New Cleveland Browns players Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward talk to media

BEREA, Ohio –Less than 24 hours after becoming Cleveland Browns players, QB Baker Mayfield and DB Denzel Ward are speaking with the media in Berea.

Watch live coverage on FOX 8 News, starting at 7 p.m., of the second and third rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.

After months of dissection and debate, the Browns selected Mayfield, Oklahoma’s quarterback, with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday, a somewhat surprising selection by a team that figured to play it safe with such an important decision.

But coming off a 0-16 season, the Browns are betting that Mayfield is a better player than USC’s Sam Darnold, Wyoming’s Josh Allen or UCLA’s Josh Rosen, a talented group regarded as the top QB class in years.

They’re also confident he won’t be a headache like Johnny Manziel, who fizzled out in two party-filled seasons with Cleveland.

“In doing all of our research with Baker Mayfield, he has earned it, from high school, to college, he has earned it,” Browns general manager John Dorsey said. “I have no qualms whatsoever about him as a man or as a football player.”

The Browns followed Mayfield’s selection with another surprise, using the No. 4 pick on Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward. Cleveland was thought to be high on North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb or Alabama cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick, but they instead opted for the speedy Ward, who skipped his senior season with the Buckeyes to turn pro.

Mayfield understands the Manziel comparisons, and the 23-year-old knows there are Cleveland fans who see him as Johnny Football 2.0.

However, Mayfield insists he’s his own man.

“Johnny and I are two completely different people,” Mayfield said on a conference call from his home in Austin, Texas. “That’s nothing against him, but what I’ve been able to do is be upfront and honest about who I am during these meetings. I’m confident that I showed that with this coaching staff and with the management throughout this process.

“But for me moving forward it’s just being myself. I’m not going to go out and try and prove I’m not Johnny, I’m going to be myself and in the end that’s going to take care of the rest.”

When Dorsey called Mayfield and asked him, “Let me ask you a question, you want to be the first pick in the draft?” Mayfield broke down and cried.

Mayfield said he became emotional after looking around at people who stuck with him through good and bad.

“It just kind of brought out all of the emotions of the tough times that we went through and the good ones,” he said. “To think about it all there in that moment, it was going to be a fresh start, and it was a whole lot of emotion packed into one phone call.”

At Oklahoma, he was college football’s top player last season, passing for 4,627 yards, 43 touchdowns and winning the Heisman last season. But his size (he’s just over 6-foot), and the questions about his character following a 2017 arrest in Arkansas and some on-field antics — a flag planting at Ohio State and lewd gesture at Kansas — seemed to eliminate him from being picked first.

But as Dorsey, coach Hue Jackson and others in Cleveland’s organization spent more time with him, the Browns became convinced that he’s the one who can finally end their long search for a franchise quarterback. Cleveland has started 28 QBs since 1999.

“My faith says every man deserves a second chance,” Dorsey said. “Young men do certain things. We all learn from our mistakes. I like the guy. I have no problems with a young man making mistakes and moving forward.”

Mayfield, who went 33-6 in games he started (he sat out the first quarter of his final game with a suspension) is the fifth quarterback taken in the first round by the Browns in their expansion era — and first since Manziel.

And although he may be Cleveland’s quarterback of the future, the present belongs to Tyrod Taylor, who was acquired during the offseason in a trade from Buffalo. Jackson has already named Taylor as his starter in 2018, and the plan is for Mayfield to develop as a backup.

For now, Mayfield is going along with it.

“That’s a veteran that’s been in the league,” he said. “He’s a guy that I could sit behind and learn from. For me, when I say those type of things, it’s because I’m competitive. If I came in with the mindset of just being happy I got drafted and just to settle for a backup job, that wouldn’t be myself.”

This is the second straight year the Browns have picked first. Cleveland addressed a major defensive need and selected defensive end Myles Garrett with the first overall pick in 2017.

Dorsey revamped his secondary with a trade and three free-agent signings. But he was missing a shutdown cornerback and believes he’s got one now in Ward, a Cleveland kid who feels he’s ready to help his hometown team win.

“I’m very confident in my ability and I look forward to that pressure,” Ward said. “Being at Ohio State, there was pressure all the time there. Everybody was on edge there. It’s kind of nothing new having the pressure on me.”

Read more on the draft, here.

Jen Steer April 27, 20183:54 pm

“Hasn’t been the easiest one, but it’s definitely helped me out,” Baker Mayfield says of his journey. On being drafted first: “It’s a clean slate, what I’ve done in the past, a lot of great memories.”

Jen Steer April 27, 20183:56 pm

On ability to process the game: “The game of football is the same, it’s a matter of terminology… You’re not going to find a guy who’s going to reinvent the wheel,” Mayfield says.

Jen Steer April 27, 20183:57 pm

“I watched more college football growing up… It’s definitely a blessing. It’s been my dream to play in the NFL,” Denzel Ward says about if he was a Browns fan growing up. Some laughs from the reporters.

Jen Steer April 27, 20183:58 pm

“It was definitely an emotional night. I definitely wished my dad was still alive,” Ward says. “He watched me last night in heaven.” His dad passed away suddenly two years ago.

Jen Steer April 27, 20183:59 pm

“It’ll be a great thing for me,” Mayfield says about not being in the spotlight and sitting behind Tyrod Taylor. “They’ve seen different things, I can bounce things off of them, and I can sit and learn.” He says sitting a year at Oklahoma was the best thing that happened to him. 

Jen Steer April 27, 20184:00 pm

“I think it starts with actions. Action speak louder than words as cliche as that sounds,” Mayfield says about becoming a leader. 

Jen Steer April 27, 20184:02 pm

Denzel Ward visited the Browns facility a few weeks ago. He didn’t know he would end up there, but he said they expressed a lot of interest. He says he plays bigger than he is. On getting his weight up, “Just eat food,” he says with a smile.

Jen Steer April 27, 20184:02 pm

Ward on playing against Mayfield in college: “He’s a mobile quarterback and he’s very accurate.” He says they knew that had to sit in coverage a little longer.

Jen Steer April 27, 20184:04 pm

“Hearing your name called or getting that phone call is a moment I’ll never forget,” Mayfield says. “There’s a lot in that one point. It’s funny listening to all that pre-draft stuff… It went well, my visits with Cleveland and my meetings with them.” He says the visits are a chance to show something the analysts don’t see. 

Jen Steer April 27, 20184:05 pm

“My journey is just starting. Not satisfied, haven’t played a down yet,” Mayfield says.

Jen Steer April 27, 20184:06 pm

“I think winning the game will take care of winning them over,” Mayfield says about Browns fans reaction and coming to Cleveland. “These fans deserve a team that has success… The bigger the challenge for me, the better for me.”

Jen Steer April 27, 20184:07 pm

Mayfield says he is very competitive, but has learned when to reel it in and make the right decisions. He wants to harness that competitiveness, and use it in the film room and weight room.

Jen Steer April 27, 20184:09 pm

“You guys forget that they came to Norman and whopped up on us,” Mayfield says about planting the Oklahoma flag at Ohio Stadium after his win against Ohio State. He nods to Ward, out of OSU, “I’ll have to get him in practice.”

Jen Steer April 27, 20184:10 pm

“That’s the kind of guy you want in the locker room, can change the culture real quick,” Mayfield says about Tyrod Taylor being the first one in, last one out.

Jen Steer April 27, 20184:12 pm

“He’s a competitor and he loves to win,” Ward says about Cleveland fans warming up to Baker Mayfield.