargers before throwing he and his father threw a very public hissy fit to get himself traded to the Giants. Once this does happen though, the player is usually cast as a villain to all but the team he eventually plays for. Even a rumour of a player having a favourite destination is enough to put a team off.
In 2018 there might be another such case in top quarterback prospect Josh Rosen.
Rosen is touted as the most NFL ready quarterbacks of the whole class. He has enormous upside as a prospect, good accuracy and decent footwork but there have been several questions raised over his character.
A story that has been rumbling though since the end of the college season is Rosen’s apparent reluctance to play for the Cleveland Browns. The Browns, holding the top overall pick of course, have the option of selecting him first. For many this is the ultimate aim, during his pro day, fellow quarterback prospect, Sam Darnold was heard saying “I’m trying to get to Cleveland” when asked if he wanted to change his workout schedule to avoid throwing in the rain (Source: Browns Wire).
Conversely, Rosen has come out and said he’d “rather be a lower pick than go to the wrong team” (Source: Cleveland.com). It’s the type of thing that would put a team off selecting him in the first place. Questions will be asked within the Cleveland Browns (and other franchises) about whether he’ll give them his all should he join them at the end of April. Cleveland need to select a quarterback who is going to serve as a beacon of hope for the franchise and a leader for the next 10-15 years. If there are any doubts about whether Rosen will tick those boxes, then the Browns need to rule him out of contention. It’s been too long since the people of Cleveland had a quarterback that they can get behind, the Browns can’t repeat the mistakes of the past again.
In the last week, Rosen’s former college coach, Jim Mora has come out and said that the Browns should select Sam Darnold instead of his former pupil. It’s rare, if not unprecedented that a coach (former or not) would come out and deter a team from selecting their former star player. Mora’s approach is that Darnold has more of an underdog mentality which would fit in well in Cleveland. Rosen, he says, needs to be intellectually challenged so he doesn’t get bored. I’m unsure as to whether that’s a slur on Rosen, the Browns coaching team or the NFL in general. Mora later confirmed that his comments were meant to paint Rosen in a positive light. I still have my doubts.
All of this though, does seem well orchestrated to prevent the Browns from picking Rosen. Dorsey, who has now met with Rosen a couple of times has said that “he has no problems being in Cleveland. Again, it’s one of those conversations where that story can take a life of its own” (Source: CBS Sports).
Maybe Dorsey’s right, or maybe he’s just playing a bluffing game. It’s impossible to know during this period of the off-season as different teams release different stories about different players in a bid to not give the game away. If I were the Browns though I would still be worried about the stories and it would convince me further to pick Darnold with the number one pick.