A common practice when any year's NFL draft ends is to hand out draft grades for that year's class. While useful in some respects—it's a way to tally how well a given team has met needs and found value and talent—the true measure of whether or not a given team has done so successfully cannot be assessed until years down the line, after these players spend meaningful time in the NFL.
Here, we look back at the Cleveland Browns' 2010 draft class to see just how well the team did in that year's draft. Complicating things somewhat is that these picks were made two regimes ago; to stay with the Browns, therefore, these men need to have serious staying power.
How well did the Browns do in 2010, and how does that translate to the team's current situation, with a new front office and coaching staff? Read on.
Joe Haden, the Cleveland Browns' first-round pick in 2010, is not just the team's best defensive player—he's also one of the best corners in the NFL.
Though not a full-time starter in his rookie season—he played 813 snaps and had seven starts per Pro Football Focus (subscription required)—he had 64 combined tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, six interceptions and 18 passes defensed.
Haden's numbers dipped his second season, with no interceptions and 65 combined tackles though he started every game, but there was still little question of his talent. He bounced back in 2012, with 51 tackles, a forced fumble and three interceptions, despite being suspended four games and missing another with an oblique injury.
In a draft class that was quite weak at cornerback, the Browns got the best player available at the position. Haden is a cornerstone of not just their defense but their entire roster.
The Browns continued to focus their energies on the secondary in the 2010 draft, as they needed a free safety to replace departed free agent Brodney Pool. They did this by drafting T.J. Ward, who started all 16 games his rookie season, and notched an impressive 123 combined tackles, a forced fumble and two interceptions.
Though Ward retained the starting job the following year, injuries limited him to playing in only eight games. In 2012, Ward was moved to the starting strong safety job while the Browns rotated Usama Young and Tashaun Gipson as their free safeties. He had 68 combined tackles, three forced fumbles and an interception in 2012.
Whether at strong or free safety, Ward appears to be part of the Browns' long-term plans in the secondary. His versatility is an asset—there was little drop-off in his play when he was moved to strong safety—and his tackling ability is also impressive. He was absolutely the right selection for the Browns in 2010.
The Cleveland Browns hoped that their 2010 second-round pick of running back Montario Hardesty would have the position taken care of in the long term; instead they got an oft-injured player who was the victim of circumstance.
Hardesty, taken 59th-overall in 2010, tore his ACL in the preseason, ending his rookie year. In 2011, Hardesty fell out of favor, with the majority of the Browns' running duties falling to Peyton Hillis, and he rushed just 88 times for 266 yards.
In 2012, Hardesty, who remained healthy for the year, landed on the depth chart behind first-round pick Trent Richardson. He had 65 carries for 271 yards and a touchdown.
Hardesty's ability to bounce back from injury is important—he'll be Richardson's primary backup in 2013 and will likely get a few more touches. He's not a franchise back, to be sure, but the fact that he could remain on the roster though his health has been less than stellar and that he has the support of the new front office and coaching regime shows that Hardesty is worth keeping around.
When the Cleveland Browns drafted Colt McCoy in the third round of the 2010 draft, the plan was to let him ride the bench and develop his game behind Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace. However, Delhomme and Wallace both fell injured early in the season and McCoy took over starting duties in Week 6.
In his first year, McCoy completed 135 of his 222 pass attempts, for 1,576 yards, six touchdowns and nine interceptions. Though not the most impressive set of numbers, consistency wins out when it comes to the quarterback position and McCoy was named the starter for 2011.
In 2011, McCoy completed 265 of his 463 attempts for 2,733 yards, 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions along with five fumbles. He was hamstrung by a number of things, some his fault (lack of arm strength) and others not (a messy receiving corps highlighted by Greg Little and his 14 dropped passes). The powers-that-be were not impressed enough to keep McCoy as their starting quarterback and they drafted Brandon Weeden in Round 1 of the 2012 draft, effectively ending McCoy's tenure in Cleveland.
This was further cemented when the Browns were sold to Jimmy Haslam and he brought in Mike Lombardi and Joe Banner to run the team's football operations, along with new head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
Though Weeden, too, may not be the Browns' long-term answer at quarterback (they now have Jason Campbell to provide competition), the brain trust determined that McCoy's time in Cleveland was up, trading him to the San Francisco 49ers in 2013 along with a sixth-round pick for their fifth- and seventh-round picks.
