There are many fans who would call the Cleveland Browns’ 2016 season a success. Obviously this can be tough to comprehend when you consider said campaign included one win and officially put this 70-year-old franchise below .500 for the first time in its existence. Still, there was a sizable amount of celebration seen on Twitter when the Pittsburgh Steelers finished Cleveland off in overtime this past Sunday.
The reason for this was the fact the fifteenth loss of the year officially earned the Browns the No.1 overall pick in the upcoming draft. Setting aside the questionable idea of celebrating losing, there’s undeniable value in this outcome. Cleveland has hardly been subtle about the desire to rip the roster down to the studs and build through the draft. What better way to do so than with the first overall pick?
However, despite the team getting the shot to draft any player it wants, I don’t find myself as excited as many other Browns fans. The reasoning for this is equal parts simple and alarming.
When was the last time Cleveland showed any ability in drafting the right players?
Sure, this current regime of Hue Jackson, Sashi Brown and Andrew Berry only has one draft under its belt. At the same time, the people doing the picking never seem to matter. More often than not, Cleveland bumbles its draft picks.
To be blunt, where the Browns select won’t matter until this changes.
At this point, Cleveland’s draft blunders are common knowledge to just about anyone who follows the NFL. Despite being graced with high picks on an annual basis, the rate at which the Browns’ selections succeed is laughably low.
Since 2010, only three of the team’s first round picks are still on the team. Three of the players Cleveland grabbed in the opening round during this time-frame aren’t even in the NFL any more. Outside of Joe Thomas (selected in 2007), it’s extremely difficult to name any Browns draft pick since 1999 who could even be remotely deemed a great selection.
With this in mind, and considering the fact this time-span includes eight different regimes, you can see why it’s a little tricky to be thrilled about where Cleveland landed in the 2017 draft.
Upon evaluating this latest front office’s rookie crop, you’ll continue to be underwhelmed for the most part.
First round pick, wideout Corey Coleman, showed flashes, but also tended to disappear from games and had trouble with drops. Defensive rookies Carl Nassib and Emmanuel Ogbah displayed potential at times, the latter quite often in the back end of the season. Quarterback Cody Kessler had his moments, but also struggled to gain the trust of Jackson. None of the late round picks made any sort of sustained impact.
There’s no sense in giving out final grades after just one season. At the same time, none of the rookies truly stood out in 2016.
Again, having the first overall pick is a great spot for the team to be in. There just isn’t enough evidence to make me feel confident in the Browns’ ability to use it appropriately.
Will they take the best available prospect, which appears to be Texas A&M defensive standout Myles Garrett? Will they use it to nab whoever is deemed the top quarterback? Will they trade it to move down?
Or, and this is both the worst possible yet most consistent scenario, will they try and outsmart the league and take someone many people don’t consider worthy of the top pick?
We have four months to try and figure out what Cleveland will do with its newfound selection. The rumors are sure to take us in a million different directions before draft day, so take everything you hear with a grain of salt.
That said, in the time between now and when the moment finally comes for the Browns to make their choice, my mood about the draft will lean far more towards hesitance and nervousness than it will towards excitement. Cleveland’s batting average in this department is woefully bad, and I can’t help but hold this against the team no matter where it lands in the order.
Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook