Worst Draft Classes in Cleveland Browns History

Updated on April 1, 2020
A Cleveland Browns fan shouts after one of the team's draft picks was announced during the 2017 NFL Draft in Philadelphia. It's yet to be determined how good the team's '17 draft class will be, but they do have an unfortunate history of poor drafts.
A Cleveland Browns fan shouts after one of the team's draft picks was announced during the 2017 NFL Draft in Philadelphia. It's yet to be determined how good the team's '17 draft class will be, but they do have an unfortunate history of poor drafts. | Source

What Are the Worst Draft Classes in the History of the Cleveland Browns?

Unfortunately for Cleveland Browns fans, the reality is that the team is known for making bad decisions during the NFL Draft. And while every team makes a mistake from time to time, the Browns have a history of making numerous mistakes in the same draft. Even a single wasted draft class can have a profound negative consequence on a team's future, so when those miscues happen multiple times in a decade, it can be difficult to catch up.

Luckily, the Browns haven't been so futile that they've strung together so many poor drafts that they'll never be competitive again—even though it may feel that way since Cleveland hasn't had a winning season since 2007. The current dry spell is, by far, the longest in franchise history, but that has more to do with poor stability among executives and coaches than anything else. In the 12 years since 2008, there have been:

  • Seven changes at general manager
  • Eight changes at head coach

With each change comes a different philosophy, so it's been impossible for the Browns to create any meaningful consistency in the way they approach the NFL Draft. But as you'll soon see, poor drafting isn't new for the Browns—their first back-to-back blunders came more than 60 years ago.

Selection Criteria for This List

Among the factors used to develop this list, which includes the 10 worst draft classes in Cleveland Browns history, as well as a handful of honorable-mention selections, are:

  • Longevity (How many of a certain year's picks never appeared for the Browns or had short careers in Cleveland?)
  • Early-round failure (How many early-round selections failed to become regular contributors?)
  • On-field success (How much success did the overall class have on the field with the Browns?)

For the purposes of this list, only a player's time spent in Cleveland is considered when determining the success or failure of a particular draft class. So while the Browns did not select a superstar in the 2011 NFL Draft and had a busted first-round pick in Phil Taylor, a handful of later-round selections become solid players on the team for several seasons. Therefore, you won't read about that year on this list. Now, without further ado, let's count down the 10 worst draft classes in the history of the Cleveland Browns. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts on these selections in the comments.

Editor's note: The tables featured throughout this article display the individual picks in each draft class, and show the final year a player played with the Browns and only includes games played with Cleveland.

Former Cleveland Browns defensive end, Chris Hughes (93), makes a tackle against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2016 preseason. Hughes was one of few bright spots the Browns had among the players they selected in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Former Cleveland Browns defensive end, Chris Hughes (93), makes a tackle against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2016 preseason. Hughes was one of few bright spots the Browns had among the players they selected in the 2012 NFL Draft. | Source

10. Class of 2012

The Cleveland Browns owned 13 selections in the 2012 NFL Draft—including 5 of the first 100 selections for the second time in 3 drafts. After the Browns averaged a paltry 13.6 points per game during the 2011 season, the plan was to use their pair of first-round draft picks on some new offensive weapons for the 2012 season. Cleveland did select two new offensive players—running back Trent Richardson (No. 3) and quarterback Brandon Weeden (No. 22)—but they both failed to build a lasting legacy.

Luckily, the Browns had three more picks in the top 100 selections, so there was some wiggle room to make a mistake or two. Unfortunately, none of the next three players selected would stay with the Browns past the 2016 season, even though the trio of right tackle Mitchell Schwartz (No. 37), defensive tackle John Hughes (No. 87), and wide receiver Travis Benjamin (No. 100) were, by far, the top players picked by the Browns in 2012—none were considered superstars.

After making some trades throughout the draft, the Browns ended up selecting 11 players, who played an average of just over 2 seasons with Cleveland and combined to play 284 games for the franchise. Schwartz, Hughes, and Benjamin accounted for 171 of those games (60.2 percent).

