Cleveland Browns' Best and Worst Draft Picks of the Last Decade

Giancarlo Ferrari-KingFeatured ColumnistApril 18, 2014

Cleveland Browns' Best and Worst Draft Picks of the Last Decade

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    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    As the 2014 NFL draft approaches, what better time is there than now to reflect on all of the Cleveland Browns' biggest draft mistakes and successes over the last decade?

    You don't need me to tell you that the NFL draft has been tough on Browns fans.

    From missing out on franchise-caliber quarterbacks to spending the No. 3 overall pick on a running back, then trading him a year later, the Browns have endured some brutal draft-day blunders.

    But for all of the bad, there has been plenty of good to go along with it.

    A Pro Bowl cornerback, a superstar wide receiver and two incredible offensive linemen make up the core of the current Browns roster.

    While we sit back and countdown the days to the upcoming draft, let's all jump in our stainless steel DeLoreans and check out the Browns' best and worst draft picks of the last decade.

Best Honorable Mention: TE Jordan Cameron

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    Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

    The old adage that basketball players can be molded into great tight ends proved to be true when the Browns drafted former USC standout Jordan Cameron.

    At 6'5", 245 pounds, Cameron was taken in the fourth round of the 2011 draft.

    Part of the Mike Holmgren era in Cleveland, the big tight end didn't get his chance to shine until the 2013 season when Norv Turner was hired as offensive coordinator.

    Under Turner's tutelage, Cameron's production skyrocketed.

    Finishing last season with 80 receptions for 917 yards and seven touchdowns, the 25-year-old Los Angeles, CA. native cemented himself as one of the league's most productive tight ends.

    Now that Turner's gone, it will be interesting to see how Cameron adjusts to new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's scheme.

    For what it's worth, Cameron told Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal that Shanahan uses the tight end as a "prominent player" in his offense.

    Transitioning from a former fourth-round pick to a major offensive weapon has earned Cameron the right to be considered one of the best draft picks the Browns have made over the last decade.

Worst: QB Brady Quinn

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    Tony Dejak

    Looking to finally solve the mystery of finding a franchise signal-caller, the Browns decided to draft former Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn with the 22nd overall pick in the 2007 draft.

    Selecting Quinn at the time seemed like the right decision.

    If you go back and take a look at some of the scouting reports that were put together on the former Fighting Irish QB you'd understand why.

    Before the draft, the people over at NFLDraftScout.com (h/t CBSSports.com) actually compared him to New England Patriots superstar Tom Brady:

    (Former Notre Dame) Head coach Charlie Weis must have thought he was experiencing deja vu with Quinn, a clone of his Patriots pupil. Both are very detail-oriented pocket passers with deceptive mobility. Preparation is the key to their success, along with the ability to make progression reads and locate their secondary targets.

    Quinn never lived up to those lofty expectations. Instead, he washed out of the Browns organization in just three short years. 

    During his tenure in Cleveland, Quinn never started more than 10 games in a single season.

    Don Banks of Sports Illustrated summed the Quinn era up perfectly in an article he wrote after the Browns shipped him off to the Denver Broncos in 2010:

    Whatever unfolds, Quinn's fresh start in Denver doesn't disguise the fact that another quarterback has crashed and burned in Cleveland. As most everyone starting with Tim Couch on down has learned the hard way, playing the game's glamour position for the Browns can be the NFL's ultimate career killer.

    As the Browns enter the 2014 draft in search of yet another quarterback, the shadow of Quinn serves as a reminder that finding a premier signal-caller is still one of the most difficult tasks in professional football.

Best: CB Joe Haden

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    Karl Walter/Getty Images

    The NFL's evolution to becoming more of a passing league has magnified the need for quality cornerbacks.

    Luckily, the Browns drafted one of the game's best in 2010.

    Joe Haden was the seventh overall pick that year. Behind safety Eric Berry, he was the second defensive back selected—the first cornerback.

    Haden came to the Browns looking to bolster a pass defense that finished 29th in the league in 2009.

