Image via Sports Illustrated
The Cleveland Browns were the laughing stock of the NFL for an entire decade from 2008-2018. During those years they didn’t win more than eight games in a season. In the years 2016 and 2017, the Browns had a combined of 1-31 record under Hue Jackson which led to his firing early in the 2018 season. But all these years of being awful had its upside. They were able to draft players close to the top of the draft and select some of the best college players available.
In 2016, the Browns made the risky decision to trade down in the draft. They knew with the roster they had they needed to accumulate picks for the future. The Browns held the 2nd overall pick in the 2016 draft and were in need of a quarterback and plenty of other positions. The Philadelphia Eagles were enamored with Carson Wentz’s abilities, a 6 foot 5 pocket passer from North Dakota State who showed he was ready to be the next great quarterback. The Browns agreed to a deal that would send the Eagles the 2nd overall pick in exchange for their 8th, 77th and 100th pick in the 2016 draft. Also, the Browns would receive the Eagles 2017 first rounder and a 2nd rounder in 2018. The Browns received five valuable draft picks just from trading their #2 overall selection. In the same night, the Browns swapped the #8 pick they received from the Eagles to the Tennessee Titans for the 15th overall pick in the first round. The Titans would end up selecting Jack Conklin which backfired on the Browns. Conklin went onto become an elite right tackle for years and the Browns selected Corey Coleman with the 15th pick they received. Coleman did not pan out as the Browns ended up cutting him later on and he was also cut from the Bills. Coleman now resides on the New York Giants roster.
The Browns ended up having an astonishing 14 selections in the 2016 draft.
Cleveland Browns 2016 Draft Selections:
- 1st Round (#15): WR Corey Coleman
- 2nd Round (#32): DE Emmanuel Ogbah
- 3rd Round (#65): DE Carl Nassib
- 3rd Round (#76): OT Shon Coleman
- 3rd Round (#93): QB Cody Kessler
- 4th Round (#99): LB Joe Schobert
- 4th Round (#114): WR Ricardo Louis
- 4th Round (#129): S Derrick Kindred
- 4th Round (#138): TE Seth DeValve
- 5th Round (#154): WR Jordan Payton
- 5th Round (#168): OT Spencer Drango
- 5th Round (#172): WR Rashard Higgins
- 5th Round (#173): CB Trey Caldwell
- 7th Round (#250): ILB Scooby Wright III
The Browns very young roster and first-year head coach Hue Jackson were looking to build off of a 3-13 record in 2015. But instead in 2016 the team took a step backward. The Browns began the season 0-14 and finished 1-15 which garnered them the first overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
The Browns had the first overall pick in the 2017 draft and they took the best player available. The Browns selected Myles Garrett a defensive end from Texas A&M who was a stud pass rusher in college and who had all the physical tools to become an elite player. Sashi Brown (Browns GM) knew he was in the hot seat after a 1-15 season and he was desperate to improve the roster. To improve the roster he made more trades on draft night. The Browns owned the #12 pick which they obtained from the Eagles the 2016 draft trade and they swapped it with the Houston Texans for their 25th pick and a 2018 first rounder. The Texans ended up selecting Deshaun Watson a QB from Clemson who gave Nick Saban’s NFL quality defenses a run for their money in the last two National Championship games. The Browns could’ve used a young talent like Watson but Cleveland screwed up once again (but be patient Brown’s fans). Friendly reminder that the 2018 MVP Patrick Mahomes was selected 10th overall (two picks before the original Browns pick). Myles Garrett was not a terrible pick by any stretch but the Browns were in need of a quarterback and elected not to take Watson who ended up becoming a game changer. Utilizing the Texans #25 pick the Browns drafted Jabrill Peppers a New Jersey native who was a multi-position star at the University of Michigan. Jabrill ended up playing safety for the Browns and has not been impressive. The final trade that Sashi completed on day one of the was trading their 2nd round pick (#33 overall) and a 4th round pick (#108th overall) to the Green Bay Packers for the 29th overall pick in the first round. The Browns ended up selecting David Njoku a tight end who also was from NJ (The Browns really must like jersey guys). He played his college football at the University of Miami and racked up eight touchdowns in twelve games for the Canes in 2016.