Cleveland Browns 2012 Draft Picks

Round
Player
Pick
Pos
To
Games
School
1
Trent Richardson
3
RB
2013
17
Alabama
1
Brandon Weeden
22
QB
2013
23
Oklahoma St.
2
Mitchell Schwartz
37
T
2015
64
California
3
John Hughes
87
DT
2016
53
Cincinnati
4
Travis Benjamin
100
WR
2015
54
Miami (FL)
4
James-Michael Johnson
120
LB
2012
10
Nevada
5
Ryan Miller
160
G
2012
8
Colorado
6
Emmanuel Acho
204
LB
2012
0
Texas
6
Billy Winn
205
DT
2014
40
Boise St.
7
Trevin Wade
245
DB
2012
13
Arizona
7
Brad Smelley
247
TE
2012
2
Alabama

9. Class of 1995

The Cleveland Browns went into the 1995 NFL Draft not realizing the franchise would change cities after the season, so they went into the event looking to keep the team chugging in a positive direction. Instead, everything about the draft turned into a disaster.

About a month prior to the draft, the Browns traded Eric Metcalf to the Atlanta Falcons, and part of the trade involved swapping first-round draft picks—leaving the Browns to pick at No. 10 instead of No. 26. On draft day, the three players Cleveland most desired were all selected within the first nine picks, leaving the Browns to scramble to make a decision about how to handle their No. 10 selection. In a frantic scene, the Browns made a hasty trade with the San Francisco 49ers to take over the 30th selection and a couple of picks later in the draft. Cleveland would spend the No. 30 pick on linebacker Craig Powell, who would play just three games for the Browns.

In the third round, Cleveland drafted quarterback Eric Zeier, who the Browns believed would be able to overcome his small stature—he stood just 6 feet tall but proved to be a prolific passer at the University of Georgia. The NFL, however, wouldn't be so kind, as he never became an established starter or reliable backup. Defensive end, Mike Frederick, was selected later on in the third round and was the only one of the six players Cleveland drafted to play the entire 1995 season.

Cleveland Browns 1995 Draft Picks

Round
Player
Pick
Pos
To
Games
School
1
Craig Powell
30
LB
1995
3
Ohio St.
3
Eric Zeier
84
QB
1995
7
Georgia
3
Mike Frederick
94
DE
1995
16
Virginia
5
Tau Pupua
136
DT
1995
0
Weber St.
5
Mike Miller
147
WR
1995
0
Notre Dame
7
A.C. Tellison
231
WR
1995
0
Miami (FL)
Note: The Cleveland Browns became the Baltimore Ravens in 1996. Powell played nine games with the Ravens in 1996. Zeier was on Baltimore's roster until 1997 and played 15 games for the Ravens, and Frederick was with Baltimore until 1998 and played 42

8. Class of 1987

The Cleveland Browns went into the 1987 NFL Draft with 10 total draft picks, including the 24th selection. They finished the draft with eight new players and one less All-Pro. In a stunning draft-day trade, the Browns sent four-time All-Pro linebacker, Chip Banks, to the San Diego Chargers, and used the No. 5 pick they received in exchange to select Mike Junkin, a powerful inside linebacker from Duke University. The swap was thought to have solved two problems for Cleveland: 1) being rid of the troublesome Banks, who had staged multiple contract holdouts and wasn't well-liked by teammates and coaches, and 2) bringing in Junkin to replace Banks as the team's primary outside pass-rusher. The experiment imploded spectacularly, as Junkin became one of the worst draft picks the Browns have ever made after playing just 15 games over 2 seasons.

Cleveland drafted a few players who would be reliable players for a handful of seasons, but none stayed with the Browns for more than five years. Not only that, the franchise failed to address pre-draft needs for a wide receiver and a tight end. On average, those drafted in 1987 stayed with Cleveland for 2.1 seasons and played 27.9 games. Two players from the draft class never appeared in an NFL game.

The best player the Browns selected that year? That would be center Frank Winters, who was taken with the 276th pick. Cleveland made Winters an unrestricted free agent following the 1988 season, even though he had played in 28 games. He'd eventually land in Green Bay, where he became a Pro Bowler and won a Super Bowl.

