On his family’s 1,000-acre plot in Firebaugh, California, Josh Allen helped tend to row crops — cantaloupe, cotton and wheat — when he wasn’t lugging irrigation pipes or driving tractors.
The big-armed Wyoming quarterback has tougher jobs ahead. Teams selecting at the top of the NFL Draft are looking for franchise saviors.
One year after trading up for Mitch Trubisky, the Bears are happy to watch them try. Four teams drafting ahead of them at No. 8 next month — the Browns, Giants, Broncos and Jets — need a young quarterback. The Cardinals and Vikings, who draft 15th and 30th, respectively, need a starter, too, with Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins slated to hit free agency this month.
While the Bears have no desire to watch an established quarterback land in the NFC North, there would be a side benefit to the Vikings signing Cousins instead of, say, the Jets or Broncos. It would strengthen the Bears’ draft position if the Jets or Broncos were forced to draft a quarterback because it would leave an extra defensive back, edge rusher or offensive guard available at No. 8.
Coming off a winless season, the Browns figure to draft a quarterback with the No. 1 pick or the No. 4 selection they acquired from the Texans in the Deshaun Watson trade last year.
‘‘If anybody’s going to turn that franchise around, it’s going to me,’’ Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy winner last season, said Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. ‘‘They’re close; they’re very close. They’ve got the right pieces. They just need that one guy and quarterback to make the difference.’’
But which one? USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Mayfield and Allen figure to be the first four taken. Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman winner, might be drafted in the first round, too. The Bears interviewed Jackson at the combine, even though they seem more intent on finding a free-agent veteran to slot behind Trubisky.
‘‘I think I really want to prove to people that I’m capable of leading a franchise, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be the No. 1 team to select me,’’ Darnold said. ‘‘It could be any team.’’
The combine is hardly the last word for quarterback prospects. The Bears didn’t fully fall in love with Trubisky until after they attended his pro day last year at North Carolina. New coach Matt Nagy found Trubisky’s combine interview to be too scripted, but he became enamored with him once Trubisky traveled to Kansas City for one of 30 private interviews afforded each team.
‘‘What you see with Mitch is kind of what I already knew,’’ Nagy said last week. ‘‘You can see it on tape from what he did in regards to his interview last year in this combine. You can see that in his style of play. . . . He goes in, and he plays hard. He makes some really special throws, and he’s learning the tempo and the speed of the game.’’
Darnold has a star pedigree, but Allen is three years removed from junior college, where he emailed teams, begging for a Division I chance. Rosen and Mayfield are outspoken, with the latter having to explain away various indiscretions, from being tackled by a police officer to grabbing his crotch while taunting Kansas players.
‘‘If you want to be a franchise guy, there are certain things I can’t do,’’ Mayfield said. ‘‘But I’m still going to be competitive and passionate. That’s gotten me to this point, so we talk about it. I’m upfront about it.’’
Finding a franchise quarterback isn’t the Bears’ problem this year. But they hope the teams drafting above them take a big swing.
‘‘I’ve never turned a franchise around,’’ Darnold said. ‘‘I’m not going to know how to do that until I’m actually in the position to.’’
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