Browns terrible, horrible, no-good history of WR drafts

The 2017 Cleveland Browns wide receiver position is in the running to be considered the worst position group ever assembled by the franchise, which is impressive considering the franchise has had only two seasons with more wins than losses in the last 18 seasons with an 0-6 start sure leave that total alone in the 19th year of the expansion era.

Consider among wide receivers, the reception leader is Ricardo Louis with 18 catches for 229 yards and no touchdowns (51.4% catch%). At least Louis has spent the entirety of the season on the 53-man roster. None of the quartet of receivers behind him can say the same. Rashard Higgins, with his bevy of 12 catches and 125 yards (44.4% catch% and again no touchdowns), began the season on the Browns’ practice squad. Kasen Williams has bounced on and off the active roster with nine catches and 84 yards to show for his efforts (52.9% catch% and again no touchdowns). Kenny Britt was force-fed to us as a legitimate option given the money the front office gave him to replace Terrelle Pryor, but he has been a healthy scratch due to ineptness. He does have one of the two wide receiver touchdowns on the season, but eight receptions on 23 targets (34.8% catch%) is putrid. He gained 121 yards, the hard way- at least for any fans watching. Somehow, Bryce Treggs has been worse with a 33.3% catch%, but he can at least point to only being on the team for two weeks and a miniscule sample size (three catches on nine targets for 48 yards) as reasoning. These catch% are especially painful with the knowledge that Tyreek Hill has a jaw-dropping 73.4% catch% for his career and was there for the taking when the Browns chose Louis and Payton.

Of course, the expected No. 1 wide receiver was to be Corey Coleman. He did not excel in his two and a partial game played with six receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown (46.2% catch%), but his absence certainly hurts the group now left to scramble for not only rotational pieces but starters.

The Browns have no one to blame but themselves. Though through several different regimes, the team has selected just one wide receiver earlier than the fourth round over the past six NFL drafts- the oft-injured Corey Coleman. The number doubles to two if the oft-suspended Josh Gordon is included in the accounting as a second-round pick was utilized in the 2012 supplemental draft to select him. Ray Farmer summed up the Browns seemingly consistent over-arching theme on the position when he said “A wide receiver may touch the ball 10 times if heโ€™s having a great day so I just like the idea of letโ€™s get the guys that affect the game all the time.”

It didn’t used to be this way. The early expansion Cleveland Browns allocated resources for wide receivers in the draft. Kevin Johnson (315 receptions, 3836 yards, 23 touchdowns), Dennis Northcutt (276 receptions, 3438 yards, 11 touchdowns), Quincy Morgan (133 receptions, 2056 yards, 15 touchdowns), and Andre Davis (93 receptions, 1412 yards, 13 touchdowns) all contributed something as first-or-second round draft picks. Given a complete absence of talent at the position, they filled the void to some degree. Later round picks Darrin Chiaverini, JaJuan Dawson, and Andre King were the only other receiver picks in the first four drafts of the expansion era- each a complete bust.

The team then took three years before they drafted another receiver at all when they took Braylon Edwards at No. 3 overall in 2005. The Browns have not drafted a player who has provided more value to the team than even Quincy Morgan since.

Who did we miss on?

OK, let’s get this out of the way. No, the statistics these drafted players- especially those by stable organizations with good quarterbacks- would not have necessarily or even likely achieved the same levels of success with the Browns. However, the complete absence of any semblance of receiving skills on the team during this duration leads to the belief they could have done SOMETHING. The inability of the franchise to hit on any semblance of a capable wide receiver over the course of 12 different NFL Drafts would be rather amazing if it was not so inordinately frustrating.

After Edwards, the Browns attempted to supplement his skills with Travis “best receiver in the draft” Wilson in the third round of the 2006 NFL Draft. Derek Hagan would be the next receiver taken with Jason Avant and Brandon Marshall selected in the next round. 2007 saw the Browns take a late-round flier on Syndric Steptoe with Chansi Stuckey being taken by the New York Jets with the very next pick.

The 2008 drafts was especially frustrating. A stable organization should have close ties with the surrounding college programs and gain insight into the players coming through their systems. Undervalued assets should get highlighted and give an advantage in evaluation to a team. The Browns, on the other hand, have no such stability or insight as seen most glaringly when a player from Mount Union who has a successful NFL career, Pierre Garcon, is taken 14 picks after the team wastes their spot on Paul Hubbard. A similar tact occurred in 2009 as the Browns took the wrong Ohio State Buckeye in Brian Robiskie rather than Brian Hartline, which is even more glaring of an error over their deep threat choice of Mohammed Massaquoi instead of Michael Wallace. Perhaps a more stable organization would have also been wise enough to see that Michael Thomas was the best receiver in the 2016 class.

