The best season for any Cleveland Browns fan is the offseason. Sad? Sure, but the NFL Draft is the Dawg Pound’s Super Bowl. A Super Bowl we always seem to lose. Every franchise will have a handful of first round busts in their history it’s inevitable, but the Browns take it to another level.
To fully grasp the magnitude of the Browns draft failures since their return to Cleveland, one must review past picks and how their careers transpired.
1999- QB Tim Couch (1st overall)
It’s hard to rip on Tim Couch too much. He was thrown into the fire just two games into the expansion Browns 1999 inaugural season, a situation few would succeed in. Couch got beat to a pulp during his tenure with the Browns and never recovered. Although he led the Browns to their first playoff berth in 2002, he broke his leg during the final regular season game and never fully regained his starting position from Kelly Holcomb. The first in a long line of first round busts took his last NFL snap in 2003.
2000- DE Courtney Brown (1st overall)
Brown seemed like a “can’t miss” prospect coming out of Penn State. He ran a ridiculous 4.52 forty-yard dash at the Penn State pro day and was a consensus All-American in 1999. Well, that success and athleticism did not translate to the pro level. After a semi-productive rookie campaign Brown was hampered by injuries. After appearing in only 31 games from the 2002-2004 seasons Brown was released, and subsequently out of the NFL by 2005.
2001- DT Gerard Warren (3rd overall)
Warren was not a complete bust for the Cleveland Browns. In four seasons with Cleveland he managed to post decent numbers (16.5 sacks). He also played in all but three games during his tenure in Cleveland before being dealt to the Broncos for a fourth round pick prior to the 2005 NFL Draft. Warren went on to suit up with the Raiders and Patriots before calling it quits in 2012. Decent career, still a swing and a miss for a third overall pick.
2002- RB William Green (16th overall)
Any true Browns fan has a special place for William Green in their heart. The unforgettable “Run William Run!” call by Browns play-by-play man Jim Donovan clinched a playoff berth for the 2002 Browns. A successful rookie campaign by Green was derailed by off the field problems. A DUI, pot possession charge and a domestic dispute that led to him getting stabbed in the back all spelled the end for Green. He was out of the league by the conclusion of the 2005 season.
2003- C Jeff Faine (21st overall)
Faine was decent during his three years in Cleveland before being dealt to the Saints during the 2006 NFL Draft. He was even named a Pro Bowl alternate in 2007 and an offensive captain for New Orleans. Not a sexy pick, but better than a Courtney Brown.
2004- TE Kellen Winslow II (6th overall)
Oh, K2 where to begin with this one. A true character since his “I’m a f*cking soldier,” comments at Miami. Winslow played in two games his first two seasons in Cleveland, due to a football related injury and the infamous motorcycle incident. A successful 2006 campaign led to a Pro Bowl nod in 2007 while being part of the most exciting Browns season in recent memory (10-6). After a dispute with Browns management during the 2008 season regarding a staph infection, Winslow had several decent seasons with the Buccaneers before his career fizzled.
2005- WR Braylon Edwards (3rd overall)
Lets be honest, Braylon Edwards was a bust. Sure, he had a spectacular year in 2007 that led to a Pro Bowl selection and Second-Team All Pro Honors, but the guy was a headache. Braylon was the king of drops, leading the league with 23 in 2008. We could have picked Aaron Rodgers, just to rub salt in the wound. It’s not like the Browns have had trouble finding solid quarterback play though. Anyways, Braylon never materialized into the consummate All-Pro receiver Browns fans hoped he would be.
2006- LB Kamerion Wimbley (13th overall)
Wimbley had a stellar rookie campaign. He led all AFC rookies with 11 sacks and it looked as if the Browns had found the pass-rusher they were so desperately looking for. Not so fast, my friend. He recorded only 15.5 sacks over his next three years in Cleveland before being dealt to the Raiders prior to the 2010 NFL Draft for a third round pick. The pick was used to select former Browns great Colt McCoy.
2007- OT Joe Thomas (3rd overall), QB Brady Quinn (22nd overall)
What can be said about Joe Thomas that hasn’t already been said? The man has been selected to the Pro Bowl all nine seasons he’s been in the league to go along with six All-Pro selections. He is a fan favorite and by far the best decision any Browns regime has made in the draft. Brady Quinn? Not so much. He was mediocre at best when given the opportunity to play. Quinn had trouble fending off a spiraling Derek Anderson during the 2009 season, his last in Cleveland. He ended his career with 12 touchdowns 17 interceptions in 24 games played with the Browns and Chiefs. Bust.