Cleveland Browns 1987 Draft Picks

Round
Player
Pick
Pos
To
Games
School
1
Mike Junkin
5
LB
1988
15
Duke
2
Gregg Rakoczy
32
C
1990
60
Miami (FL)
3
Tim Manoa
80
RB
1989
44
Penn St.
3
Jeff Jaeger
82
K
1987
10
Washington
6
Stephen Braggs
165
DB
1991
66
Texas
8
Steve Bullitt
220
LB
1987
0
Texas A&M
10
Frank Winters
276
C
1988
28
West. Illinois
11
Larry Brewton
303
DB
1987
0
Temple

7. Class of 1954

The NFL Draft was a much different product in the 1950s, as only 12 teams picked for 30 rounds. Also in that era, a lottery was held for the "bonus pick," which was the first pick of the draft. In 1954, the Cleveland Browns won that lottery and unsurprisingly selected Stanford quarterback, Robert "Bobby" Garrett, who was the consensus top prospect available in the draft. It was believed he could be in consideration to replace Hall of Famer, Otto Graham, who was nearing retirement age, but also could be used as the centerpiece of a trade. After learning Garrett had a speech impediment, Cleveland traded him to the Green Bay Packers, but the Browns did not get any positive production from either player they received in return—essentially wasting their pick.

And that was just the start of the disappointing draft.

In total, only five players appeared in a game with the Browns, and among them, only three made it more than one season. Included were running backs Chet Hanulak and Maurice Bassett—neither of whom gained more than 1,000 career yards on the ground—and right guard, Jim Ray Smith. He was the lone prize of the draft, as he remained with the Browns until 1962 and is remembered as one of the top offensive lineman in franchise history.

If there ever was a year to have a bad draft, however, 1954 was a good choice, as only one Hall of Famer was selected among the 360 players. Still, to have every pick after the 10th round fail to even appear in a game is not the way to continue a dynasty. The Browns would actually suffer the first losing season in franchise history in 1956.

Cleveland Browns 1954 Draft Picks

Round
Player
Pick
Pos
To
Games
School
1
Bobby Garrett
1
QB
1954
0
Stanford
1
John Bauer
12
T
1954
0
Illinois
2
Chet Hanulak
24
HB
1957
24
Maryland
3
Maurice Bassett
36
FB
1956
36
Langston
4
Jerry Hilgenberg
48
C
1954
0
Iowa
5
Bill Lucky
60
DT
1954
0
Baylor
6
Jim Ray Smith
64
G
1962
81
Baylor
6
Asa Jenkins
72
B
1954
0
Toledo
7
Don Miller
84
HB
1954
0
SMU
8
Bill Barbish
95
B
1954
0
Tennessee
8
Charlie Harris
96
B
1954
0
Georgia
9
Tom Jones
108
RB
1955
2
Miami (OH)
10
Donald Goss
119
T
1956
6
SMU
10
Tom Pagna
120
B
1954
0
Miami (OH)
11
Max Schuebel
132
T
1954
0
Rice
12
Tom Breunich
144
T
1954
0
Maryland
13
George Cummins
156
T
1954
0
Tulane
14
Jim Head
168
B
1954
0
Iowa
15
Chet Lyssy
180
B
1954
0
Hardin-Simmons
16
Rich Raidel
192
G
1954
0
Kent St.
17
Howard Chapman
204
T
1954
0
Florida
18
Bill Wohrman
216
B
1954
0
South Carolina
19
John Taylor
228
C
1954
0
Austin
20
Hugh Pierce
240
C
1954
0
North Carolina St.
21
Jim Baughman
252
G
1954
0
Illinois
22
Lloyd Caudle
264
B
1954
0
Duke
23
Bob Mischak
276
G
1954
0
Army
24
Johnny Gramling
288
B
1954
0
South Carolina
25
Tom Hughes
300
T
1954
0
Virginia Tech
26
Joe Lundy
312
G
1954
0
Kansas
27
Johnny Mapp
324
B
1954
0
VMI
28
Vince Vergara
336
B
1954
0
Syracuse/Army
29
Troy Carter
348
B
1954
0
VMI

6. Class of 1974

After just one season, it was clear that the players selected by the Cleveland Browns toward the top of the 1973 NFL Draft were not going to be the superstar players they were expected to be (more on that later). As the last wave of the team's superstars were fading out, the 1974 draft was doubly important. To further complicate matters, the Browns didn't have a pick until the middle of the second round, so they would have to depend on finding players that had been overlooked by the league's other teams. Unfortunately, they made good on only 1 of their 15 selections.