OK, take a breath. The next one is on the scale of Spergon Wynn being the quarterback selected in the draft just before Tom Brady. To repeat, it is unfair to pin such a late-round pick as being the sole responsibility of the franchise to get correct. It is the complete absence of any of these picks hitting, while other teams hit on at least a few of them, that is the issue at hand here. Take into consideration that Travis Benjamin (fourth round in 2012 without any substantially better receiver taken near him) is the only wide receiver taken after the second round since 1999 to finish with more than 555 receiving yards with the Browns. So, yes, despite the unfairness of looking at a single selection, it still is painful to see Antonio Brown was taken by the Pittsburgh Steelers after the Browns decided Carlton Mitchell was more their speed in the 2010 NFL Draft.

The remaining two receivers drafted are no longer with the team. Greg Little showed heart and blocking ability. If only his body had been built to be an offensive guard. As it was, the poor hands left fans to wonder if pre-2011-draft fan-favorite Randall Cobb would have been able to electrify crowds in Cleveland as he has in Green Bay. The entire Browns receiver draft history of the expansion era though could be summed up by the last mentioned here. Vince Mayle’s scouting profile noted he had a tough time getting separation and had poor hands. Somehow that led him to being taken in the fourth round though he would be waived before his first August Training Camp would complete putting him behind all other receivers selected.1

The Browns have had their issues finding competent veteran receivers in free agency as they recently have whiffed on Dwayne Bowe and Kenny Britt despite throwing money at the issue. Some receivers who have had some success with the team have left such as Terrelle Pryor, Travis Benjamin, and Taylor Gabriel.2 However, the genesis of the Browns’ current wide receiver problem falls directly on their ability- or rather inability- to allocate resources and evaluate properly the position in the draft. Maybe they could look around local sporting websites for a handy guide for the 2018 NFL Draft.

  1. JJ Nelson and Stefon Diggs were selected after Mayle and have been quite productive. []
  2. Note: Gabriel was small and almost always injured while on the team. He needed a situation like Atlanta that could put him in better positions to truly show off his skills. []

  • Chris

    Oh, don’t forget they took Robiskie (and I think MoMass) over Shady McCoy.

  • Eric G

    Why do we continue to go back over previous drafts? Nothing good comes of it except more depression

  • mgbode

    WR to WR evaluations were the focus here.

  • mgbode

    Cannot learn from the past if we ignore it.

  • MartyDaVille

    In the same vein, Mary Kay had an excellent column in today’s PD about the haplessness of the front office and the friction between the HBT and the coaching staff.

  • Chris

    Then play Shady at WR


  • mgbode

    There’s a lot to unpack in that article. But, to be nice, let’s just focus on the over-arching theme and say that I’d prefer the team add some talented scouts in some specific areas.

  • MartyDaVille

    When Hasgrum wanted to buy the Browns, I’ll bet the Rooneys gave him a glowing recommendation, and they haven’t stopped laughing since.

  • BenRM

    I can’t read that at work, can you tl;dr it?

  • Basically Mary bringing up old and irrelevant talking points: her opinion on the Browns decision making on WRs, QBs, and what she thinks is a mistake of hiring non-football execs to build the team. Nothing special.

  • Harv

    A little hard to find a common thread since this time frame involves so many different FOs. And I don’t buy the instability argument when so many of those GMs didn’t need more time, they needed to not have been made a GM. 35 years ago the Browns had a similar prob at WR. In ’82 they tried to copy other teams’ speedy field stretchers and whiffed on Ron Brown in the second round. Then Marino was an instant success with his little smurfs, Clayton and Duper, so the Browns tried to ape that and wasted a second rounder on a tiny dude named Bruce Davis, a total bust. In ’85, while they reversed gears with possession guys in later rounds (Brennan, Langhorne), they sent Paul Warfield on a mission to spend the college season finding one guy. Warfield found Webster Slaughter, who certainly lived up to his second round status.

    But right before Web, the Browns not only couldn’t figure out who could play football, they couldn’t settle on a philosophy on what they were looking for. Like Farmer and his “look at Seattle” nonsense, they were trying to copy something they didn’t understand.

  • MartyDaVille

    There’s nothing really new in it, just a summary of what’s been going on. What’s interesting about it is that she’s usually not critical. This is bomb-throwing stuff for her.

