Cleveland Browns' 5 Best Late-Round Draft Picks Since 1999
However, the team has been able to find hidden gems in later rounds that have justified the Browns' selection of them.
The following list is composed of the five best players drafted in the fifth round or later by the Browns since 1999.
5. Jerome Harrison
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Jerome Harrison was drafted in the fifth round of the 2006 NFL Draft. The Browns drafted him as a potential change-of-pace running back. Under then-head coach Romeo Crennel, Harrison did not receive much playing time.
Although Harrison displayed glimpses of potential, he did not receive a real opportunity until he became the team's starting running back midway through the 2009 season under head coach Eric Mangini. His 286-yard performance against the Kansas City Chiefs broke a team record, and came close to eclipsing the NFL mark as well.
While Harrison was eventually traded to the Philadelphia Eagles midway through the 2010 season, his big-play potential and memorable performance at the end of the 2009 season earn him a spot on this list.
4. Ryan Pontbriand
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When the Browns selected long snapper Ryan Pontbriand in the fifth round of the 2003 NFL Draft, many fans were perplexed. A long snapper in the fifth round? While head coach Butch Davis did have his fair share of draft blunders, the selection of Pontbriand proved to be a wise investment.
Pontbriand has been a steady member of the Browns' special teams unit since being drafted in 2003. While Josh Cribbs and Phil Dawson usually receive most of the credit for the team's usually solid unit, Pontbriand has been a positive contributor as well.
While his position may not be the most glamorous in the NFL, Pontbriand has proven himself to be a consistent performer for a team that is far too often shuffling personnel.
3. Lawrence Vickers
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Lawrence Vickers, selected in the 6th Round of the 2006 NFL Draft, personified a blue-collar attitude. While he never received many opportunities to touch the football, Vickers was able to establish himself as one of the better blocking fullbacks in the NFL.
Players such as Peyton Hillis, Jerome Harrison and Jamal Lewis can attribute much of their success running the football in Cleveland to the blocking of Vickers.
Although he did not fit the West Coast theme being installed by the new regime, the loss of Vickers and his hard-nosed blocking may be evident this upcoming season.
2. Andra Davis
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Selected in the fifth round of the 2002 NFL Draft, few expected Andra Davis to emerge as a contributor to the Browns' defense. Upon becoming the starting middle linebacker for the Browns in 2003, Davis established himself as a one of the Browns' most reliable players.
Although Davis was never considered a star, he emerged as a team leader and was constantly among the league leaders in tackles. He proved his versatility as he made a seamless transition from the 4-3 defensive alignment to the 3-4 once Romeo Crennel arrived in 2005.
His productive career in Cleveland came to an end following the 2008 season, when he left as a free agent.
1. Ahtyba Rubin
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Few expected Ahtyba Rubin, a sixth-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft, to become a regular starter for the Cleveland Browns. However, the defensive tackle emerged as one of the Browns' better defensive players in 2010, and appears to be a building block for the future.
While former defensive tackle Shaun Rogers had his moments in Cleveland, his frequent injuries were somewhat offset by the emergence of Rubin. The Browns are anticipating Rubin, along with first-round selection Phil Taylor, to form a solid duo in the middle of the 4-3 alignment.
Only entering his fourth season in the NFL, Rubin should continue to progress, making him the Browns' best late-round selection since 1999.
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The Browns have had little success in the NFL Draft since returning to the league in 1999. This small list of players represents the few success stories that exist. Players such as Josh Cribbs were not included on this list, since they were not technically drafted by the team.
The order of the list, as well as the players who occupy the list, is up for debate. Some will argue that Rubin has not had a sustainable career at this point to validate being No. 1 on the list. While this is a legitimate argument, Rubin has proven himself to be a talented a reliable player at this level.
The Browns could field a formidable defensive line if 2011 draft picks Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard emerge as impact players.
Other players currently on the team roster have an opportunity to make this list as well. Wide receiver Carlton Mitchell, a 2010 sixth-round selection, along with 2011 draft picks Jason Pinkston, Buster Skrine, and Eric Hagg, could all potentially make their way onto such a list.
While other late-round draft picks have had their moments, Rubin's potential, combined with his youth and productivity, gives him the title of being the Cleveland Browns' best late-round draft selection since 1999.