The signing of Myles Garrett to a monstrous multiyear contract is a dramatic, albeit rare, reminder that sometimes the Browns get this draft thing right.
And by “sometimes” I mean four times — in this century.
A perusal, and by perusal I mean ranking, of Cleveland’s first-round draft picks in this century offers a stark reminder — as if we needed it — that when it comes to “it seemed like a good idea at the time” first-round whiffs, nobody can touch the Browns.
Since 2000, the Browns have selected 26 players in the first round of the draft. One of them was this year’s first-rounder, Jedrick Wills. Since he has yet to play a game he is excused from this exercise.
Of the 25 Browns first-round picks in this century who have played a game, only four of them became elite players: Joe Thomas, Myles Garrett, Alex Mack and Joe Haden. Worse yet, in most of those years the Browns had very high first-round picks. They’ve had 12 top-10 picks, eight top-five picks and three No. 1 picks. Their average first-round pick in this century is No. 12.
With all those high picks, to only go 4-for-25 (16 percent) in finding elite players? I’m no Mel Kiper, but I don’t think that’s very good.
So, with some further ado, here’s one man’s ranking of the 25 players the Browns have selected in the first round of the draft in this century. The players are presented in four categories, two of which you should read only after asking the children to leave the room:
- Joe Thomas (2007, No. 3): A first-ballot Hall of Famer as a player and a person.
- Myles Garrett (2017, No. 1): Not all No. 1 overall picks perform like one. This one does.
- Alex Mack (2009, No. 21): The best Browns center of this century; a seven-year starter, three-time Pro Bowl selection.
- Joe Haden (2010, No. 7): Pro Bowl cornerbacks don’t grow on trees, and Haden was one. (A Pro Bowl cornerback, not a tree)
- Braylon Edwards (2005, No. 3): Odell Beckham before Odell Beckham.
- Kamerion Wimbley (2006, No. 13): In his four years in Cleveland he was solid to sneaky-good.
- Courtney Brown (2000, No. 1): But for injuries, he could have been Myles Garrett before Myles Garrett.
- Baker Mayfield (2018, No. 1): One great year, one awful year. What’s ahead? I’m betting on at least good.
- Denzel Ward (2018, No. 4): Perhaps still too early to rank him, but let’s put him here anyway.
- Kellen Winslow (2004, No. 6): Due to injuries, missed almost all of his first two seasons with the Browns. Did make one Pro Bowl. Should have made more.
- Gerard Warren (2001, No. 3): All together now: “The nicest guy the Pittsburgh police ever arrested.”
- Phil Taylor (2011, No. 21): Four years in Cleveland, two healthy ones, no memorable ones.
- David Njoku (2017, No. 29): He wants the Browns to trade him. The Browns want him to stay healthy and make plays.
- Jabrill Peppers (2017, No. 25): Spent most of his two years in Cleveland 30 yards from the line of scrimmage.
- Danny Shelton (2015, No. 12): In his three-year career with the Browns he spent three years playing for the Browns.
- Jeff Faine (2003, No. 21): In the NFL, centers are almost never drafted in the first round. I said almost.
- Barkevious Mingo (2013, No. 6): It’s never a good sign when you’re most remembered for the cadence of your name.
- William Green (2002, No.16): Showed flashes, but his career was derailed by multiple messy off-the-field problems.
- Brandon Weeden (2012, No. 22): In his first NFL start he got trapped under a giant American flag. It was all downhill from there.
- Trent Richardson (2012, No. 3): It’s not often a team drafts a player third overall and gives up on him after 17 games, but that’s what the Browns did when they traded Richardson to the Colts the following year.
- Brady Quinn (2007, No. 22): There’s a reason why he was the last man sitting in the green room on draft night.
- Cam Erving (2015, No. 19): An offensive lineman so physically overmatched that two years later the Browns traded him for a fifth-round pick.
- Corey Coleman (2016, No. 15): Best remembered for dropping a fourth-down pass late in a game against the Steelers that prevented the Browns from going 1-15 instead of 0-16. Missed it by that much!
- Justin Gilbert (2014, No. 8): And the Browns traded UP to get him, forcing the Giants to take Odell Beckham four picks later, and, five picks later, the Cardinals to have to settle for Aaron Donald.
- Johnny Manziel (2014, No. 22): Given the team’s need, and the importance of the position, maybe the worst Browns draft pick ever. Maybe the worst NFL draft pick ever. No evidence whatsoever that the Browns did any serious scouting of the player. If they did, and were overruled by the owner, the worst owner ever.