Cleveland, Cleveland, Cleveland. You’ve been down, you’ve been out, and frankly, we’ve been slow to blame you as much as we could have. Sure, we poke fun at you, but we recognize that you aren’t the biggest market, nor are you the most enticing free agent destination. There isn’t exactly a mystique surrounding the Cleveland Browns organization; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Perhaps the word I’m looking for here is ‘stench.’
All kidding aside, Cleveland does appear to be a franchise on a legitimate upswing, with the return of Josh Gordon, the offseason trades for wide receiver Jarvis Landry and QB Tyrod Taylor, and their possession of the first and fourth-overall picks in the 2018 draft. Of course, Cleveland’s been here before. They’ve drafted some big names that they hoped would them over the top. But who was the biggest let down in Cleveland Browns draft history?
Johnny Manziel (QB):
While Manziel only went 22nd overall in the 2014 NFL draft, many would argue that he was the most hotly anticipated prospect entering the NFL that season. As it would turn out, Cleveland’s first round in that draft would end up as one of the least successful in league history.
In fact, some would argue that Cleveland’s earlier pick in that round — taking cornerback Justin Gilbert at 8th overall — was an even more significant bust, given how sure his talent seemed coming out Oklahoma State, and given the fact that Odell Beckham Jr. and Aaron Donald were both selected after him. Manziel, however, was nearly a two-time Heisman winner and will continue to go down as one of the most exciting players in recent college football history. His biggest issues were attitudinal, as his drinking and partying lost him a fairly open competition for starter. As it stands, neither Manziel or Gilbert are in the league.
Barkevious Mingo (OLB):
Barkevious Mingo was expected to be an immediate impact rusher when the Browns took him sixth overall out of LSU in the 2013 draft. Instead, he racked up a measly 7 sacks in 30 games with Cleveland. While his rookie season was promising, as he posted 5 sacks in only three starts, Mingo would go on to flat-out lose his starting opportunities by 2015, a year in which he posted zero sacks. Seven picks after Mingo, the Jets would go on to pick eventual Rookie of the Year in defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.
Trent Richardson (RB):
In a tight competition for horrible first rounds in NFL draft history is another Cleveland submission, this time from the 2012 draft in which Richardson, a star at Alabama under Nick Saban, was drafted third overall — ahead of Dontari Poe, Luke Keuchly, and Fletcher Cox. Richardson, in case the premise of this list wasn’t clear, would go on to have one of the least efficient, prolific, impressive, effective, etc. running careers in recent history. Oh yeah, and then the Browns went and picked a 30-year-old Brandon Weeden.
After scoring 11 touchdowns and barely missing 1,000 years as a rookie, he was traded to the Colts for a first-round pick in September of his second season. From there, he would struggle, both with injuries and effectiveness and end up out of the league by 2015. He is currently signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League, where he averaged 5.4 yards per carry in 48 carries last season.
Courtney Brown (DE):
The 2000 NFL draft was, by almost all quantifiable measurements, a pretty unimpressive one. Yes, it contained two future Hall of Famers (Tom Brady and Sebastian Janikowski) and one current one (Brian Urlacher), but as a whole, it featured relatively few Pro Bowlers and only a dozen or so names worth remembering nearly two decades later.
Courtney Brown, the first-overall pick in that draft out of Penn State, was not one of them. While his rookie season with the Browns was productive and healthy, it would be the only such season for Brown, as he’d never again approach his tackle total of 69, and would finish with just 19 sacks in a shortened, five-year career.
Tim Couch (QB):
Maybe you saw this coming. You definitely did. In the eyes of most NFL fans, Tim Couch is the definition of a draft bust. He just checks all the boxes.
Really good in college? Check.
Really not great in the NFL? Check.
Taken before much better quarterbacks in Donovan McNabb and Daunte Culpepper? Check.
While Couch had a good arm and just about zero talent around him on that expansion Brown’s team, he never showed that he could do enough to be a household name. He threw a couple of Hail Mary’s and even led the Browns to their last winning season, but by the end of his career, he was just another bust getting booed off the field during training camp. At least he can tell himself he’s not Akili Smith.