Remember when the Cleveland Browns last made the NFL playoffs? You’ll be forgiven if you don’t.
Because it was in 2002.
Correct, the Browns have not made the postseason in nearly two decades. And there’s no guarantee that drought ends imminently. Putting together Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Baker Mayfield, and Nick Chubb gives them a clear path to a successful offense, but is it enough?
Time will tell. For now, it isn’t hard to see the root of the Browns’ problems: The NFL draft. They’ve been lauded for some selections, particularly when they’ve scooped up picks in the late first round, but overall, they’ve missed on waaay too many prospects.
Don’t take our word for it. See for yourself. Here’s every Browns first-round pick since they last made the playoffs in 2002, which means we’ll begin with the 2002 NFL draft:
- 2002: William Green, RB, No. 16 pick
- 2003: Jeff Faine, C, No. 21 pick
- 2004: Kellen Winslow, TE, No. 6 pick
- 2005: Braylon Edwards, WR, No. 3 pick
- 2006: Kamerion Wimbley, DE, No. 13 pick
- 2007: Joe Thomas, T, No. 3 pick; Brady Quinn, QB, No. 22 pick
- 2008: No first-round pick
- 2009: Alex Mack, C, No. 21 pick
- 2010: Joe Haden, DB, No. 7 pick
- 2011: Phil Taylor, DT, No. 21 pick
- 2012: Trent Richardson, RB, No. 3 pick; Brandon Weeden, QB, No.22 pick
- 2013: Barkevious Mingo, LB, No. 6 pick
- 2014: Justin Gilbert, DB, No. 8 pick; Johnny Manziel, QB, No. 22 pick
- 2015: Danny Shelton, NT, No. 12 pick; Cameron Irving, C, No. 19 pick
- 2016: Corey Coleman, WR, No. 15 pick
- 2017: Myles Garrett, DE, No. 1 pick; Jabrill Peppers, S, No. 25 pick; David Njoku, TE, No. 29 pick
- 2018: Baker Mayfield, QB, No. 1 pick; Denzel Ward, CB, No. 4 pick
- 2019: No first-round pick
As you can see, there aren’t a whole lot of hits. Most notable is the Browns’ inability to draft a franchise QB. They’ve picked up some quality receivers and defensive players in the first round, but their bites at the apple under center have not gone great.
Mayfield’s future looms large for this franchise. They assembled a score of explosive talent around him, and they still ended up placing in the bottom half of the league in offensive output for the 2019 season. That’s a problem.
It could be the Browns whiffed on yet another first-round QB investment. Or it could be that this latest core will take time to marinate.
All we know for sure is the Browns franchise, by and large, needs to do a better job of hitting on their top draft picks.