Follow Shelley Harcar on Twitter: @Shelley0514
Do you remember it, Cleveland? The year was 1999 and our Browns were staging their much-anticipated return to the NFL. Personally, the return held deep meaning for me as I was able to fulfill a long–time dream of watching the Browns with my son. Granted, he was two months old and didn’t have a lot of sports savvy yet but it was a happy moment. Of course the last 18 years have not been the stuff dreams are made of by a long shot. Fortunately, we have a chance to shake up our team on Draft Day. But before we do that, let’s take a look back at some of our less than excellent draft picks since 1999. Ok…I’ll call them what they are – bad draft picks.
Tim Couch – We selected Couch as the first overall pick in the 1999 draft. At the time it seemed like a reasonable choice. In 1997, at the University of Kentucky, he put some shine on a lackluster team and even managed to beat Alabama. The following year he led the Wildcats to an appearance in the Outback Bowl. Unfortunately, after joining the Browns, Couch struggled with injuries and never quite matched his college prowess or our expectations. Although I’d like to give credit where credit is due; he led the 2002 Browns to a wildcard spot in the playoffs. Couch did not play in the game because he broke his leg in the last regular season game. The phrase “that’s so Cleveland” just popped in my head.
Courtney Brown – The 2000 NFL Draft dawned with bright and shining expectations as we, once again, held the first overall draft pick. You can almost hear the words resonating throughout the room ‘With the first pick of the 2000 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns select Courtney Brown, defensive end Penn State.’ Once again, our first overall pick looked good on paper. Brown was a first-team All-Big Ten choice and received honors as a consensus first-team All-American. He even earned the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and Defensive Linemen of the Year honors during his last season for the Nittany Lions. Brown had a solid rookie season with 69 total tackles and 4.5 sacks. Sadly, injuries plagued him during his time with the Browns. Second verse same as the first.
William Green – Cleveland took a bit of a gamble on Green. Before the draft, Green was a top ranked player. However, serving two college suspensions for marijuana use lowered his draft stock considerably. Nonetheless, the Browns selected him with the 16th overall pick in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft. At Boston College, Green put up respectable numbers compiling over 2,700 yards rushing and 32 touchdowns in two years. In his rookie year with Cleveland, Green started all 16 games rushing for 887 yards and scoring six touchdowns. A regrettable series of personal events in his second season with Cleveland made Green more famous for his off the field drama than his play. He earned a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy following an arrest for drunk driving and possession of marijuana. During his suspension, his fiancée stabbed Green in the back during an argument. Although he was able to resume his playing career, Green struggled with injuries for the remainder of his time in Cleveland, never living up to the high hopes the Browns had for him. Deja vu all over again.
Brandon Weeden – The Cleveland Browns drafted Brandon Weeden with the 22nd pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. At 28 years old, this made him the oldest player who was ever taken in the first round. Weeden appeared to be off to a great start in his first season with Cleveland. (Ummm…haven’t we heard this before?) He passed for a Browns rookie-record 3,385 yards. In his second season with Cleveland, Weeden injured his thumb and the 2012 quarterback merry-go-round with Weeden, Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell commenced. In March of 2014, Weeden was released after an unsuccessful season in Cleveland.
Justin Gilbert – Another hot prospect that turned ice cold after Cleveland drafted him. He was our 8th overall in the 2014 draft, but Justin Gilbert never lived up to the hype which said he was one of the top cornerbacks in the 2014 draft class. His play for the Browns was unremarkable and in 2016 Gilbert was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a 2018 draft pick.
Johnny Manziel – While he was not Cleveland’s first pick in the first round of the 2014 draft, I felt that I should add Johnny Manziel to my list of “bad” Browns draft picks. Manziel is an example of someone so unprepared for success and he ultimately choked on it. As the first ever freshman to win a Heisman Trophy, Manziel was poised to take the NFL by storm. His questionable behavior before the 2014 draft considerably lowered his draft stock and the player once thought to be a top five pick sat through 21 other picks before Cleveland took him at number 22 overall. I will admit that I was pulling for Johnny; I wanted the kid to succeed. However, all of the hopes of Cleveland’s faithful could not save Manziel from himself. His exploits are notorious and well documented. There were fleeting moments where he appeared to be on the verge of becoming the quarterback many hoped to see. I contend that Johnny Manziel is the worst first round pick the Browns have made since returning to the NFL in 1999.
Have I missed any bad draft picks or do you think some of the players on my list are not all that bad? With just days until the draft, I am hoping the powers that be make some stellar decisions. Only time will tell, so for now just enjoy the speculating and wondering and GO BROWNS!
Follow Shelley Harcar on Twitter: @Shelley0514
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