2008- No first round pick because we traded up for Brady Quinn the previous year, awesome.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention. Browns general manager Phil Savage loved Quinn so much he traded away our 2008 first round pick to Dallas to get his guy. Way to go Phil!
2009- C Alex Mack (21st overall)
Alex Mack? Not a bust. Mack has blossomed into a three-time Pro Bowl selection, including this season, and was a Second-team All-Pro in 2013. Both he and Joe Thomas have anchored the Browns offensive line during their time together in Cleveland. The sad part is the Browns can’t even utilize their strengths.
2010- CB Joe Haden (7th overall)
Joe Haden has become one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL since being drafted in 2010. A two-time Pro Bowl selection and 2013 Second-team All-Pro, Haden has become a fan favorite and embraced the city of Cleveland. Forget a shaky/injury riddled 2015 season, Haden has been one of the few bright spots for the Browns organization over the past 15 years.
2011- DT Phil Taylor (21st overall)
Phil Taylor had a standout rookie season. He finished the 2011 season with 59 tackles to go along with four sacks and was a valuable run stopper for the Browns front seven. In typical Cleveland fashion, injuries derailed Taylor’s development. He would record only 50 tackles and three sacks over the next three seasons while appearing in only 28 games. He was cut prior to the beginning of the 2015 season.
2012- RB Trent Richardson (3rd overall), QB Brandon Weeden (22nd overall)
Where do I begin? Trent Richardson had a decent rookie campaign, setting the franchise record for touchdowns by a rookie (11) and compiling 950 yards. The Browns proceeded to deal him to the Colts for a first round pick two games into the 2013 season. I fully understand why now. After being a complete disaster in Indy Richardson is out of the NFL after being cut by the Raiders during training camp this season. Bust. Our other first round pick was none other than Brandon Weeden. Weeden was awful during his two seasons in Cleveland to say the least. Two dreadful seasons and countless shake your head moments led to his release prior to the 2014 season.
2013- OLB Barkevious Mingo (6th overall)
Mingo was drafted to be a pass rusher and a playmaker at linebacker. In three seasons he has totaled 108 tackles and only seven sacks, including a whopping zero in 2015. Who was drafted before Mingo? The Lions selected defensive end Ezekiel Ansah who has recorded 30 sacks in his three seasons and was named to the 2015 Pro Bowl. Was that the pass rusher the Browns were looking for?
2014- CB Justin Gilbert (8th overall), QB Johnny Manziel (22nd overall)
I would say the 2012 draft was the worst first round the Browns have ever had, but the 2014 selections take the cake. The Browns selected two problematic individuals. We all know the Johnny Football stories, the party videos, the rehab, the Billy Vegas saga etc. What the Johnny drama overshadows is the incredible lack of maturity displayed by Justin Gilbert. He has missed team meetings due to being a “hard sleeper.” He has reportedly denied the help and mentorship of Joe Haden. Not to mention, he has looked dreadful on the field. Gilbert has been as big of a bust, if not bigger, than anyone in Browns history. The Browns also traded up a pick with the Vikings to select him. The Vikings selected linebacker Anthony Barr with said pick who has turned in two stellar seasons in the league thus far.
2015- DT Danny Shelton (12th overall), C Cameron Erving (19th overall)
Danny Shelton was brought into to help the Browns struggling run defense. He was invisible at times, and the Browns finished 30th in rush defense. So much for a run stopper, I guess. Cameron Erving was brought in to potentially replace staring center Alex Mack, who is a free agent this offseason. Erving was nothing short of awful. If you need proof, watch Bengals Geno Atkins blow him up again, and again during the Week 13 showdown. Brutal.
Newly appointed Browns decision makers Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta will need to work with head coach Hue Jackson to draft players that best fit the needs of the Cleveland Browns. Building through the draft is not only a common sentiment heard throughout the league, but a proven one. The Packers are the model for draft success with the most team selected players on their active roster; the Bengals are a close second.
As I have shown, the NFL Draft has been nothing short of a debacle for the Browns since their return to Cleveland. The good thing for Brown, DePodesta and Jackson is the bar is already set pretty low. They can thank fired general manager Ray Farmer for that.
Sports Chat Co-Founder