In the seventh round, the Browns selected offensive tackle, Gerry Sullivan, who would stay with Cleveland as a regular until 1981 and was the only salvageable piece from the entire draft class. Sullivan played 119 games with the Browns, witnessing significant ups and downs (including a 7–21 mark over his first two seasons, but also a playoff appearance in 1980).

Five other players from the draft class played between 12 and 16 games with the Browns, but none were with the team past the 1975 season.

Cleveland Browns 1974 Draft Picks

Round
Player
Pick
Pos
To
Games
School
2
Billy Corbett
40
T
1974
0
Johnson C. Smith
5
Mark Ilgenfritz
118
DE
1974
14
Vanderbilt
6
Billy Pritchett
146
RB
1975
14
West Texas A&M
7
Bob Herrick
163
WR
1974
0
Purdue
7
Gerry Sullivan
171
T
1981
119
Illinois
8
Eddie Brown
199
DB
1975
16
Tennessee
9
Dan Scott
224
G
1974
0
Ohio St.
10
Mike Puestow
238
WR
1974
0
North Dakota St.
11
Tom Gooden
274
K
1974
0
Harding
12
Ron McNeil
302
DE
1974
0
North Carolina Central
13
Mike Seifert
327
DE
1974
12
Wisconsin
14
Bob Hunt
352
RB
1974
2
Heidelberg
15
Ransom Terrell
380
LB
1974
0
Arizona
16
Preston Anderson
407
DB
1974
14
Rice
17
Carlton Buchanan
430
DT
1974
0
SW Oklahoma St.
Former Cleveland Browns linebacker, Barkevious Mingo, makes a tackle against the Atlanta Falcons in the 2016 preseason. Mingo never lived up to expectations as the team's top draft pick in 2013.
Former Cleveland Browns linebacker, Barkevious Mingo, makes a tackle against the Atlanta Falcons in the 2016 preseason. Mingo never lived up to expectations as the team's top draft pick in 2013. | Source

5. Class of 2013

In 2012, the Cleveland Browns used 11 draft picks to build a base they thought would be the start of a rebuild that would get them back to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. One year later, the Browns had a limited supply of picks to add to that staple. First-year general manager, Michael Lombardi, was saddled with those circumstances, and then missed the mark on everybody he drafted, which contributed to his ouster after just one season.

Cleveland's second-round pick for the draft was surrendered to select Josh Gordon in the 2012 supplemental draft (he became a Pro Bowler but also faced multiple suspensions for off-the-field issues). The Browns also lost a fourth-round pick in a trade for wide receiver Davone Bess. It's been argued that Cleveland should have traded away their first-round pick in order to stockpile extra picks later in the draft, but they instead made the surprising selection of linebacker Barkevious Mingo. It's not that Mingo was a bad player, but the team and fans expected more out of the No. 6 pick than seven sacks and one interception in three seasons.

Cleveland didn't select again until the third round. Then, the Browns grabbed a sixth-rounder and two seventh-rounders. Those four players combined for 53 games over 6 total seasons, with only defensive end Armonty Bryant staying with the Browns past his rookie season.

Cleveland Browns 2013 Draft Picks

Round
Player
Pick
Pos
To
Games
School
1
Barkevious Mingo
6
LB
2015
48
LSU
3
Leon McFadden
68
DB
2013
16
San Diego St.
6
Jamoris Slaughter
175
DB
2013
0
Notre Dame
7
Armonty Bryant
217
DE
2015
31
East Central (OK)
7
Garrett Gilkey
227
T
2013
6
Chadron St.

4. Class of 1992

Although the Cleveland Browns collapsed to a three-win season in 1990, they were building the franchise back up quickly, and the 1992 NFL Draft was a chance to address a wide swath of needs. Cleveland made a trade the day prior to the draft, which allowed the Browns to stake claim to 4 of the first 78 selections, and they'd end up with 12 picks throughout the entire draft. The Browns owned the No. 9 pick, but instead of drafting a player to fill a true need, they selected Stanford fullback, Tommy Vardell, who made for a fifth viable option in the team's rushing attack.

