When we think of the Browns’ drafts, specifically the first round, busts come to mind. Many busts. In honor of the Browns’ 4th and 26th picks TONIGHT, I’m taking a look back at the best and the worst of the Browns’ first round picks even before the single league of the NFL was established and all 4 of our championships were erased once the new-fangled Super Bowl came into existence. Let’s start in the 1950’s; get ready to bust out the ole’ poodle skirts!
1st overall: Bobby Garrett, QB, Stanford, 1954
Bobby seemed like a logical choice at the 1st overall pick in the draft. He had become the third player ever to win the W.J. Voit Memorial Trophy, was an All-American, and won MVP of his final game, the Hula Bowl. Now, keep in mind, there was not a lot of scouting back in the day. So, during training camp, while seeing if Garrett is a legit replacement for Otto Graham, the Browns figured out a large issue with Garrett: he had a stuttering problem. He couldn’t bark plays like other quarterbacks in the league. We ended up dealing him to Green Bay, who thought they were getting a steal. Until he talked.
6th overall: Jim Brown, FB, Syracuse, 1957
Perhaps one of the greatest ever to play the game, the Browns made an amazing selection here. Some of Jim Brown’s personal accomplishments after playing 9 seasons: 9-time Pro Bowler, 8-time All Pro, 1957 Rookie of the Year, 4-time MVP, 8-time Rushing leader, and was inevitably a 1971 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee. I didn’t even mention all of the rushing records broken throughout his career! This includes 8th all-time in rushing yards, 5th all-time in rushing TD’s, and 1st all-time in career YPC- an incredible 5.22 yards!
11th overall: Leroy Jackson, HB, Western Illinois, 1962
I’m just trying to avoid the-
I’m pretty sure that’s exactly how it went whenever Leroy Jackson ran into the pile on a HB dive.
Anyway, Jackson never played a game for the Browns and ended up with more receiving yards than rushing yards. In fact, the only touchdown he ever scored was a receiving touchdown. He averaged 2.7 YPC on 52 carries as a pro.
11th overall: Paul Warfield, WR, Ohio State, 1964
Although he was traded after 6 seasons to the eventual undefeated Dolphins for a draft pick (used on Mike Phipps, by the way. Who had you heard of before this: Warfield or Phipps?), Warfield had a very respectable career in Cleveland. Including the two years he played after returning to Cleveland, Warfield amassed 5210 receiving yards on 271 receptions and 52 touchdowns on his hometown team. He also holds the career record for yards per reception at 20.059- the only player above 20 YPR, in fact.
21st overall: Bob Mckay, OT, Texas, 1970
Not many stats have been recorded about Mckay. What makes him automatically clinch the worst spot was the infamous battle between him and Mean Joe Greene in a 1975 rivalry game. While Mckay was down, Greene repeatedly kicked him in the groin until he was wrestled down by multiple Browns players, but not before Brown Tom DeLeone landed a punch on Greene. Both Greene and DeLeone were ejected. After the game, Brown Doug Dieken said, “Joe Greene got fined like $500; DeLeone got fined like $100, and, Bob McKay got fined for getting kicked in the groin.”
23rd overall: Ozzie Newsome, TE, Alabama, 1978
In the 1978 draft in which the Browns didn’t mess up and also drafted Clay Matthews, Jr. at the 12th pick, the latter pick turned out to be the greater. Ozzie Newsome was a gem throughout college and had no problem adjusting to NFL. In college, he was complimented by “Bear” Bryant as “the greatest end in Alabama history…and that includes Don Huston”. He won Browns’ Offensive Player of the Year in his rookie season. Some of his personal achievements include the Ed Block Courage Award, the “Whizzer” White NFL Man of the Year award, 3-time Pro Bowl selection, and an induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999. Best of all, Newsome never missed a game in his career, showing his level of dedication to his job.
