The Cleveland Browns, who have one of the most loyal fan bases in sports, are a joke. They have been for years.

Owners of the No. 1 pick in the draft, Cleveland hasn’t hit on a first-round selection since taking cornerback Joe Haden out of Florida in 2010. Most have turned out to be spectacular failures, on and off the field.

Three of their last eight first-rounders have been from the SEC. Trent Richardson was a nasty tailback at Alabama. Bust. Barkevious Mingo was a physical-freak passer rusher out of LSU. Also bust. Johnny Manziel — a Heisman Trophy winner — was a video game come to life as a quarterback at Texas A&M. TMZ-level bust.

The Browns can’t afford another flameout. They need a sure thing. That’s why they should take Alabama’s Jonathan Allen, not Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett.

No question, Garrett has the highest ceiling of any prospect in this year’s class. He has Hall of Fame potential. But Allen possesses arguably the highest floor. At the very least, he’ll turn out to be very good.

This past weekend at the Scouting Combine, Garrett put on a show with 33 reps on the bench press at 225 pounds, a 4.64-second 40-yard dash and a 41-inch vertical leap — that last figure was the best among defensive linemen. Allen’s numbers were more pedestrian, although he’s never been a stopwatch guy, per se.

But while Garrett is the superior athlete, Allen is the better player. Turn on the tape. The eye in the sky doesn’t lie.

Mar 4, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen speaks to the media during the 2017 combine at Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to find a defensive series for Alabama from 2016 in which Allen (above) didn’t make an impact. On the other hand, Garrett can disappear. As a matter of fact, he’s been accused of taking plays off here and there.

“I really don’t listen to it,” Garrett said in Indianapolis when asked about his sometimes questionable effort. “I know I’m getting after the ball when I can, and sometimes I’m not 100 percent when I’m out there. But I’m trying to get after the passer, I’m trying to run down the back or just trying to do what I can to make a play. Nobody’s 100 percent every play — eight, nine plays down a drive. Sometimes you do look back and say, ‘I could have gave more effort’ or ‘I loafed right there.’ But you work on those things.”

Garrett isn’t wired like a typical gridiron warrior — he writes poetry and is obsessed with dinosaurs — but Allen is all pigskin, all the time. Garrett comes off as the quintessential gentle giant. Allen, conversely, is a stone-cold assassin. Whatever he lacks in natural ability, he makes up for it with tools aplenty.

“I like to think I’m a technician,” Allen said when it was his turn at the podium. “I can do a lot of things. You want me to rush from a 3-technique, I can do it effectively. If you want me to bend the corner on the outside, I can do it. I can play the run. I can play double teams. I can play above the tight end, can play the 6-technique, scoot, get off blocks. So I feel I can do anything that I’m asked to do on the defensive line.”

If you had to bet on one going to Canton, it’s Garrett. But if you had to bet on one being a disappointment, again, it’s Garrett.

The two of them line up at the same position and competed against each other in the West, but to call them rivals would be a misnomer. At no point were Garrett and Allen even on the same field together at the collegiate level.

There have been thousands of players wear the NFL shield since the birth of the league back in 1920 — it’s an exclusive fraternity. Even more exclusive is being chosen No. 1 overall in the draft. That’s a pretty short list. Needless to say, only one per year gets to begin his career with that fact on his résumé.

Garrett and Allen know they’re competing for one of the most prestigious honors in football. Each can feel the other’s presence.

“It’s got to be,” Garrett (below) said. “He’s going for No. 1. So am I. There’s not real animosity between us, but we’re vying for a spot. I got to get it.”

Mar 4, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett speaks to the media during the 2017 combine at Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Remember, going No. 1 isn’t so much the end of a journey. It’s the beginning of another. Previous top picks that failed have been guilty of feeling like they arrived. In reality, they’re rookies starting from scratch.

“There’s always competition in everything you do,” Allen said. “I want to go as high as I can, the competitor in me. But I want to make myself a better football player and control what I can control. Not going to worry about anything else.”

Cleveland needs help at every position, including quarterback. But it’s a weak crop of QBs this year — none of them balled out at Lucas Oil Stadium, that’s for sure — which is why pass rushers like Garrett and Allen are in the conversation for No. 1 in the first place. The top pick is almost always a signal caller.

So if the Browns can’t find a field general, they should target the next best thing: someone who can sack the enemy passer.

With so much time between now and draft weekend, even premier prospects like Garrett and Allen have their flaws exposed. Garrett isn’t always effective defending the run. Allen doesn’t have a quiver full of pash-rush moves.

The last non-quarterback to go No. 1 — South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney in 2014 — was more like Garrett at the time than Allen. After three years in the league, Clowney has more games missed (17) then sacks recorded (10.5). Like Garrett, he’s capable of the absurd. But, like Garrett, he’s not a down-after-down menace. Allen is, though.

The Browns have been trying to hit home runs for too long and keeping striking out. It’s time to start a rally in Cleveland with a double off the wall.

John Crist is the senior writer for Saturday Down South, a member of the FWAA and a voter for the Heisman Trophy. Send him an e-mail, like him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.