Cleveland Browns  

 

Cleveland Browns: Best and worst draft picks

In the days leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft, NFL.com will allow users to determine the best and worst draft picks for every team. The series continues with the team that owns the No. 6 overall pick in this year's draft, the Cleveland Browns.

Why are the Cleveland Browns still digging themselves out of a seemingly never-ending slump? Look no further than the draft.

When the Browns twice came within a hair of the Super Bowl in the mid-1980s, Cleveland was stocked with homegrown talent. It's been bleak since the Browns returned to the league in 1999, as a string of draft-day blunders sunk an already talent-poor roster deeper into oblivion.

We chose to look at Cleveland's draft history in the Super Bowl era, meaning this list won't include the likes of the great Jim Brown, Gene Hickerson, Leroy Kelly or Paul Warfield. Still, it's no surprise that the Browns' top five picks hail from days long past, while the most egregious errors are still fresh on the mind.

Best picks

Ozzie Newsome -- 1978 (No. 23 overall)
A bittersweet tale. Drafted in the first round in 1978 out of Alabama, Newsome started 191 games over 13 years for the Browns and reimagined the tight end position. Newsome's 662 catches and 7,980 yards remain franchise records and he seamlessly shifted from the playing field to a front-office role with Bill Belichick's Browns teams before the franchise was moved to Baltimore in 1996. We all know what he's accomplished since. Newsome is a Hall of Famer in every sense of the word.
» 1978 NFL Draft

Bernie Kosar -- 1985 (No. 1, supplemental draft)
I almost left Bernie off the list because the Browns acquired him in the 1985 supplemental draft, but without Kosar, this list is an utter sham. Bernie was the heart and soul of the team during that mid-1980s run that saw the Browns come ever so close to the Super Bowl. Kosar made Cleveland relevant and did it with a style all his own. The Browns are still looking for his heir.
» 1985 NFL Draft

Clay Matthews -- 1978 (No. 12)
Before his son, Clay Matthews III, wreaked havoc for the Packers, Clay Jr. reigned as one of the more durable, productive players of his time. Drafted in the first round in 1978 out of USC, Matthews made 248 starts for the Browns over 16 seasons before playing another three with the Falcons. His 69½ sacks included 6½ takedowns at age 40. Matthews never really slowed down and Browns fans still wonder why the team passed over Clay III in the 2009 draft.
» 1978 NFL Draft

Brian Sipe -- 1972 (No. 330)
During his 10 seasons in Cleveland, Sipe -- a 13th-round pick in 1972 out of San Diego State -- is best known for his electrifying MVP campaign in 1980, in which he led the "Kardiac Kids" to one improbable comeback after another. His 4,132 yards and 30 touchdowns helped the Browns to their first playoff appearance in eight seasons. That game -- a disaster known as "Red Right 88" -- ended in heartbreak, but Sipe remains one of the better passers in team history.
» 1972 NFL Draft

Hanford Dixon -- 1981 (No. 22)
I almost put right tackle Cody Risien here, but my choice is Dixon, who along with Frank Minnifield gave the Browns one of the finest cornerback tandems in NFL history. Dixon -- the team's first-round pick in 1981 out of Southern Miss -- is responsible for the birth of the "Dawg Pound" after he and Minnifield nicknamed their gritty defense the "Dawgs," based on a theory that opposing quarterbacks were nothing more than cats to be pestered and trounced upon. Dixon rarely disappointed on that front.
» 1981 NFL Draft

Worst picks

Tim Couch -- 1999 (No. 1)
Couch isn't the worst player drafted by the Browns -- not by a long shot -- but considering the magnitude of the pick, you can't put him anywhere else on this list. The "New Browns" were looking for a hero in 1999, someone marketable to center their back-from-the-dead franchise around. Couch was taken first overall and the plan was to develop him slowly. Instead, he was shoved onto the field behind a scattershot offensive line and ruined. He wasn't a Pro Bowl passer, but the team deserves plenty of blame for his uneven five-year stint in Cleveland. How bad was that Browns regime on draft day? Their second choice behind Couch was Akili Smith.
» 1999 NFL Draft

Courtney Brown -- 2000 (No. 1)
His nickname, "The Quiet Storm," was well-crafted. Selected with the top overall pick out of Penn State in 2000, Brown was a kind, soft-spoken giant who flashed moments of pure dominance, but couldn't stay on the field long enough to lift the Browns defense out of hell. Brown was unreliable at best after starting 16 games as a rookie. He racked up just 17 sacks in five seasons in Cleveland before landing with Denver in 2004.
» 2000 NFL Draft

William Green -- 2002 (No. 16)
Run, Willie, Run. Right out of town. William Green -- the 16th overall pick in 2002 out of Boston College -- was another wild draft bust at the worst possible time. Despite some late-season heroics during his rookie campaign, Green never materialized into a productive starter and is known best around town for a string of unfathomable off-the-field antics. He finished his Browns career with just 2,109 yards over four seasons.
» 2002 NFL Draft

Brady Quinn -- 2007 (No. 22)
Give then-general manager Phil Savage some credit: He hit a home run with Joe Thomas at No. 3 in the 2007. But trading back into the first round to acquire Quinn at No. 22 was a roll-of-the-dice move that looked brilliant in April, but ultimately led to disaster. Quinn -- the former Notre Dame savior -- started just 12 games for Cleveland over three seasons, wasting much of that time in a tedious quarterback controversy with Derek Anderson. Another dreadful example of Cleveland's stunning inability to groom a young passer.
» 2007 NFL Draft

Mike Junkin, Clifford Charlton, Craig Powell -- 1987 (No. 5), 1988 (No. 21), 1995 (No. 30)
The Browns wasted back-to-back first-round picks on Junkin and Charlton in 1987 and 1988. The Powell selection in 1995 -- the final first-round pick of the old Browns -- confirmed suspicions that Cleveland had issues finding linebacker talent at the top of the draft. Junkin and Charlton were both gone within two seasons. Powell appeared in three games as a rookie before vanishing into obscurity.
» 1987 NFL Draft | 1988 NFL Draft | 1995 NFL Draft

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

Best and worst draft picks
April 3: Chiefs | Jaguars
April 4: Raiders | Eagles
April 5: Lions | Browns
April 8: Bills | Cardinals
April 9: Jets | Titans
April 10: Chargers | Dolphins
April 11: Bucs | Panthers
April 12: Rams| Saints
April 15: Cowboys | Steelers
April 16: Bears | Giants
April 17: Bengals| Redskins
April 18: Colts | Vikings
April 19: Packers | Seahawks
April 22: Broncos| Texans
April 23: Falcons| Patriots
April 24: 49ers| Ravens

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop

NFL News
CONTENT
15