Like most draft analysts, NFL Network’s Mike Mayock views Southern California’s Sam Darnold as the early favorite to become the first quarterback drafted April 26, likely by the Browns at No. 1 overall.

But unlike many of his peers, Mayock said Wyoming’s Josh Allen, not UCLA’s Josh Rosen, is Darnold’s main competition heading into the NFL Scouting Combine, which will run Tuesday through March 5 in Indianapolis.

“I’ve got Allen at No. 2, so obviously I think he’s in the mix more so than Josh Rosen,” Mayock said Monday during a conference call. “I think you have to kind of look at it from [Browns General Manager] John Dorsey’s point of view also and look at what he did a year ago in Kansas City when he traded up to No. 10 for the biggest-armed quarterback in that draft in Patrick Mahomes. And the biggest-armed quarterback I’ve seen since JaMarcus Russell is Josh Allen.

“So I think when you’re the GM of Cleveland, and you’ve got to be thinking about the weather, if you’re playing outside, you need a big arm. [Dorsey’s] new offensive coordinator [Todd Haley] came over from Pittsburgh, and he’s used to Ben Roethlisberger. So, to me, Josh Allen has to be in that conversation at one or four along with Darnold, perhaps Rosen and [Oklahoma’s Baker] Mayfield. But I think, this is just my gut: I think Darnold and Allen are the two guys they would consider the most highly.”

For the Browns, who also have the No. 4 overall selection, to seriously consider Allen with the top pick, they would need to become comfortable with the accuracy issues that contributed to him finishing his career at Wyoming with a completion percentage of 56.2. That might not happen. If it does, it probably wouldn’t be at the combine because he won’t be throwing to receivers with whom he’s familiar, Mayock explained, and, consequently, the throwing session at his pro day will be a better test of accuracy.

“It does worry me that he was a 56 percent guy,” Mayock said. “I was going through a bunch of stuff a few weeks ago trying to figure out how many college quarterbacks with sub-50 percent accuracy or completion percentage ended up being significantly better in the NFL, and when you’re talking about high level guys, I think [Detroit Lions quarterback] Matthew Stafford was the only guy I could find.

“With [Allen], it starts with the ground up, and I don’t think his feet and his eyes are connected, and that’s a big, big deal with quarterbacks. He’s the most physically gifted quarterback in this draft class, but he’s got a lot of work to do on his footwork. I know he’s doing it right now with [quarterbacks coach] Jordan Palmer, who he’s working with, and what I would hope to see is by the time he throws the ball at his pro day, a more consistent thrower from the ground up.

“I don’t want to see every fourth or fifth ball just get missiled somewhere where you go, ‘Where did that come from?’ So, his team wasn’t very good [at Wyoming]. He didn’t have a lot of receivers. You can make up excuses. But at the end of the day, if you’re taking a high pick with a kid with a 56 completion percentage, the anticipation better be that you think you can help that get over 60 percent.”

Sounds familiar, right?

The Browns drafted DeShone Kizer in the second round (No. 52 overall) last year, and he was plagued throughout his rookie season by the same accuracy woes he experienced at Notre Dame. Kizer and his coaches identified inconsistent footwork as the main culprit. Last month at the Senior Bowl, Allen said footwork was his downfall, too.

Yet Mayock doesn’t see Allen as a potential Kizer 2.0.

“I think Kizer was a different conversation,” Mayock said. “[Allen has] got a bigger arm. He’s no Kizer. Kizer’s physical skill set was good. I thought he struggled in the fourth quarter of a bunch of games two years ago at Notre Dame. I think this kid is a better version, and I think their issues are completely different. I don’t see the comparison.”

As for Darnold, most analysts believe he has the highest ceiling of any quarterback in this class, but his history of turnovers is a red flag. In 27 games, he threw 22 interceptions and fumbled 21 times, losing 14.

“I look at Darnold, and right now I have him as my No. 1 quarterback. And the reason I do is I think he has plus size, plus arm strength, [is an] outstanding athlete, and I really like the way he extends plays inside and outside of the pocket,” Mayock said. “And when he scrambles or moves, it’s with the intent of getting the ball down the field. His eyes are always up.

“The flipside to Darnold are the turnovers and not just interceptions but fumbles. He’s got a history of fumbling going back to high school. But I think fumbling can be controlled in the pocket. I think that’s one of the few things you can learn in the pocket as an NFL quarterback, is how to keep both hands on the football and control some of the fumbling. He is a gunslinger, and he will put the ball up for grabs at times. But he can play in all 32 cities. He can play indoors. He can play outdoors.”

What’s strange about this group of quarterbacks is Rosen has almost universally been labeled the best passer but not the best bet. Surgery on his throwing shoulder in 2016 and the two concussions he suffered last year have complicated evaluations.

“He’s the best pure thrower, best pure passer I’ve seen in several years,” Mayock said. “I mean he’s on balance on every throw. He’s accurate short, intermediate and deep. The problem I have with him is there’s a durability issue, a shoulder issue in ’16, two concussions in ’17, and when you combine that with an inability to escape from the pocket, I’m concerned. I’m concerned whether or not he can play enough games to make a significant dent in the NFL. So I love his talent, but I’m very worried about his ability to survive.”

Examining character

There are also questions about Rosen’s personality.

“From what I’ve been told, he’s a very intelligent kid, so that’s not an issue,” Mayock said. “He can process information. He’s really good understanding the playbook. I think what [NFL teams] want to get to know is what’s his passion for the game. Does he love it? Is he committed for the next 10 years to be the best he can be? Or is he going to be content with just being a pretty good player and hanging out? It’s nowhere more important in the NFL than it is at the quarterback position to find out what makes the kid tick, and I think with Josh Rosen, no different than any of the guys, they’re going to dig deep.”

It’s safe to say no prospect will be examined more closely in that regard than Mayfield. His arrest a year ago on charges of public intoxication, disorderly conduct and fleeing, his flag-planting stunt at Ohio State and his crotch grab at Kansas have prompted comparisons to former Browns quarterback and colossal bust Johnny Manziel.

“[Mayfield’s] tape is really good,” Mayock said. “He’s close to a 70 percent completion guy. I’m not too worried about him being 6 feet or 6-feet-1 [he measured 6-foot-⅜ at the Senior Bowl], even though there’s a very small percentage of those quarterbacks. I think it really comes down to off the field, face-to-face, in the meeting room with the decision-makers whether or not you’re going to buy into his character and him being the face of your franchise. I think there’s some teams are going to say, ‘No, I see some talent, but it’s not my guy.’ I think there are other teams who are going to go, ‘Oh, come on, it’s no biggie. There may be some emotional, competitive immaturity, but outside of that I’m good.’

“[But] he’s going to have to prove in the meetings that he is a different guy than Johnny Manziel, off the field especially, that he has a character where he’s going to be the first guy in, the last to leave, you’re not going to see any of the B.S. that you saw in college, he’s not going to be giving anybody the finger or whatever. He’s going to be about business.

“You’ve got to be a leader of a football team, and he’s got to convince people that not only is he dynamic and a positive leader, but he’s also going to be a great guy in the locker room and the face of your franchise. That’s his challenge. Whether he likes it or not, being under 6-foot-1, having some off-the-field issues and being an athletic quarterback is going to throw him into the conversation with Manziel.”

Destination decided

Veteran cornerback Vontae Davis agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Buffalo Bills, the team announced.

Davis had recently paid free-agent visits to several teams, including the Browns.

Nate Ulrich can be reached at nulrich@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.