    After his rookie year wrapped up, the Browns ended the following season with the 15th-ranked pass defense, holding opposing offenses to 220.7 yards per game.

    If you use Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) advanced metrics as a guide, you'll see the impact Haden had on this program from Day 1.

    Finishing his rookie season as the sixth-best cornerback in the NFL, Haden registered a positive 12.2 grade in pass coverage.

    Since his debut in 2010, the former Florida Gator has continued to serve as a pillar of stability for the Browns secondary.

    With 13 interceptions, 67 passes defensed and one Pro Bowl appearance to his credit, drafting Haden has turned out to be one of the best decisions the Browns have made over the last 10 years.

Worst: QB Brandon Weeden

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Another quarterback debacle ended this offseason when the new regime in Cleveland decided to part ways with Brandon Weeden.

    What makes Weeden such a disaster is the fact that not only was he a first-round pick, but when he arrived in Cleveland in 2012 he was already 28 years old.

    Age may be nothing but a number in the grand scheme of things but transitioning from the college ranks to the NFL takes time.

    Without having the luxury of youth by his side, even if Weeden had panned out, his "prime" playing years would have been limited.

    Unfortunately, he didn't pan out.

    Over the two seasons he spent in Cleveland, Weeden started 23 games. During that span he completed just 55.9 percent of his passes, tossing 23 touchdowns to go along with 26 interceptions.

    Numbers aside, what the former Oklahoma State product will be remembered for is a bevy of outlandish interceptions and circus-like blunders.

    Weeden is just another name who can be added to the list of disappointing starting quarterbacks who have come and gone in Cleveland.

Best: C Alex Mack

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    Mark Duncan

    Over the last decade, the Browns have found two cornerstone offensive linemen through the draft.

    One of those guys was Alex Mack out of the University of California.

    Coming out of Cal, Matt McGuire of WalterFootball.com dubbed Mack as the "best center prospect" to come along in years.

    The Browns fell in love with Mack's ability and ended up taking him in first round of the 2009 draft.

    Aside from Mack, the Browns' 2009 draft class was a complete disaster.

    Reflecting on the perils of that draft, Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer wrote:

    Most fans know the 2009 draft was a disaster, as the Eric Mangini front office used three second-rounders on Mohamed Massaquoi, Brian Robiskie and David Veikune. Fourth-rounder Kaluka Maiava (now with Oakland) may have been the second-best player picked by the team in 2009.

    Out of that entire draft class, Mack is the only player left on the current roster.

    But that nearly changed this offseason when the Jacksonville Jaguars offered Mack—who the Browns had designated with the transition tag—a five-year, $42 million deal.

    Jumping at the opportunity to match the offer, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the Browns opted to keep their standout center.

    Through all of the years Mack has been in Cleveland, if you include current head coach Mike Pettine, he will have played for four different head coaches since joining the team in 2009.

    Still, change hasn't seemed to affect the 311-pound center.

    With two Pro Bowl appearances and countless seasons as one of PFF's (subscription required) top-ranked centers under his belt, Mack has become a stalwart for this organization.

Worst: Braylon Edwards

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    David Richard

    Coming out of the University of Michigan, Braylon Edwards was the real deal.

    Checking out some early scouting reports on the former Michigan Wolverine wide receiver, Sports Illustrated dubbed him as "A superior athlete who plays bigger and faster than his computer numbers."

    Because of his sublime skill set, the Browns took Edwards with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2005 draft.

    Labeling Edwards a bust is a bit of a slippery slope. 

    For starters, in 2007 he put together one heck of a season with the Browns.

    Hauling in 80 receptions on 154 targets, Edwards finished that year with 1,289 yards receiving and 16 touchdown receptions.

    But it all went downhill from there.

    In 2008, Edwards' production plummeted as the Browns limped to a 4-12 record. 

    Registering a career-high 23 drops, the 6'3" wide receiver struggled to get anything going all season.

    Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer wrote a fascinating piece on Edwards detailing his time with the Browns. 

