February 25, 2024

Nailing Picks #1 and #4: Why History Is Not on the Browns Side

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The Cleveland Browns have the first and fourth pick in the upcoming draft. New GM, John Dorsey, will have the opportunity to totally change the team with those two picks and Browns fans across the world have been debating how best to use this draft capital. Having two top-five picks is very rare and it is even rarer for both players to amass greatness like we hope happens this year. This article will take a closer look at the previous teams to have two top-five picks most recently in draft history.

 

Year Team 1st of the picks 2nd of the picks
2000 Redskins LaVar Arrington Chris Samuels
1994 Colts Marshall Faulk Trev Alberts
1992 Colts Steve Emtman Quentin Coryatt
1982 Colts Johnie Cooks Art Schlichter
1979 Bills Tom Cousineau Jerry Butler

 

In the 2000 Draft, the Washington Redskins had picks #2 and #3 and they tried to solidify both sides of the ball by drafting LB LaVar Arrington and OT Chris Samuels. Arrington had 317 tackles and 22.5 sacks in his six seasons in Washington, but his tenure there ended poorly because of injuries and clashing with coaches. He was a three-time Pro Bowler and named one of the 80 Greatest Redskins.

Samuels played 10 seasons for the Redskins starting in all 141 games he played. He was named to the Pro Bowl six times and similarly to Arrington, was named one of the 80 Greatest Redskins. When drafting an offensive lineman, unless drafting a future Hall of Famer like Joe Thomas, Orlando Pace or Jonathan Ogden, there’s a lack of excitement in the pick which unfortunately is the case for Samuels.

The 1994 Draft saw the Indianapolis Colts draft RB Marshall Faulk at #2 and LB Trev Alberts at #5. Faulk played for the Colts for five seasons gaining 8,124 total scrimmage yards and 51 touchdowns. He was named Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1994 and three of his seven Pro Bowls were as a member of the Colts, the other four were as a member of the Rams who he spent the rest of his career with. Faulk was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but many attribute his years with the Rams as a big reason why.

Alberts is one of many players drafted by the Colts in the 80s and 90s who did not have any success in the NFL. He played three seasons in the NFL and started only seven of the 29 games he played. During the draft, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. criticized Colts GM Bill Tobin for making this pick instead of taking quarterback Trent Dilfer. Tobin famously responded, “Who in the hell is Mel Kiper anyway?” Kiper gets plenty wrong, but Dilfer over Alberts would have been a smart move, especially since the Colts needed a quarterback.

In 1992 the Indianapolis Colts had the first two picks in the draft and they took DE Steve Emtman and LB Quentin Coryatt. Emtman was an excellent college player even finishing fourth place in Heisman voting, which is rare for a defensive player. Due to injuries, he only played in the NFL for six seasons; three of them came with the Colts. Again, he is considered one of the many draft busts in Colts history.

Coryatt had a decent career, but nothing to write home about. In contrast, two future Pro Bowl linebackers, Robert Jones and Levon Kirkland were drafted later in the draft. In 1993, when the Colts changed to a 4 – 3 defense, Coryatt became the middle linebacker accumulating 150 tackles that season and played well during points throughout the rest of career. Worthy of the #2 pick? Probably not, but the 1992 Draft was not filled with great players. Nobody from that draft class has made it to the Hall of Fame and only a few have played in multiple Pro Bowls.

The 1982 Draft has the Colts again picking two in the top five. This time at pick #2 they picked LB Johnie Cooks and at #4 they rolled the dice and picked QB Art Schlichter. These two were such bad picks that they don’t even deserve two paragraphs in this article. Cooks had a good 1984 season when he got 11.5 sacks, but his career went downhill from there. Schlichter had a great college career at Ohio State, but is most remembered for his gambling issues. Interestingly, at picks #3 and #5 were LB Chip Banks and QB Jim McMahon, both of whom played in Pro Bowls and had longer careers than their position mates picked by the Colts.

In 1979 the Buffalo Bills had picks #1 and #5. With their first pick, they drafted LB Tom Cousineau from Ohio State. Cousineau did not want to play for the Bills and decided to sign with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League. He did end up playing six seasons in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers. The one thing that Buffalo got out of Cousineau was a draft pick from the Browns which they used on quarterback Jim Kelly.

At pick #5 the Bills selected WR Jerry Butler. Butler played all seven years of his career with the Bills. He had 278 career receptions for 4,301 yards and 29 touchdowns. While he was a Pro Bowler in 1980, his career was solid at best, definitely not worthy of the top-five pick he was.

Of the 10 players, one became a Hall of Famer, four were at least solid contributors for the team that drafted them while the other five were not worth the high pick that was used on them. Drafts are always tricky because you are looking at potential and there are so many factors that come into play. Injuries, coaching changes and personal demons affected some of these players mentioned above.

My eighth-grade social studies teacher would often say, “Hindsight is 20/20” and when looking back at these drafts, it is easy to make a blanket statement that these were lousy drafts for these teams. While that narrative may be correct looking back, at the time, these picks (most, at least) were considered smart and the right move. Picking LaVar Arrington at #2 may look bad when compared to Brian Urlacher at #8, but at the time Arrington had prototypical size and came from Penn State, which is known for their linebackers, while Urlacher was undersized and from a smaller college where he played a hybrid linebacker-safety position.

The truth is, there are more times that a team had two of the top five picks. One of the best examples is the 1965 Draft when the Chicago Bears drafted LB Dick Butkus at #3 and HB Gale Sayers at #4, both are Hall of Famers. They were game-changing prospects who came into the NFL and showed their dominance.

Browns fans everywhere are hopeful that John Dorsey has a “1965 Bears” type draft and not a “1982 Colts” type draft. Also, we should all be more careful with phrases like “can’t miss prospect” and “once in a generational talent” because then we are setting ourselves up for disappointment, which nobody wants or deserves this time of year.

Photo: ESPN

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