It didn't get much better from there. Vardell was out of Cleveland by 1995 after 40 games, but second-round pick, wide receiver Patrick Rowe, played just 5 games with the Browns. Cleveland's duo of third-round picks were the prizes of the draft, but neither were with the Browns when the franchise was suddenly moved to Baltimore after the 1995 season. Defensive lineman Bill Johnson (No. 65) and linebacker Gerald Dixon (No. 78) each continued on to have successful NFL careers, but their short tenures didn't leave much of a legacy in Cleveland. Even Johnson posed a risk as a third-rounder—he was injured during a fight in the weeks leading up to the draft and lost his luster as a projected first-round pick.

Half of the draft class would never appear in a game for the Browns, and of the 12 players selected, they averaged just 1.6 seasons and 14 games for Cleveland. And what production the Browns were able to squeeze out of Vardell, Johnson, and Dixon was minuscule. Vardell was nicknamed "Touchdown Tommy," but he was anything but in Cleveland, contributing just 5 touchdowns over his 40 games. Johnson, meanwhile, averaged a sack every four games, and Dixon had one sack and two interceptions during his three seasons.

Cleveland Browns 1992 Draft Picks

Round
Player
Pick
Pos
To
Games
School
1
Tommy Vardell
9
RB
1995
40
Stanford
2
Patrick Rowe
52
WR
1993
5
San Diego St.
3
Bill Johnson
65
DT
1994
40
Michigan St.
3
Gerald Dixon
78
LB
1995
43
South Carolina
6
Rico Smith
143
WR
1995
29
Colorado
6
George Williams
163
DT
1992
0
Notre Dame
7
Selwyn Jones
177
DB
1993
11
Colorado St.
9
Tim Hill
233
DB
1992
0
Kansas
10
Marcus Lowe
260
DT
1992
0
Baylor
11
Augustin Olobia
289
WR
1992
0
Washington St.
12
Keithen McCant
316
QB
1992
0
Nebraska
12
Tim Simpson
329
G
1993
0
Illinois
Former Cleveland Browns cornerback, Justin Gilbert, prepares for a 2016 preseason game. He was one of two first-round draft picks the Browns selected in 2014 who never made any significant contributions in the NFL.
Former Cleveland Browns cornerback, Justin Gilbert, prepares for a 2016 preseason game. He was one of two first-round draft picks the Browns selected in 2014 who never made any significant contributions in the NFL. | Source

3. Class of 2014

What turned out to be one of the worst first rounds in team history was only the start to a disappointing draft class that could have started the Cleveland Browns on the path to success. Instead, it turned into the third straight poor showing by the Browns and again set the team back several years. The Browns came into the draft with 7 of the first 127 picks—an envious slate that also included 2 first-rounders—but by the end of the draft, Cleveland had selected just 6 total players and found just 1 Pro Bowler.

The draft was the first under general manager, Ray Farmer, and also included input from a rookie head coach, Mike Pettine. Together, they were tasked with turning around a franchise that hadn't experienced a winning season since 2007, but instead, they botched the entire first round by selecting cornerback Justin Gilbert (No. 6) and quarterback Johnny Manziel (No. 22). Both are widely considered among the worst picks the Browns have ever made, as they each played just 15 games over 2 seasons.

In the second round, the Browns selected offensive lineman, Joel Bitonio—who remains with Cleveland and has made a pair of Pro Bowls—and the first pick in the third round was linebacker Christian Kirksey, who had a solid five-year tenure. After that, however, were the forgettable running back Terrance West and defensive back Pierre Desir. West played 14 games with the Browns as a rookie, and Desir was gone after 2 seasons and 19 games.

The adjunct failure of the class was a major contributing factor in another full-scale regime change for the 2016 season. Two additional changes have occurred at general manager since then.

Cleveland Browns 2014 Draft Picks

Round
Player
Pick
Pos
To
G
School
1
Justin Gilbert
8
DB
2015
15
Oklahoma St.
1
Johnny Manziel
22
QB
2015
15
Texas A&M
2
Joel Bitonio
35
G
2019
79
Nevada
3
Christian Kirksey
71
LB
2019
73
Iowa
3
Terrance West
94
RB
2014
14
Towson
4
Pierre Desir
127
DB
2015
19
Lindenwood

2. Class of 1955

After striking out with an unsuccessful draft in 1954, the ramification of an even worse draft class by the Cleveland Browns in 1955 would be felt sooner than later. The Browns suffered their first losing season in franchise history in 1956, but after pulling off an all-time great draft class in 1957, they were back to their winning ways. So even though the pain was short-lived, the 1955 draft class was such a disaster that it can't be ignored.

