The Browns have toiled in the doldrums since their return to the NFL in 1999. Part of that reason is that the team has trotted 16 different starting quarterbacks out onto the field in that time. The other part of the reason is poor drafting by a host of different regimes.
Let's start by believing that the 2010 draft was a success. The Browns were able to draft four starters in their first five picks—Joe Haden, T.J. Ward, Colt McCoy and Shawn Lauvao—and another possible contributor in Monterio Hardesty.
Here are the top five players since 1999 the Browns could have had but missed on in the draft.
5. Anyone Not Picked By Cleveland, 2005
In possibly one of the worst drafts in team history, the Browns grabbed Braylon Edwards (3), Brodney Pool (34), Charlie Frye (67), Antonio Perkins (103), David McMillan (139), Nick Speagle (176), Andrew Hoffman (203) and Jon Dunn (217).
In the first three rounds, the Browns could have picked DeMarcus Ware, Vincent Jackson and Justin Tuck. Instead, the new regime of Phil Savage and company went with a B-talent wide receiver that thought he was A-material, a safety that couldn't cover anyone or stay conscious and a Gumby-armed quarterback that threw footballs on rainbows, not ropes.
For all that was made about Savage and his ability to find players, outside the top three picks, the rest of the players drafted are out of the league, and none are with the team.
Hate me now. Butch Davis—worst Davis drafter not named Al—mortgaged the draft in '04 to move up one spot and select Kellen Winslow Jr. Why? Because Butch shamelessly wanted one of his Miami guys in the Orange and Brown. Outside of Sean Taylor, I'm not sure he scouted anyone else.
This was the second coming of Mike Ditka landing Ricky Williams—and worked about as poorly. Say what you want about "Big Ben," he wins games and has the size to deal with the punishment Browns quarterbacks were experiencing at the time. Instead, Cleveland got dealt with its first of prima donnas soon to arrive.
3. Anquan Boldin: WR, FSU, 2003, Round 2
How does one put into words the full amount of contempt they felt as their coach picked a nobody from West Texas A&M, a team that went winless during its most recent season? The answer is this—dumbfounded.
The team lacked a No. 1 receiver. Quincy Morgan was decidedly awful. Yet a pure project that may not have been drafted until late, if at all, was the second-round pick. Like Lord Voldemort, I refuse to utter his name and would just rather call him He-Who-Can't-Play-Linebacker.
2. Ed Reed: S, Miami-Florida, 2002, Round 1
William Green had a tumultuous tenure with the Browns after being selected with the 16th pick in 2002. After leading the team the final eight games of the season and into a playoff berth with the Jim Donovan "Run, William, Run!" broadcast against the Atlanta Falcons, Green's star began to fade.
What legacy he did leave behind was that of drug violations and a stabbing incident in which his girlfriend and mother of his children put a steak knife in his back during a domestic altercation.
Butch Davis, who desperately wanted one of his blue-chip recruits from the U, not only passed on Reed, but also Phillip Buchanon and Clinton Portis.
1. LaDainian Tomlinson: RB, TCU, 2001, Round 1
Easily the biggest blunder of all. Gerard Warren was taken third overall, while future Hall of Famer LT sat eagerly waiting to be picked.
"Big Money/Penny" never produced while in town but did manage an arrest at a Pittsburgh Steelers blowout party. Meanwhile, Tomlinson was racking up meaningful yards, playoff appearances and records.
Just to pour salt in the wound, Butch Davis decided to grab James "Two Yards a Carry" Jackson in the third round and proceeded to have no running game or offensive line to speak of in his three-plus years as coach.