In the 2nd round, the Browns felt desperate after passing on multiple quarterbacks and they decided to draft Deshone Kizer in the 2nd round 52nd overall. At the time this seemed like a solid pick (Sports Illustrated graded this pick with an A) and he was horrific in the 2017 season as a rookie. The Browns 2017 draft class overall was very solid and their young players continued to develop.
Cleveland Browns 2017 Draft Selections:
- 1st Round (#1): DE Myles Garrett
- 1st Round (#25): S Jabrill Peppers
- 1st Round (#29): TE David Njoku
- 2nd Round (#52): QB Deshone Kizer
- 3rd Round (#65): DT Larry Ogunjobi
- 4th Round (#126): CB Howard Wilson
- 5th Round (#160): OT Roderick Johnson
- 6th Round (#185): DT Caleb Brantley
- 7th Round (#224): K Zane Gonzalez
- 7th Round (#252): RB Matthew Dayes
The John Dorsey Era begins:
The Browns were supposed to be much improved in 2017. They added a future star pass rusher in Myles Garrett and they believed they found their QB in Deshone Kizer. The 2017 season was even worse than the previous one. Incredibly the Browns did not win a single game. That’s right you read that correctly, the Browns went 0-16. The 2008 Detroit Lions are the only other team to go 0-16 in NFL history. On December 7, 2017, Sashi Brown was fired after the Browns were struggling to find hope. Former Chiefs GM John Dorsey stepped in as the new general manager. Dorsey was a highly regarded GM as he was the Kansas City Chiefs GM from 2013-2016 and he had built Andy Reid a very talented team. After finishing 0-16 the Browns held the 1st pick for the 2nd straight season. Browns fans were near suicidal as their team was just 1-31 in the last two seasons. The first major move Dorsey made was trading for Dolphins star wide receiver Jarvis Landry. He only gave up a fourth round and seventh round picks to acquire him. This was an instant upgrade to the Browns receiving core since former 1st rounder Corey Coleman bombed and 2017 free agent Kenny Britt was another failure. Dorsey knew he had to upgrade the roster and he entered the 2018 NFL draft with an aggressive mindset.
2018 NFL Draft: (Dorsey’s first draft)
The 2018 draft was Dorsey’s first draft and he entered it searching for a franchise QB. The Browns had the first overall pick and also lucked into the fourth overall pick (via the Texans 2017 draft trade). The 2018 class included generational quarterbacks available such as Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, and Louisville’s Heisman Winner Lamar Jackson. It was clear there was a wide selection for the Browns. Many scouts projected Sam Darnold to be the first overall pick and NC State’s defensive end Bradley Chubb to be the Browns fourth overall pick. Some analysts suggested that the Browns should draft Penn State’s running back Saquan Barkley first overall and select whatever quarterback was left at the #4 spot. Dorsey went a different route than everyone was predicting. People were shocked when he selected Baker Mayfield first overall and then selected Ohio State’s star cornerback Denzel Ward fourth overall. Dorsey felt that Baker could resurrect the franchise. There were rumors that Dorsey didn’t believe Sam Darnold could lead a franchise to greatness and that’s why he didn’t select Darnold #1 overall (Darnold fell to the Jets at #3). During day two of the draft Dorsey selected running back Nick Chubb from Georgia with the #35 overall pick. That pick was also acquired in that Texans trade that Sashi Brown completed in 2017. The Browns ended up turning the 12th pick in 2017 for Jabrill Peppers, Denzel Ward, and Nick Chubb, three players that ended up becoming impactful starters.
