Draft buzz: Baker Mayfield on Browns' radar at No. 1?

For all of the pre-draft smokescreening, there's little advantage to publicly discussing draft intentions this time of year.

That is, Marvin Lewis opined Tuesday, unless the organization is picking first.

Much has changed since Lewis' Bengals -- at the head coach's behest -- signed USC Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer before the start of the 2003 NFL Draft.

If the Browns have privately decided on USC's Sam Darnold as the top pick in this year's draft, they aren't willing to surrender the potential for last-minute leverage, much less the potential for last-minute drama.

Reporting from team headquarters, NFL Network's Omar Ruiz told Good Morning Football that Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield has emerged as a dark horse candidate to be Cleveland's top selection.

Assuming general manager John Dorsey is willing to consider godfather offers from desperate teams obsessing over a holy grail, it's not in his best interest to narrow his options at No. 1 overall.

Citing a source involved in team discussions, NFL Network's Steve Wyche echoed Ruiz's report, insisting Mayfield's name is "absolutely" on the Browns' radar. The reigning Heisman winner does have support in the war room, Wyche added, particularly from personnel consultant Scot McCloughan, formerly the Redskins general manager.

Does Mayfield have a legitimate chance to go No. 1?

"We still don't know," Wyche emphasized on NFL Up to the Minute, "but we cannot rule that out."

For what it's worth, Mayfield comes with Joe Namath's exuberant stamp of approval.

Around The NFL is tracking all of the latest buzz for the 83rd NFL draft, which starts Thursday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Check back each day for updated nuggets as we pass along whispers from around the league. Here's what we're hearing Tuesday:

  1. If the Browns draft an early-round cornerback, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, they will look to tradeJamar Taylor, who signed a contract extension late in the 2016 season.

In other hot-stove news, per Rapoport, the Giants are shopping scapegoated former first-round pick Ereck Flowers.

Buoyed by non-stop trade speculation, this year's draft is drawing hype as perhaps the most intriguing of all time:

  1. Don't be surprised if three centers go off the board in the first round. NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah recently acknowledged going back to the tape for a deeper study of Arkansas' Frank Ragnow, whose stock is rising in NFL war rooms.

"He seems to be a lock to go in the first round," Rapoport added on NFL Up to the Minute, "which is something if you told me two weeks ago I never would have believed it."

Iowa's James Daniels (No. 17) and Ragnow (No. 19) are both ranked high on NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock's list of the top 100 prospects in the 2018 draft. Ohio State's Billy Price, who suffered a partially torn pectoral at the scouting combine, comes in at No. 45.

  1. Another player on the rise is Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, whom Rapoport believes might have the most unanimously approved game film in the draft. Smith is the name Jeremiah keeps hearing "over and over again" for the Colts at No. 6.

"I'm to the point now if they stay and don't pick Roquan Smith, I'd be surprised," Jeremiah stated on the draft-preview edition of the Move the Sticks Podcast.

  1. One of Smith's college teammates, on the other hand, might be sliding down a few boards. According to The Ringer's Michael Lombardi, formerly Bill Belichick's right-hand personnel man, some teams have docked Georgia running back Sony Michel for undisclosed medical reasons. Michel is ranked No. 32 on Mayock's list, a sign that his stock is still holding strong in light of the most recent medical reports.
  1. After watching the Broncos draft Paxton Lynch two years ago, Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris wants nothing to do with a quarterback at No. 5 overall this time around.

"We trying to win now, man," Harris said Tuesday, via NFL Network's James Palmer. "We don't have time to wait."

Harris went on to cite Penn State's Saquon Barkley, NC State's Bradley Chubb and Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson as preferred draft targets.

  1. John Elway can afford to target the best player available, a luxury not available to his counterpart in Florham Park. The Jets have canceled Top-30 meetings with non-quarterbacks, Rapoport reported, because they simply aren't going in any direction outside of the sport's most important position with the draft's No. 3 pick.
  1. If conventional wisdom is holding course with Gang Green, the same can't be said for the Cowboys. One day after NFL Network's Jane Slater cautioned against the assumption that Dallas will draft a first-round receiver, owner Jerry Jones made it clear that Dez Bryant can't be replaced by any receiver available this year.

"We probably won't have what we would call a pure X receiver to take the place of Dez," Jones explained. "Even if we draft one that is an X receiver, he's not going to, as a rookie, come in here and give us that type of performance. You got to presume that. And so we certainly know that we've got a chance to pick a player, but not necessarily in the first round or even the second round, that will have an opportunity [to get] in the mix."

  1. Marty Hurney has returned to the Panthers' GM chair to oversee his first draft since selecting eight first-round Pro Bowlers in a span of 10 years, starting with Julius Peppers in 2002. For all of that success, though, Hurney is still haunted by the future first-round picks surrendered in trades for draft busts Jeff Otah and Everette Brown.

"I can tell you right now, you can consider next year's first safe," a smiling Hurney quipped Tuesday. "I don't think we're going to be trading next year's first."

  1. The Bills and Cardinals are among the organizations interested in trading up to the No. 5 or No. 6 range, Rapoport reported Monday. Which teams, conversely, are looking to move down in the first round? Rapoport shifted gears Tuesday, listing the Lions, Titans and Seahawks as candidates to trade down.
  1. How disparate are the opinions on this year's draft class? Executive vice president Stephen Jones revealed Tuesday that the Cowboys have roughly 17 players rated as first-round prospects. This comes hours after 49ers general manager John Lynch put his war room's total at 30 first-round grades.
  1. AT&T Stadium was designed to be showcased as a grand spectacle, the shining jewel in the NFL's entertainment crown. It comes as no surprise, then, that the Cowboys are expecting the largest crowd in NFL draft history this weekend, per Slater. The festivities will not only include a 20,000-seat theater, but also a massive NFL Fan Experience venue equivalent to 26 football fields.
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