Stability at quarterback is very important, especially for a team like the Browns which has lacked it for so long, but productivity still outweighs it. McCoy couldn't be as productive as the Browns liked, and they wanted to move on. It's hard to blame them for drafting him, especially when the head coach that did so didn't expect him to start as a rookie and also planned on being in town for more than two seasons.
Third-round 2010 draft pick Shawn Lauvao saw few snaps in his rookie season—115, to be exact per Pro Football Focus (subscription required)—as he backed up incumbents Floyd Womack and Eric Steinbach. He then became the team's starting right guard in 2011, during which he allowed six sacks, three quarterback hits and 18 hurries and was a bit inconsistent in run blocking.
The inconsistencies were minor, however, considering the amount of talent surrounding Lauvao on the Browns' offensive line. He remained the starter at right guard in 2012, allowing three sacks, nine quarterback hits and 15 hurries. The added experience saw him perform better in almost every category.
Lauvao is the weakest link on the Browns' offensive line, but he's still not that much of a liability, again, owing to the quality of players around him. Looking at it in terms of the other offensive linemen drafted after him, and the Browns made the right choice. Lauvao has been reliable and not prone to injury, which is more that can be said for other Cleveland offensive linemen during his three-year tenure.
The Cleveland Browns selected safety Larry Asante in the fifth round of the 2010 draft to help boost their depth in the secondary. He spent most of 2010 on their practice squad before joining the practice squad of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he was placed on their active roster for the final two games of the season.
He's now under contract with the Indianapolis Colts and never played a meaningful snap in Cleveland. Such things happen with a later round pick, but it would have been better for the team to find someone who could have made a lasting impact—like wide receiver Antonio Brown, who went to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the following round.
Instead of Antonio Brown, the Cleveland Browns opted for a different receiver in Round 6—Carlton Mitchell.
Mitchell appeared in three games as a rookie, playing 12 snaps per Pro Football Focus (subscription required) and was thrown to only once. In 2011, he was targeted just four times, with three catches totaling 31 yards.
A leg injury kept him from participating in training camp in 2012, which resulted in his release. He spent a mere three days with the Jacksonville Jaguars later that November and is currently a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
For a team that truly needed more receiving help, it's unfortunate that Mitchell's development never advanced enough to warrant him increased playing time. The injury and the Browns' willingness to part ways with him because of it, shows that he was likely never going to be ready to be an impact-player in Cleveland's offense.
Sometimes a team makes the right choice in the draft and other times they don't; the drafting of Mitchell is an example of the latter
The Cleveland Browns used their final pick in the 2010 draft on defensive end Clifton Geathers.
Though Geathers made it through training camp and the preseason, he was released in the team's final round of cuts. Since then, he's been a journeyman, spending time with the Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys and Indianapolis Colts. The Colts traded him to the Philadelphia Eagles earlier in 2013.
Again, like Mitchell, a sixth-round pick isn't terribly valuable and misses are common. There are certainly not many linebackers or defensive ends who were selected after Geathers that made an impact in the NFL since 2010; however, getting little in return for a draft pick is always at least a mild disappointment.
Of the Cleveland Browns' eight 2010 draft picks, four are still with the team. Four became starters, but one of those—quarterback Colt McCoy—is no longer in Cleveland. And only one, cornerback Joe Haden, can be considered a true star.
That's not a great return on investment, which is also one reason why those in charge of this draft—former head coach Eric Mangini and team president Mike Holmgren—are no longer in Cleveland.
However, considering the Browns are on their third head coach since the 2010 draft, the fact that four players made it to 2013 (five, if you count McCoy before the trade), that's actually quite impressive, speaking to the talents of Haden, Shawn Lauvao, T.J. Ward and Montario Hardesty.
The key in a draft is not only to find players who can contribute immediately but also those who can be developed over time. Compared to some other teams' drafts from 2010, the Browns actually fared very well. It wasn't anywhere close to flawless, but they did make progress as a result of this draft, despite what their win-loss records in 2010 and beyond may indicate.
Overall Grade: C+