Strap on your tinfoil hats with me, people. We’ve got a full-blown conspiracy on our hands.
What if the Browns’ reported interest in Allen, which started when ESPN’s Mel Kiper mocked Allen to No. 1 overall in January, was never real? And what if the Browns used Allen as a failed smokescreen, an effort they eventually abandoned in the 24 hours leading up to the draft?
For those who think I’m giving the Browns too much credit, consider this: Dorsey “could work for the CIA,” according to the MMQB’s Peter King. Dorsey definitely befuddled the draft world for months before befuddling them again by taking Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick. Dorsey reportedly knew he was going to take Mayfield for the last six weeks. So why did he let the world run with the notion he wanted to take Allen for so long?
Unlike most teams that pick at No. 1 overall, the Browns were also set to pick at No. 4 overall. Perhaps Dorsey was interested in getting his quarterback, and the draft’s top prospect, too. After all, Mayfield was not seen by many as the draft’s top quarterback. Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen were considered better pure passers, as they were products of a pro-style system in college. For much of the college football season, it was a foregone conclusion: Darnold or Rosen would go No. 1. So while Pro Football Focus and, perhaps, the Browns have long considered Mayfield the top quarterback in the draft, Cleveland might have wanted to get Barkley at No. 1 overall while waiting until No. 4 overall to get their quarterback, Mayfield.
Barkley wouldn’t last to No. 4 — the Giants wanted him. But maybe Mayfield would.
Even though Dorsey didn’t know which quarterback he wanted in January, he knew he didnot want Allen. So he leaked information of his interest in Allen to pump the stock of a player he didn’t actually want (and to depress the stock of the quarterbacks in which he had interest). And because Allen was Dorsey’s type (with a rocket arm), everyone took the bait. Allen shot up mock drafts. Meanwhile, Dorsey was trying to get a sense of which quarterback he wanted: Darnold, Rosen or Mayfield. And he was trying to figure out if he could get Barkley and that quarterback at No. 4 overall.
What he ultimately learned was that it was impossible — despite his best efforts. Around the time he was falling in love with Mayfield (early to mid-March), the New York Jets visited with the Sooners prospect, and began to express open appreciation. A week later, they traded into the third-overall selection — ahead of the Browns at No. 4.
The jig was up. Whether they knew it or not, the Jets had called Dorsey’s bluff. After the Jets visited with Mayfield (but before they traded up to get the No. 3 pick), the Browns signed running back Carlos Hyde, perhaps because it was dawning upon Dorsey that his scheme might not work out. He had to take his quarterback, not Barkley, at No 1. What must have solidified Dorsey’s decision to get Mayfield at No. 1 were the late rumors that the Jets were going to take the Oklahoma signal-caller at No. 3, should he get to them.
Dorsey’s charade didn’t work to benefit the Browns directly. But it did seemingly drive up the draft value of a prospect many considered to be an enormous risk in Allen. If the Browns built the hype around Allen and then passed on him (twice) and he busts in Buffalo, then the Bills will come away from the draft looking incredibly foolish. They traded up to get a quarterback whose hype might have been built upon an elaborate (and failed) smokescreen.
They’ll have Dorsey and the Browns to thank for that. The Browns might be responsible for the demise of a franchise — but not their own franchise. That would be a refreshing development.