2018 Cleveland Browns Draft Selections:
- 1st Round (#1): QB Baker Mayfield
- 1st Round (#4): CB Denzel Ward
- 2nd Round (#33): OG Austin Corbett
- 2nd Round (#35): RB Nick Chubb
- 3rd Round (#67): DE Chad Thomas
- 4th Round (#105): WR Antonio Callaway
- 5th Round (#150: LB Genard Avery
- 6th Round (#175): WR Damian Ratley
- 6th Round (#188): CB Simeon Thomas
Fans were hoping that Baker Mayfield was going to assure a new era in Cleveland. However Hue Jackson decided to start Tyrod Taylor the first couple of games because Hue believed Tyrod could win right away and he thought the rookie wasn’t ready. Hues plan didn’t work as the Browns offense struggled through the first two games (0-1-1 record) and midway through the second quarter in week 3 the Browns were down 14-0 to the Jets. Tyrod got “injured” and had to be taken out for the rookie Mayfield. Mayfield didn’t throw a touchdown but he gave life to the organization as he completed 17/23 passes for 201 yards. He led two touchdown drives and the crowd in Cleveland erupted with joy as the Browns won their first game in over 500 days with a 21-17 victory. A few weeks later Hue Jackson was fired and Mayfield also became the full-time starter. He ended up breaking Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson’s single-season touchdown record for a rookie by one touchdown with a grand total of 27. It’s crazy to believe that Colin Cowherd said this guy was “undraftable” because of his personality prior to the draft. Baker Mayfield turned out to be nothing like Johnny Manziel and he’s been a leader since he stepped foot on the field. The Browns finished 7-8-1 which was their most wins since 2014.
Dorsey cleans house:
Once the season was over John Dorsey kept wheeling and dealing for pieces that he was hoping that could make an impact for the Browns. But first, he had to get rid of the remaining coaches on this staff. He fired interim head coach Todd Haley and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Their personalities didn’t match and they clashed way too much. Dorsey named Freddie Kitchens the head coach who he hoped would get along well with Baker Mayfield. He hired Todd Monken a bright offensive mind to be the new offensive coordinator. He was previously the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coordinator. Steve Wilks was fired after only one year as the Arizona Cardinals head coach was hired to replace Gregg Williams. Wilk’s has been a respected coordinator in the league for years.
Odell and Jarvis Reunited:
The Chiefs released Kareem Hunt after a police video surfaced showing him kicking a woman. The Browns decided to give him a chance on their roster and they signed him to a one year deal. On March 8, 2019, the Browns traded their star right guard Kevin Zeitler who was the #1 ranked pass blocking guard in the NFL (per PFF) and a 5th round pick to the Giants for edge rusher Olivier Vernon and a 4th round pick. The Browns now have a player opposite of Myles Garrett to wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines. Not even a week later Dorsey called up Dave Gettleman (Giants GM) once again and a blockbuster deal that would send the Browns 2018 1st rounder (#17 overall), a 2018 3rd round pick and safety Jabrill Peppers for superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham are now reunited as teammates, as the two were teammates at LSU together. The Browns offense now has star power with Kareem Hunt, Odell Beckham Jr, and Jarvis Landry. With an improving Mayfield, this Brown’s team has untapped potential in a weaker AFC North with the Steelers losing Leveon Bell and Antonio Brown.
Now if we take a look back at the trade former Browns GM Sashi Brown completed with the Eagles in 2016 it’s clear that the deal set them up for the future. As previously noted the Browns traded #12 pick in 2017 (via Eagles) which led the Texans trade in 2017 which was subsequently traded for the Texans 25th pick and the 2018 Texans first rounder. Those deals ended up working perfectly for the Browns because with that 25th pick (Jabrill Peppers) was used for the Odell Beckham blockbuster trade and with the Texan’s 2018 first rounder they drafted Denzel Ward.
Browns 2017 #12 pick (via Eagles trade in 2016) = Texans 2018 #4 pick (Denzel Ward) and Texans 2017 #25 pick (Jabrill Peppers)
Texans 2017 #12 pick + Browns 2018 #17 pick and Browns 2018 3rd rounder = Odell Beckham Jr. , Denzel Ward and Nick Chubb
The Browns essentially traded their own 2017 #12 pick and a 2018 first and third rounder for Denzel Ward, Nick Chubb and Odell Beckham Jr. That’s a pretty amazing haul right?!
So who deserves the credit for fixing the Browns?
Its clear that although Browns endured years of misery their high drafting position lead to them acquiring lots of talented players. The deals were set in motion by former GM Sashi Brown and he was unfortunately not able to finish the job. Some of these trades looked questionable at the time but ended up being crucial for the future. John Dorsey took Sashi’s picks and made excellent moves with them. So who really fixed the Cleveland Browns, was it Brown or Dorsey? Brown acquired many of the ingredients (draft picks) and Dorsey ended up finishing the stew. You can decide who’s the hero of the Cleveland Browns. In 2019 The Cleveland Browns can potentially win a division title for the first time since 1989.