5th overall: Mike Junkin, LB, Duke, 1987
Mike Junkin had high expectations after the draft due to coach Marty Schottenheimer’s overvaluing at the 5th overall pick after scouts value him in 2nd round. Junkin was in a bad position from the start. After playing ILB his whole college career, he was quickly shifted to OLB to fit the Browns’ defensive scheme. After losing his starting job, he was placed on the IR due to players’ strike and an injured wrist. The next season, after the drafting of Clifford Charlton (another bad pick; ended a promising career after 2 seasons due to ACL and MCL injuries), Junkin was shifted back to ILB. He eventually won the starting job, but was placed on the IR again with a knee injury. Schottenheimer took Junkin to Kansas City after his firing, and a combination of drugs and injuries ultimately ended his career. He is ranked 8th on ESPN’s all-time draft bust list.
22nd overall: Hanford Dixon, CB, Southern Miss, 1981
Dixon may not have been the greatest pick stat-wise for the Browns, but he did make 3 Pro Bowls and 2 All-Pro teams. What strikes close to home is that Dixon is credited for creating the name for the rowdier fans in the stadium. Ever heard of the “Dawg Pound”? It was inspired bu Dixon’s “barking” to his teammates. Recently, Dixon and fellow cornerback Frank Minnifield have been named the number 2 cornerback tandem of all-time by NFL.com.
1st overall: Tim Couch, QB, Kentucky, 1999
A great way to revamp the franchise! Couch was an All-American out of Kentucky that provided hope for a hastily crafted team. However, Couch just gave fans something to boo at. He ended up throwing more interceptions than touchdowns when it was all said and done, and the high-point of a quite disappointing career was the 2002 season in which he threw for almost 3000 yards and ended up even in TD’s and INT’s. You heard me. The HIGH-POINT.
2nd overall: Eric Turner, S, UCLA, 1991
A pretty good pick from some weak 1990’s draft picks by the Browns. Turner only played a couple of seasons in Cleveland, but statistically, helped the Browns to their best winning percentage throughout the decade. After making 2 Pro Bowls in his career, Turner signed with the Raiders in 1997 and died of intestinal cancer in 1999.
1st overall: Courtney Brown, DE, Penn St, 2000
With the failure known as Tim Couch from last year still fresh in our minds, the Browns followed that up with the pick of an injury-plagued player who played a grand total of 5 seasons for the team. There really isn’t much to say except for that Brown was added to the now 3-person list of terrible 1st overall picks used in team history. The 2000’s may have been the worst decade for draft picks ever, with picks including William Green (2002, drug abuse, stabbed, cheated on wife), Kellen Winslow II (the infamous motorcycle accident), Braylon Edwards (multiple controversies, butterfingers), and of course, Brady Quinn (sucked overall).
3rd overall: Joe Thomas, T, Wisconsin, 2007
Thomas is hands-down the best pick made by the Browns since Ozzie Newsome in 1978. He is one of the most consistent players to ever play for the team, as he his never missed a game. Thomas was probably the best pick in the draft except for 2-time MVP winner Adrian Peterson. A huge achievement for Thomas is an active streak of 7 straight Pro Bowls in his first 7 seasons (list of accomplished include Jim Brown, Dick Butkus, Mean Joe, Barry Sanders, Lawrence Taylor, etc.).
22nd overall: Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State, 2012
Many were already skeptical of the failed baseball pitcher gone quarterback. He was 28 years old, which presented an interesting story line. Aside from the hilarious bloopers in his career with the Browns (for that, check here https://clesportstalk.com/2014/03/dear-brandon-a-brandon-weeden-roasting/), Weeden has thrown 3 more interceptions than TD’s, and was a turnover machine, amassing 12 fumbles in just 23 games. To think that we wasted a draft pick on this “ray of hope”.
7th overall: Joe Haden, CB, Florida, 2010
Haden has a very promising career. After playing for now Ohio State coach Urban Meyer at Florida in a quite awarded 3 seasons, Haden fell to 7th in the 2010 draft. In just 4 short seasons in Cleveland, Haden has already been named to both the Pro Bowl and the All-Pro team. Browns fans are eager to see more of the shut-down cornerback next season.