Cleveland picked 31 players in the draft, but only 7 ever appeared in a game for the Browns. Worse still, the most games any of them played for Cleveland was 23, and none of the first 3 selections by the Browns ever suited up for the team.

The leading player from the class was defensive back Robert "Bobby" Freeman, who was taken in the third round and had three interceptions in each of his two seasons and went on to play four more seasons with three other teams. Sixth-round pick and halfback, LeRoy Bolden, played in 23 games for Cleveland after 3 years in the military, but didn't do much ball carrying. He only had 19 attempts for 66 yards in a short-lived career, though he did add 532 yards in the return game—including a 102-yard touchdown. Linebacker Sam Palumbo was taken in the fourth round, and is defined by a single play. In the 1955 NFL Championship game, Palumbo snared an interception in Cleveland's victory over the Los Angeles Rams.

Cleveland Browns 1955 Draft Picks

Round
Player
Pick
Pos
To
Games
School
1
Kurt Burris
13
C
1955
0
Oklahoma
2
Dean Renfro
25
HB
1955
0
North Texas
3
John Hall
35
DE
1955
0
Iowa
3
Bobby Freeman
37
DB
1958
21
Auburn
4
Paul Reynolds
41
B
1955
0
Notre Dame
4
Sam Palumbo
49
LB
1956
21
Notre Dame
5
Aramis Dandoy
61
B
1955
0
USC
6
Leroy Bolden
73
HB
1959
23
Michigan St.
7
Jack Locklear
85
C
1955
0
Auburn
9
Henry Ford
109
HB
1955
2
Pittsburgh
10
Glen Dillon
121
E
1955
0
Pittsburgh
11
Eric Knebel
133
T
1955
0
SMU
12
Jack Eaton
145
T
1955
0
New Mexico
13
John Borton
157
QB
1957
5
Ohio St.
14
Fred Robinson
169
G
1957
12
Washington
15
Bob Smith
181
HB
1956
12
Nebraska
16
Don Suchy
193
C
1955
0
Iowa
17
Bob Leonard
205
B
1955
0
Purdue
18
Steve Champlin
217
T
1955
0
Oklahoma
19
Tom Ebert
229
E
1955
0
Kansas St.
20
Bill Proctor
241
T
1955
0
Florida St.
21
Rick Spinks
253
B
1955
0
Texas Tech
22
Jerry Stone
265
T
1955
0
SE Louisiana
23
Jim Greer
277
E
1955
0
Elizabeth City St.
24
John Matsock
289
B
1955
0
Michigan St.
25
Ernie Lindo
301
B
1955
0
Pacific
26
Don Fife
313
C
1955
0
Purdue
27
Bobby Baldwin
325
B
1955
0
Sam Houston St.
28
Ed Tokus
337
E
1955
0
Georgia
29
Ted (Tex) Robinson
349
B
1955
0
Temple
30
Lamar Leachman
360
C
1955
0
Tennessee
If it wasn't for the success of second-round draft pick, Greg Pruitt, the Cleveland Browns' draft class from 1973 would have been a complete disaster.
If it wasn't for the success of second-round draft pick, Greg Pruitt, the Cleveland Browns' draft class from 1973 would have been a complete disaster. | Source

1. Class of 1973

One of the most significant turning points in Cleveland Browns draft history occurred in 1973.

"This could be our most important draft since 1961," said Art Modell, who purchased the Browns in '61. "Competition has stiffened in pro football and we haven't been blessed with great early selections in recent years. . . . It doesn't take a lot for a ball club to go from good to great. I feel that we had a good squad at the end of 1972, a better one than at the finish of the previous two years. I want to have a great Browns team. With this draft, I believe there is a chance to do this in 1973" (Heaton, 1973).

The Browns owned 3 of the first 30 picks and had 7 of the first 100 selections, putting them in a prime position to bolster the roster and continue the deeply rooted winning ways of the franchise. At that point, the Browns had just 1 losing season in 27 seasons, but after misfiring on all but 1 of their first 7 picks in 1973, it hurt the team's progress for the rest of the '70s.

