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The Cleveland Browns have, since the team returned to the NFL in 1999 following the franchise’s shocking move to Baltimore, been mostly known for two things; bad football, and very bad draft picks.
Looking back, it almost appears as if the different Cleveland front offices that have run the club have tried to fail during the annual player selection process that occurs each and every spring. After all, no team can be this unlucky when it comes to choosing players. You’d think that, with all of the high picks the Browns have had over the past decade and a half, the math would suggest that they would hit on at least one offensive star…right?
You’d be wrong.
Not every first round pick of the Browns since ’99 has been a bust. Kellen Winslow II had the talent to excel in the NFL, but injuries, some poor decision making and some simple bad luck ended his Cleveland career far too soon. Joe Thomas is one of the best offensive tackles in the league, and Joe Haden could be on the cusp of becoming a true shutdown cornerback.
For the most part, though, they’ve been stinkers. Here are the 10 biggest Cleveland Browns draft busts since they re-entered the league in 1999.
Honorable Mention: Barkevious Mingo – LB – LSU
The jury is still out on Mingo, who played his rookie season last year. He did look like a one-trick pony as far as getting to the quarterback as the season went along, though, and some analysts believe that the first-year linebacker actually got worse from September through the end of the holiday season. He still, of course, has time to improve, but Mingo did not look good in year one.
10. Tim Couch – QB – 1999
The beginning is just as good a place to start as is anywhere else. Besides, people who didn’t watch the first ever Browns 2.0 every Sunday during the early days fail to realize something: Those teams were terrible. The 1999 Browns may have been the worst NFL team I’ve ever seen, and the Detroit Lions were once responsible for a winless season.
Yes, the ’99 Browns were really that bad.
Rather than go with Donovan McNabb out of Syracuse, Cleveland instead grabbed an unathletic quarterback and then paired him up with an offensive line that would have struggled against some college football defenses. Couch took beating after beating, he eventually lost his job to Kelly Holcomb, and the Browns cut him in 2004.
What Couch could have achieved on a good team will never be known. That is why he’s not higher on this list.
9. Jeff Faine – C – 2003
Taken with the No. 21 pick of the ’03 draft, Faine was advertised to be a cornerstone of a future championship offensive line. That he was not, existing mostly as a serviceable player before the Browns dealt him to the New Orleans Saints in 2006. While it does Cleveland no good, it’s worth noting that the Browns weren’t the only team to go all-in on Faine.
He inked a $37 million deal with Tampa Bay in 2008. Faine was cut by the Bucs in 2012, and, after a short stint with the Cincinnati Bengals, it looks like his playing days will be over.
8. Trent Richardson – RB – 2012
Just as with Mingo, there remains a chance that Richardson may yet evolve into a good player. The former Alabama running back is, after all, only 22 years old, and he did rush for 950 yards in his rookie season. Concerning his Cleveland career however, he will be more known for what the Browns do with the No. 26 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft than for anything he did while wearing brown and orange.
Two games into the 2013 campaign, Cleveland gave up on Richardson, trading him to the Indianapolis Colts for a first round pick in this year’s draft. Early returns indicate that the Browns are the winners of the deal. Richardson managed an average of only 2.9 yards per carry in 14 games for Indy last season.
7. Brady Quinn – QB – 2007
It was the story that was too good to be true. The Ohio boy and former Notre Dame star was returning home to lead the team that he cheered for as a child to championship glory. Cleveland was set to begin the “Quinn to win” era.
Just one problem with that idea: Quinn wasn’t very good. Derek Anderson came out of nowhere to lead the Browns to a stunning 10-6 record in ’07 before ultimately flaming out the following year, and Quinn completed under 51 percent of his passes in three appearances in 2008. Quinn has had stints with multiple franchises without ever landing a starting gig since then, and the 29-year-old is essentially a practice squad quarterback now into March 2014.
At least we’ll always have this, Brady.
6. Kamerion Wimbley – LB – 2006
Wimbley looked like the real deal back in 2006. He had 11 sacks, 62 tackles, one forced fumble and four fumble recoveries in his rookie campaign. Wimbley has never again put up those kind of numbers, although he did have 69 tackles and 6.5 sacks in 2010, his final season with the Browns.
The Florida State product has since moved on to two different teams, the Oakland Raiders and then the Tennessee Titans, and he hasn’t found the form that he enjoyed back in ’06. While he did have nine sacks in 2010, his sack totals have dropped in each season since. He played in all 16 regular season games for Tennessee this past year, accumulating 11 tackles and three sacks in the process.
5. William Green – RB – 2002
Green showed a ton of promise in his rookie season. He rushed for 887 yards, he had six touchdowns, and he gave fans of the Browns what remains, as sad as it is to admit, one of the team’s best moments since the franchise returned.
And then, as with just about everything else in Cleveland sports, it went downhill from there. Green was arrested and charged with both driving under the influence and marijuana possession in 2003. He was suspended, and then Green was stabbed by his fiancee.
Green would go on to gain only 663 yards with the Browns over the next two seasons before he and the team parted ways in 2006. The running back has never played a meaningful down of NFL football since.
4. Braylon Edwards – WR – 2005
Edwards had all of the makings of a superstar wide receiver in ’07 when he went for 80 receptions, 1,289 receiving yards and 16 – yes, 16 – touchdowns. His Cleveland career went into a quick descent after that, however, and the perception held by many local and national reporters was that Edwards, who routinely struggled with catching and holding onto the football, thought he was too good and too big a star to be playing with the Browns.
Edwards got his wish to play in a big market when Cleveland traded him to the New York Jets in 2009. Following a solid 2010 campaign, Edwards made moves to the San Francisco 49ers, back to the Jets and then to the Seattle Seahawks. He failed to make an impact in each of those destinations, and some believe that his playing days could be over.
3. Gerard Warren – DT – 2001
Warren, the third overall pick back in ’01, is maybe the most frustrating player on this list. Warren showed flashes of brilliance in his rookie campaign en route to finishing with 61 tackles and five sacks. He also appeared to take way too many plays off during games, though, and his inconsistency made his “Big Money” nickname more and more of an unfunny joke as time went on.
Warren never matched his rookie output, and his tackles totals went down each year until he was traded to the Denver Broncos in 2005. While he remained in the league until the end of the 2011 season, Warren never even flirted with developing into an All-Pro.
2. Brandon Weeden – QB – 2012
Weeden, all things considered, could go down as the biggest flop of them all. Cleveland traded up – yes, up – in the 2012 draft in order to take a quarterback who was closer to 30 years old than he was to 25. The hope was that Weeden’s age and maturity would make him NFL ready right from day one.
Weeden has, throughout his NFL career, appeared uneasy and unable to keep up with the pro game. He twice lost his job in 2013. All indications are that the Browns will cut him this spring, and some around the league believe that Weeden has thrown his final NFL pass.
If that is the case, Weeden’s final NFL throw won’t be an interception. Color me shocked.
1. Courtney Brown – DE – 2000
Taken first in the draft in 2000, Brown is regarded by most analysts as the worst draft pick in the history of the Browns and one of the worst in NFL history. He only played in 16 games in one season while in Cleveland. His highest sack total was six. Brown appeared in two games in his final season with the Browns before, like Warren, being traded to the Broncos.
That marriage was short-lived. Unable to stay healthy, Warren only participated in games in 2005 with the Broncos. He failed a team physical and was cut in 2007, a transaction that ended the player’s career.