Cleveland Browns: 8 Biggest Draft Busts in Team History

Samantha Bunten@@samanthabuntenAnalyst IApril 6, 2011

Cleveland Browns: 8 Biggest Draft Busts in Team History

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    The 2011 NFL Draft is fast approaching, and the Browns have their work cut out for them in finding players to fill the holes in their roster. 

    Seems like a good time for a cautionary tale, so let's take an unpleasant trip down memory lane and look at the Browns biggest draft busts throughout history. 

    Following are eight former Browns draft picks who are among the worst of the worst. Sadly, there are dozens of others who also would have been good candidates, but I'd hate to be responsible for completely ruining your day, so I'll only make you relive eight of the worst Browns draft picks here. 

    Please feel free to nominate other past Browns draft picks for this dubious distinction in the comments below. The players listed here are not necessarily in rank order, but go ahead and rank 'em if you'd like in your comments. 

    Here's hoping none of the Browns' 2011 draft picks ever make it onto a list like this in the future.

8. QB Tim Couch

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    After being without a football team since 1995, Cleveland fans finally got their team back in 1999. Unfortunately, they also got Tim Couch. 

    QB Tim Couch was the first pick overall in the 1999 draft, and the first player chosen by the new Browns to usher in their era. 

    Ignoring the dreaded "system quarterback" tag tied to Couch when he entered the draft, the Browns grabbed the future bust to kick off selections in 1999. 

    They chose Couch over Donovan McNabb in this spot, and while McNabb is still playing to this day, Couch was pretty much out of the league after five years. He finished with a paltry 75.1 QB rating, and made Browns fans so angry that they actually cheered when he sustained a head injury. 

    The disastrously bad Couch was repeatedly booed off the field and eventually booed out of town as Browns fans finally got to wave goodbye to the poster boy for their less-than illustrious return to the league.

    I don't think anyone in Cleveland would ever have wanted to wait to get their new team any longer than absolutely necessary, but Couch was such a failure that at times he almost made you wonder if they should have waited another year to re-enter the NFL.

7. QB Brady Quinn

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    If at first you don't succeed, draft another "system quarterback" who doesn't have the chops to hack it in the NFL. Oh wait, is that not how the saying goes?

    The Browns unfortunately thought it was, and so they drafted Brady Quinn with the 22nd in the first round of the 2007 draft, less than 10 years after making a similar mistake with Tim Couch. 

    Quinn was hailed as the face of the franchise and the guy who would follow in Bernie Kosar's footsteps as the next great heroic quarterback for Cleveland. 

    That's not quite how it worked out.

    The cracks in Quinn's skill set started to show almost immediately after he took the field for the Browns. He failed to come even close to living up to the hype surrounding him when he was drafted—crashing and burning on the field.

    He proved equally problematic off of it when questions arose about his effort and toughness, prompting loads of comments suggesting that Quinn spent more time sculpting his muscles in the weight room and doing his hair than he spent focusing on football.

    He further sullied his image with an incident in Columbus when he was accused of being part of a group that harassed and taunted another man using homophobic slurs.

    But as is always the case, what truly sank Quinn was his total inability to produce on a football field. Quinn was maligned for everything from arm strength to accuracy to footwork to fear of taking a hit.

    He repeatedly lost his job to Derek Anderson, who, considering his own failures as a quarterback, was a pretty embarrassing guy to lose your job to. 

    By the time Quinn was traded to the Broncos in March of 2010, Browns fans couldn't wait to see him leave town.

6. WR Lawyer Tillman

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    In 1989, the Browns traded their first-round pick to take Lawyer Tillman with the first pick of the second round. 

    Tillman looked great on paper coming out of the draft, but as is so often the case, it turned out the numbers lied. 

    Tillman probably did have the skills to warrant his second-round draft slot (though not the fact that the Browns traded a first-round pick for him), but it didn't end up mattering much as Tillman's career was quickly destroyed by injuries.

    In three years as a Browns receiver, Tillman accumulated just 636 yards, 36 receptions, and three touchdowns in the 10 games he managed to make it onto the field.

    He spent one year after that with Carolina, where he posted just 22 yards in five games and was out of football by the following year.

5. DE Courtney Brown

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    DE Courtney Brown was drafted by the Browns with the first pick overall in the 2000 NFL draft and quickly proved to be a total bust. 

    The memory of this one should be particularly scary for Browns fans going into the 2011 draft, when it seems likely that the Browns will need to spend their first-round pick on a DE again. 