    And I like it because I agree with it.

    By Mary Kay Cabot,

    CLEVELAND, Ohio — Jimmy Haslam’s plan for the Browns isn’t working, the discord between the coaching staff and top brass is real, and he still needs an experienced talent evaluator to come in and help save it.

    I wrote it last December and I’m repeating it here: A personnel trio devoid of anyone who’s ever assembled a winning football team isn’t going to fly.

    The Browns have already whiffed on two potential star quarterbacks in Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson, and are in jeopardy of blowing it again in the QB-rich 2018 draft if they don’t find someone with a track
    record for picking players.

    The current trio of Executive Vice President of Football Operations Sashi Brown, Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta and Vice President of Player Personnel Andrew Berry was deficient from the start, and now they’re 1-21 in their second season of a rebuild that was never necessary in the first place.

    Perennial contenders don’t have to “take it down to the studs” and trade away from franchise quarterbacks to build a roster. They find players in the draft, free agency, on the street and other teams’ rosters. They keep their own good players such as center Alex Mack, Mitchell Schwartz and receiver Taylor Gabriel.

    The nine players they’ve drafted so far from the Wentz trade are mostly “just guys” who didn’t need to come at the expense of a franchise quarterback.

    There’s no way the Browns should be 1-21 after having 24 draft picks in the last two seasons and more cap space than they know what to do with. They never expected to go 1-15 last season, and they certainly never envisioned 0-6 this year.

    But they’re 1-21 — and losing fans in droves — because the roster isn’t good enough to win. What’s more, they haven’t even been competitive in two of their last three games.

    The argument for building up the roster before drafting the franchise QB is flawed. We’ve been hearing that for years, including from former general manager Ray Farmer, and yet the supporting cast is still poor — including a receiving corps that could’ve been top-notch right now with a couple of smart moves.

    No, this is how it’s done:

    You take the franchise quarterback when he’s staring you in the face, and worry about the details later.

    And if this complete two-year teardown was the plan all along, they never let Hue Jackson in on it. He came in with a promise to win right away, and refused to call it a rebuild, only a “retool.”

    If DeShone Kizer doesn’t prove to be the franchise quarterback Jackson still believes he can be, the best the Browns can hope for is that a quarterback such as a USC’s Sam Darnold or UCLA’s Josh Rosen can come in next year and start to dig them out of this hole. But there’s no guarantee they’ll even be as good as Wentz or Watson.

    Even if a Darnold or Rosen can start winning in 2019, was it worth two years of record-setting losses that alienated fans, wasted people’s money — and wouldn’t have happened if they had taken a Wentz, a Watson, or acquired a quality veteran?

    Furthermore, the blown picks and missed opportunities have created so much discord between the front office and coaching staff that they can’t co-exist beyond this season in their current state.

    Haslam — who’s 15-55 since officially taking over as owner in 2013 and 4-39 since a 7-4 start in 2014 — will have

    Why the executive team is lacking

    Haslam’s first mistake was putting Brown in charge of all roster decisions when that’s not his area of expertise. He’s a lawyer and salary-cap expert who came from a Jaguars team that didn’t have a winning season in his final five years there.

    He’s more team president material than final-say GM.

    If Brown were to have control of the roster, he needed an accomplished evaluator by his side. Instead, Haslam brought in DePodesta from the Mets. If DePodesta wanted to break into football, so be it. But Haslam put a
    baseball guy in charge of his football team.

    DePodesta was still coming up the steep learning curve when the Browns made the egregious error of passing on Wentz last year. To make matters worse, he told ESPN Cleveland that the Browns didn’t think Wentz would be a top-20 quarterback, effectively announcing that their ability to evaluate the position is suspect.

    The Browns did hire their “football guy” in Berry, but he was a rising 28-year-old talent and former Colts pro scouting coordinator who was nowhere near ready to be a team’s leading football authority.

    Haslam should’ve learned from making Farmer the GM way too soon that it’s too big a job for a rookie, unless he’s paired with a star exec such as an Ozzie Newsome.

    The other major flaw on the executive team was that Haslam put himself at the top of the flow chart, a job he’s not qualified for.

    Had he hired a good overseer, preferably one with Super Bowl experience, he may have been able to head off the rift.

  • mgbode

    The main thread here is in the Browns have had constant struggles at the position, but the recent refusal to allocate premium resources has exasperated the problem.