Only second-round pick, Greg Pruitt, became a star, earning four Pro Bowl selections as a standout running back. Meanwhile, first-round selections, receiver Steve Holden (No. 16) and offensive lineman Pete Adams (No. 22), fizzled out as below-average players by 1976. Among the other 4 players picked in the top 100, only defensive back Jim Steinke (No. 47) ever saw action for the Browns—a measly 7 games as a rookie. Overall, half of the draft class never appeared in a game for Cleveland.

Cleveland Browns 1973 Draft Picks

Round
Player
Pick
Pos
To
G
School
1
Steve Holden
16
WR
1976
48
Arizona St.
1
Pete Adams
22
G
1976
25
USC
2
Greg Pruitt
30
RB
1981
118
Oklahoma
2
Jim Stienke
47
DB
1973
7
Texas St.
3
Bob Crum
67
DE
1973
0
Arizona
4
Andy Dorris
93
DE
1973
0
New Mexico St.
4
Randy Mattingly
100
QB
1973
0
Evansville
6
Van Green
150
DB
1976
43
Shaw
9
Curtis Wester
228
G
1973
0
Texas A&M-Commerce
10
Tommy Humphrey
256
C
1973
0
Abilene Christian
11
Carl Barisich
281
DT
1975
41
Princeton
12
Stan Simmons
306
TE
1973
0
Lewis & Clark
13
Jim Romaniszyn
334
LB
1974
28
Edinboro
14
Robert Popelka
359
DB
1973
0
SMU
15
Dave Sullivan
384
WR
1974
7
Virginia
16
George Greenfield
412
RB
1973
0
Murray St.
17
Robert McClowry
437
C
1973
0
Michigan St.

Honorable Mentions

The Cleveland Browns have an unfortunate history of poor drafting, and the following are additional draft classes that didn't produce much talent but fell just outside of the 10 worst in history.

Class of 1968

The Cleveland Browns had one of their best drafts of all-time in 1967, but were unable to repeat the magic in '68. They made a pair of good picks in linebacker John Garlington (No. 47) and running back Reece Morrison (No. 66), but otherwise didn't find much talent. Cleveland's first-round selection, defensive end Marvin Upshaw, was gone after 2 seasons, and 12 of the 20 players drafted never appeared in a game. Among the other five who did make the roster, none lasted more than two seasons in Cleveland.

Class of 2008

Because of several pre-draft trades, the first draft pick for the Cleveland Browns in 2008 didn't come until the fourth round. With that 104th pick, the Browns landed a player that they coveted in linebacker Beau Bell, but he lasted just 5 games in the NFL. That was an error the Browns could ill afford given their lack of picks (only five in the entire draft). Cleveland did find a gem in the sixth round with defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (99 games with the Browns), but the other 4 players were all whiffs.

Class of 1980

The Cleveland Browns drafted a pair of solid NFL players in 1980—they just didn't make their mark in Cleveland. First-round pick, Charles White, had his best seasons after leaving the Browns, and third-round pick, Cliff Odom, would stay in the NFL until 1993 but only played in Cleveland as a rookie. More than half of Cleveland's picks that year played one season or never appeared in an NFL game.

Future Cleveland Browns Draft Classes

For all of the failures featured here, the Cleveland Browns can't be completely discounted. Throughout the franchise's history, there have been numerous draft classes full of talent—including multiple years that the Browns drafted more than one Hall of Famer. As the 2020 NFL Draft approaches, Cleveland is hopeful to find a crop of prospects who can contribute to a rebuilt team that is looking to become a playoff contender sooner than later.

The 2020 draft is scheduled to be held from April 23–25 in Las Vegas. Though there will not be a live crowd due to the Coronavirus, the draft will be televised. Cleveland owns the No. 10 pick, and also has one pick in the second, fourth, sixth, and seventh rounds, and two picks in the third round. In 2021, the 86th annual NFL Draft will be held in Cleveland.

Works Cited

Heaton, C. "'Most Important Draft'—Modell." Cleveland Plain-Dealer. pp. C1. Retrieved from Newsbank via Cleveland Public Library on March 25, 2020.

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