The Cleveland Browns have seemingly had a top-10 pick in the NFL Draft every year since their return to the league in 1999. Although there are some outliers, that is basically the case. Yet, even with so many good picks, they are still in the cellar of the NFL and the Browns inevitably hit rock bottom when they went an imperfect 0-16 in 2017, further solidifying just how embarrassing the franchise has been for much of the last two decades.
Whether it’s not being able to evaluate talent, trading out of a good (and high) pick, or a number of different reasons, Cleveland has seemingly had a number of different reasons why they haven’t been able to turn good picks into players that can succeed at the highest level, let alone become Pro Bowlers and use their talent to turn around this franchise.
With so many opportunities to better themselves in the draft, especially with a pick where they can potentially select a future star, the Browns have basically done the opposite, especially since 2012. They further solidified that by trading Corey Coleman Sunday night.
For a team that has been so bad for so many years since their return in 1999, you’d think that they would still have plenty of first-round talent on their team while trying to rebuild. Well, you thought wrong. The Browns made 21 first-round picks from 1999 to 2016, 13 of which were in the top 15 and 11 were in the top 10,1 yet not a single one is still in Cleveland. That’s right: The Browns longest tenured first-round picks that they actually drafted are Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers, both of whom were selected in 2017.
We can virtually use almost any NFL Draft since 1999 as an example outside of a select few, but let’s take a look at the 2016 draft, one where the Browns had the second-overall pick.
With quarterback Jared Goff going No. 1, Cleveland decided to trade down,2 all the way back to No. 15. They not only allowed the Philadelphia Eagles to select gunslinger Carson Wentz, who in his second year in the NFL helped his team win the Super Bowl, but they passed on plenty of other talents as well. The first five picks in that draft—Goff, Wentz, Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, and Jalen Ramsey—are already Pro Bowlers and some of the best players at their positions.
Missing on a legitimate, franchise quarterback is gut-wrenching and one of the many reasons why the Browns are where they are, but missing on that much talent in the Top 5 is inexcusable. Even if they decided to pass on Wentz, they still had the chance to draft three other Pro Bowlers. Let that sink in.
Add in the fact that a team starving for a legitimate wide receiver and they decided to take a guy like Coleman who had plenty of questions about him even before all the injuries and passed on a star like Michael Thomas is another no-no. Yes, the entire NFL passed on Thomas, but the Browns must find the most talented players in the draft no matter their position. They haven’t come close to doing that over the last two decades.
Maybe this new regime can change the storyline. Then again, how many times have we said (and hoped) that as Browns fans? Quite a bit, to say the least. In a perfect world, the Browns vastly improve this season and use it to build a legitimate franchise going forward, but if history tells us anything, it’s that Cleveland will have a new coaching staff and front office sooner rather than later. Hopefully this time around, that’s not the case. Please prove us wrong and actually be a team that can not only be successful but one that can compete atop the AFC North, let alone as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
There have been a number of trades that solidify just how bad the Browns are at drafting the right talent. Sending Coleman to Buffalo is just another example of that. Finding (and drafting) a franchise quarterback will help speed up the rebuilding process while also accelerating the development of many other positions, Cleveland continues to miss on not only gunslingers but a handful of other positions as well. It’s the sole reason why they are still in the cellar of the NFL and until that changes, it will be tough to climb out.