Los Angeles (AFP) – Quarterback Baker Mayfield was the first pick Thursday in the 2018 NFL draft, the annual selection of college players that helps teams in America’s most popular sport replenish their rosters.
The Cleveland Browns chose the reigning Heisman Trophy winner to kick off the first round of the draft which is considered one of the deepest in recent history for quarterback prospects.
The 23-year-old Mayfield is expected to eventually become the playmaking cornerstone for the Browns who also have Tyrod Taylor and Drew Stanton at quarterback.
The US colleges are the biggest supplier of players to the NFL and the entry draft is the most common player recruitment tool for the league.
The Browns had been expected to take a quarterback with the top pick but heading into the draft there was no consensus on who the No. 1 pick should be.
Cleveland also had the fourth pick in the draft and chose to take cornerback Denzel Ward of Ohio State.
Penn State running back Saquon Barkley went second overall to the New York Giants and University of Southern California quarterback Sam Darnold was selected third by the New York Jets.
North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb rounded out the top five picks, going to the Denver Broncos.
The confident and charismatic Mayfield did not attend the draft at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium in Arlington, Texas, choosing instead to watch it on TV at his family home in Austin, Texas.
Mayfield will be tasked with turning around the Browns team that finished 0-16 last season.
He had a superb college career at the University of Oklahoma but also got attention off the field, including being arrested in 2017 in Arkansas on charges of public intoxication, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. He reached a plea deal last June and paid a series of fines.
He threw for 14,607 career yards and had 131 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions. Last season he passed for 4,627 yards and 43 touchdowns.
Cleveland holds the longest active post-season drought, dating back to 2002. The Browns are known for having a revolving door on their quarterback position. Since 1999 they have had a league-leading 28 different starting quarterbacks.