    The Browns could have taken Brian Urlacher, Shaun Ellis, or Thomas Jones, but instead went with the Penn Stater whose best playing days turned out to be behind him by the time he finished college. 

    Brown did well his rookie year, making 70 tackles and getting 4.5 sacks, but things went sharply downhill after that.

    He was injured after five games his second season, and couldn't stay out of the trainers' room for the rest of his time with the Browns, playing in just 31 games from 2001-2004 and making little impact when he actually made it onto the field. 

    Brown later caught on with the Broncos in 2005, but still couldn't stay healthy and was cut from the team and out of football by 2007.

4. DT Gerard Warren

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    DT Gerard Warren was drafted in 2001 by the Browns in the first round with the third pick overall. 

    Warren was a highly-touted pick coming out of the University of Florida, and looked like he may have been worthy of his draft slot his rookie season, when he had 83 tackles and five sacks.

    Unfortunately, the numbers took a dramatic downturn after that. He bounced back a little in 2003, but by 2004 he sustained an injury and his play started to deteriorate again. 

    While his time with the Browns was limited to just four years, Warren was a decently productive player for the bulk of his time in Cleveland.

    However, he was never quite good enough to justify the first-round pick spent on him, and he was gone by 2005, later catching on with the Broncos, Raiders, and Patriots. 

    Despite being drafted too high, Warren wouldn't be considered a total bust except for the fact that the Browns passed over Richard Seymour, LaDanian Tomlinson, and a host of other players who would eventually be far more productive than Warren. 

    Ironically, Warren still has a job in the NFL and was on the Patriots roster at the end of last season.

3. RB Ernie Davis

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    The Browns drafted promising running back Ernie Davis in the first round of the 1961 draft, a pick that would wind up being a bust for the most tragic reason possible.

    Davis was a record breaking college running back who won the Heisman Trophy, the first African-American player to do so. He was also the first African-American to be drafted first overall.

    When Davis was drafted, Browns fans drooled over the possibility of having a rushing tandem comprised of Ernie Davis and the great Jim Brown, which could have been the greatest rushing duo in the history of the NFL.

    But sadly, it was not to be.

    Davis never made it onto the field for the Browns; He died of leukemia in 1963 at the age 23. 

    It almost seems unfair to call Davis a "bust" per se, given the reason he never produced for the Browns. A star athlete and a tremendous human being, the Browns lost more than just a draft pick when Ernie Davis met his tragic fate. 

2. QB Mike Phipps

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    If you thought Tim Couch was the first disastrous QB drafted in the first round in Browns history, you're in for a rude surprise. 

    Before Brady Quinn and before Couch, there was Mike Phipps, the Browns first-round pick (and third pick overall) in the 1970 draft.

    Phipps didn't see much playing time in the first two of his six years with the Browns. He did post a couple of good seasons, and certainly a number of excellent games, but he was largely a disappointment, and posted some disastrous stats during his time in Cleveland, such as throwing 20 interceptions in 1973. 

    What really makes Phipps a bust though is the fact that the Browns traded the great Paul Warfield for the rights to draft him. The horridly lopsided swap rivals the Indians' trade of Rocky Colavito to the Detroit Tigers for Harvey Kuenn as possibly the worst trade in the history of Cleveland sports. 

    Phipps would later spend four years with the Chicago Bears, eventually finishing his career with a 55-108 record and a 52.6 passer rating.

1. LB Mike Junkin

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    In the midst of the Browns mid-late 1980s heyday, Linebacker Mike Junkin was drafted with the fifth pick in the first round of the 1987 draft. 

    The much maligned Junkin spent just two years with the Browns but his horrible legacy will live on in the memories of Cleveland fans forever. 

    Beloved by Marty Schottenheimer, Junkin would become known as the scape goat for Schottenheimer's ill-conceived and ill-fated prevent defense. 

    In a year where it was absolutely critical for the Browns to make a wise choice in the draft to find the player who could complete their already great roster and push the team the extra inch it needed to become a true champion, they needed to hit one out of the park with their pick.

    Instead, they chose Mike Junkin.

    The pick was poorly received from the start, but opinions on it got even worse as Junkin's time with the team went on. One of my most vivid childhood memories is my father, a die-hard fan of the Browns in that era, making up a song ridiculing Schottenheimer for drafting Junkin.

    No player tagged with as great a nickname as "Mad Dog In A Meat Market" should ever be allowed by the universe to be as unproductive as Junkin was, but unfortunately for the Browns, that's how it turned out.

    For many Browns fans, Junkin is, to this day, the symbol of Schottenheimer's failings as a head coach.