    In it, Cabot documented countless incidents that ranged from Edwards criticizing teammates to getting into mounds of trouble off the field.

    Between his brutal 2008 season and all of his off-field antics, the Browns finally decided to cut ties with the former No. 3 overall pick.

    They traded him to the New York Jets in October of 2009, leaving Browns fans to wonder what could have been.

Best: WR Josh Gordon

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    David Welker/Getty Images

    When you look back at some of the best picks the Browns have made over the last 10 years, wide receiver Josh Gordon's name is at the top of that list.

    Gordon is a young man who wound up in Cleveland by way of the NFL's 2012 supplemental draft.

    Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com talked to NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah about Gordon and what the supplemental draft represents.

    "Jeremiah pointed out that guys are in this draft for a reason. They have physical skills, but off-the-field issues or problems have kept them from top-prospect status. Gordon was suspended at Baylor after a drug arrest," Rosenthal wrote.

    Forfeiting their second-round pick to attain the services of the speedy Gordon, the Browns were looking to hit a home run when they took a chance on the 6'3" wide receiver.

    Though he came to the Browns in somewhat of an unconventional manner, Gordon has blossomed into a dominant wide receiver just two seasons into his NFL career.

    Last season was the 23-year-old's coming out fiesta.

    Racking up a league-best 1,646 yards receiving to go along with nine touchdowns, Gordon thrived no matter who was playing quarterback for the Browns.

    The craziest part about his monstrous 2013 campaign was that he missed the first two games of the season stemming from a suspension.

    Gordon will have to keep himself on the straight and narrow if he wants to continue his dominant ways.

    But if that happens, the Browns will be able to look back in five years and be thrilled that they went out and drafted this young man from Houston, Texas.

Worst: RB Trent Richardson

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    Sharon Ellman

    It's pretty remarkable to think that both of the Browns' first-round picks from the 2012 draft are no longer on this roster.

    We touched on Brandon Weeden's situation earlier. But another name who belongs on this list is running back Trent Richardson.

    Taken No. 3 overall by the Browns in 2012, Richardson actually pieced together a productive rookie season.

    Finishing that year with 960 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns, the former Alabama Crimson Tide halfback showed off good strength and the ability to battle through injuries.

    But what got lost in the midst of those numbers was the dismal 3.6 yards per carry he averaged in 2012.

    After just a season in Cleveland, the Browns decided to trade Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a first-round pick during the upcoming 2014 draft.

    After landing in Indianapolis, Richardson's struggles escalated.

    Averaging just 2.9 yards per carry, the 22-year-old tailback couldn't hold down the starting job. Instead he ended up losing snaps to Donald Brown last season.

    Bleacher Report's Matt Miller took a comprehensive look at some of the biggest reasons why Richardson has failed to live up to his massive potential.

    In it, Miller notes, "Adjusting to the NFL is tough for every young player, but for Richardson to succeed, he has to start attacking openings, trusting his blockers and running with the aggression that made him a star in Tuscaloosa."

    The good news is, Richardson still has plenty of time left to turn his woes around.

    Though the Browns did get a first-round pick in return for his services, when you take a running back No. 3 overall, you expect him to become the nucleus of your team's offense for many seasons to come.

Best: LT Joe Thomas

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    Tom Lynn

    Browns fans know that left tackle Joe Thomas will go down as one of the all-time best draft picks in franchise history.

    Since being taken No. 3 overall in 2007, Thomas has made the Pro Bowl a whopping seven consecutive times.

    Thomas is not only one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL but throughout the course of his career he has cemented himself as a cornerstone of this franchise.

    It's easy to take Thomas for granted.

    Through all of the tough times the Browns have endured over the last decade, you begin to forget about the great things he's accomplished—including starting 112 consecutive games.

    However, even in the midst of constant organizational turmoil, Thomas has remained a dominant force each and every time he's stepped out on the gridiron.

     

    All NFL draft information and stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference, unless noted otherwise.