    Also, while front offices have changed often, a good number of the scouts on this list have remained employed through the changes:

  • Harv

    that’s valid, but not sure scout input is being followed. Butch/Garcia was notorious for that, Farmer tossed out an expensive QB study, and I thought Mangini/Kokinis purged the Savage people and Sashi also replaced quite a bit from the Farmer era. But I get the point.

  • mgbode

    Yes, not exact and we don’t know how much their input is valued.

  • RGB

    Draft talk!
    But first…so, I’m stuck at home today, and that means I get to listen to Cleveland sportstalk radio on the computer. (Damn IT nazis…)
    Anyway, a Mr. Hero commercial comes on and announces THE ROMANBURGER IS 50% LARGER.
    Oh sweet jebus. I think it’s time to move back to NEO.

  • BenRM


  • BenRM

    I take a TON of issue with this sentence:

    “The other major flaw on the executive team was that Haslam put himself
    at the top of the flow chart, a job he’s not qualified for.”

    First, she ends in a preposition.

    Second, who spends 2 billion dollars to buy a business and then thinks, I’ll just sit this one out. It’s as ludicrous a statement as Jason Campbell is elite.

  • Eric G

    Apparently, they cannot learn even by focusing on it.

  • jpftribe

    There is not one shred of newly sourced information in that hit piece. Basically, no one in the FO knows football, take Wentz or Watson and everything magically falls into place.

    Anyone with a pen, notebook and Google could write that nonsense.

  • jpftribe

    Low sodium diet is killing me. I love those things, forbidden fruit.

  • mgbode

    That is one way to describe my WR article. Oh, you meant….


  • mgbode

    Answer: Randy Lerner (though it wasn’t his money I suppose)

    in their second season of a rebuild that was never necessary in the first place.

    Perennial contenders don’t have to “take it down to the studs” and trade away from franchise quarterbacks to build a roster.

    This was my biggest point of contention in the article. Well, really? Perennial contenders don’t need to do a full rebuild? Maybe because they already have a foundation?

    I really like MKC as a reporter. She reports out some great stuff and often includes more context w/o snark compared to her peers. Her analytical articles, however, leave much to be desired. We each have our strengths.

  • mgbode

    I’m on Youngstown 1240AM at 4pm today if you want to listen in. It’s Tribe stuff though.

  • tigersbrowns2

    Hi MG … i think you’ve already showcased some of the college talent coming out next year … i am also seeing some decent free-agents :


    i also see a few former Browns : pryor , gabriel & snead.

    i also saw some huge names as well , like Cousins , L.Bell & a few others … the HBT addressed the O-line this year (Zeitler & Tretter) & MAYBE , JUST MAYBE the HBT had the foresight to wait until next year to spend some of that cap space on MEANINGFUL FA’s … maybe they are just that good.

  • tigersbrowns2

    and it’s not just WR … if you really want to entertain yourself , go back & look at every draft since 1979 & you will be amazed.

  • RGB

    I shall tune in.

  • JM85

    Featured comment right here.

  • jpftribe

    You are being too kind. I’ve seen far better rants in the comments section here.

  • mgbode

    USFL supplemental & Kosar’s shenanigans saved the 80s.

  • jpftribe

    Boy, if this is really what he said, Hue is losing it.

  • BenRM

    HAH~! I overlooked that one. Of course perennial contenders don’t have to do a full rebuild. They’re contending, not rebuilding.

  • tigersbrowns2

    i still like Andrew Berry … i think he’s the best “football guy” we have. and maybe passing on Wentz & Watson was all part of the plan & the HBT will be sticking-it to all the naysayers … it could happen , you know.

  • Chris

    Wait until April.

  • paulbip

    I see nothing in this years draft for WR so watch the Browns load up drafting WR’s.

  • Harv

    yep. That brief USFL haul brought so many good players, in or entering their primes. Funny that when they occasionally raided the CFL they seemed to miss badly. I’m thinking of Cousineau and some lanky receiver that they proclaimed would tear it up based on his numbers up north. Dude could not match up, even in preseason games, and disappeared. They were so desperate for receivers.

  • Casual_Kenny_Reigns

    I think it’s really funny people keep expecting the Browns to turn it all around and start doing things to be a winning club.

  • Skulb

    10-6 until they’re not!

  • Skulb

    You realize of course that this is the country that took professional wrestling seriously at one point? Anything is possible. It just isn’t very likely.

  • Skulb

    It is almost as if coaching and using personnel in an appropriate fashion matters almost as much as players’ heights and weights!

    Nah, doesn’t sound legit.