The best draft in Cleveland Browns history was more than 50 years ago, and the last year the organization drafted a player who reached the Hall of Fame was 1978. In fact, that same person – Ozzie Newsome – now calls the shots for the original Cleveland football franchise which now resides in Baltimore.
From 1953-1964, Cleveland drafted nine players who would end up in the Hall of Fame, including arguably the greatest RB (or perhaps player, period) in league history, Jim Brown. In that same 1957 draft, the Browns snagged two other players who made it to Canton (Henry Jordan and Gene Hickerson).
Once those players were gone, though, the Browns weren’t relevant until the 1980s. And since football returned to Cleveland in 1999 after a three-year absence, the Browns have made the playoffs just once. The best word to describe the 13 drafts since then would probably be disastrous. To be more specific, just two
players (out of 107 players drafted) have made more than one Pro Bowl – T Joe Thomas with five and C Ryan Pontbriand with two; compare that anemic number with Baltimore’s eight or Pittsburgh’s five in that same time span.
With two picks in the first round this year, the Browns cannot afford to make a mistake.
They need to make picks that can eventually be on this list …
10 BEST DRAFT PICKS IN SUPER BOWL ERA
10. Braylon Edwards, 2005 (1stround / 3rdoverall pick)
The WR was spectacular in 2007, setting franchise records with 16 receiving TDs and 1,289 receiving yards. Edwards has 5,323 career receiving yards and 39 TDs.
9. Eric Turner, 1991 (1stround, 2ndoverall)
The S recorded 30 career INTs, including a league-leading 9 in 1994; 17 of his INTS were in a Browns uniform. Turner ranks third in team history in tackles.
8. Webster Slaughter, 1986 (2ndround, 43rdoverall)
Another player who wound up with multiple teams late in his career, Slaughter was quite effective in his six seasons with Cleveland. He caught 27 TD passes for the Browns, and 4,834 of his career 8,111 receiving yards came in Cleveland.
7. Bernie Kosar, 1985 (supplemental pick)
Kosar had the Browns within view of the Super Bowl three times, only to be denied by Denver in AFC title games. Kosar is third in team history in passing yards (21,904), fourth in TD passes (116) and fourth in QB rating. Kosar also had winning records in his career starts against division foes Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Houston.
6. Chip Banks, 1982 (1stround, 3rdoverall)
In five seasons in Cleveland, the LB reached 3 Pro Bowls and was first-team All-Pro once. He had 27.5 sacks, 5 INTs and 6 recovered fumbles during his Browns tenure. The 1982 Defensive Rookie of the Year did not miss a single game in his five years in Cleveland.
5. Eric Metcalf, 1989 (1stround, 13thoverall)
Even though the return specialist played for six teams in his final seven seasons, Metcalf made his fame in Cleveland. He returned 5 punts and 2 KO’s for TDs in his six years in Cleveland. Metcalf had 7,965 career yards from scrimmage with 43 TDs. The two-time All-Pro second all-time in career punt-return TDs (10) and fourth in punt-return yards (3,453).
4. Michael Dean Perry, 1988 (2ndround, 50thoverall)
The DT/DE out of Clemson played seven of his 10 years in Cleveland, reaching five Pro Bowls; he was twice named first-team All-Pro. Perry’s 51.5 sacks rank second on the franchise list. Only 15 players in team history appeared in more games than Perry’s 109.
3. Joe Thomas, 2007 (1stround, 3rdoverall)
The Browns hit a home run with pick from Wisconsin in 2007. In a career that is just five years old, the LT has already made five Pro-Bowl appearances, including the last three as first-team All-Pro. Thomas has started every game since the first game of his rookie season (against the Pittsburgh, Steelers, fittingly).
2. Clay Matthews, 1978 (1stround, 12thoverall)
Matthews is not in the HOF yet – but it shouldn’t be long until his name is added to that distinguished list (perhaps as early as this year). Matthews holds a host of franchise records, including most games played (232 – 60 games more than the next closest player). The LB, clearly the greatest defensive player in franchise history, holds the team record in sacks (62), forced fumbles (24) and tackles (1,430).
1. Ozzie Newsome, 1978 (1stround, 23rdoverall)
Newsome defined the TE position. Even though his records have been broken (mostly by Tony Gonzales), the “Wizard of Oz” set the standard in his 13-year, 198-game pro career. Newsome, who never missed a game, caught a pass in 150 consecutive games, and finished his career with 662 catches, for 7,980 yards and 47 TDs. When he retired, he ranked in the top five among all receivers. Newsome was inducted into the HOF in 1999.