Browns Looking To End Run On First-Round Busts

Over the course of the five draft classes that preceded the first for new Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson, the franchise added nine players in the first round in that span. Discounting the two first-rounders that they added in 2015, whose careers are still too young to divine much of anything about their futures, things are not looking particularly good.

From that group of seven first-rounders drafted from 2010 to 2014, four of them are not even with the team any longer. Since the drafting of cornerback Joe Haden in 2010, who has gone to the Pro Bowl, but lately has struggled with concussions and is coming off of ankle surgery that may delay his 2016 debut, only two remain.

Nose tackle Phil Taylor, drafted in 2011, is no longer with the team. His career, too, was marked by injuries, but that may not have been the only cause for his departure. Running back Trent Richardson, once drafted third overall, is currently unlikely to make the Ravens’ roster, although they did get a first-round pick for him. Quarterback Brandon Weeden is struggling to solidify a backup role for himself.

Another quarterback, Johnny Manziel, quickly turned into a nightmare, finding himself released within two years, and his father wonders if he will end up dead in a gutter somewhere unless he chooses to get help for his substance abuses. On the football field, he offered very little.

The two first-rounders in between are nothing to write home about, either. Barkevious Mingo, an athletic outside linebacker taken in 2013, and Justin Gilbert, an athletic cornerback taken in 2014, could both find themselves on the roster bubble this year.

Mingo was able to use his athleticism to muster up five sacks as a rookie, but once linemen learned his one pass-rush move, he has been unable to be effective. He had no sacks last year as his playing time dwindled and he spent much of his time in coverage. He was told to put on weight this offseason.

Gilbert, meanwhile, has been such a struggle that rookie undrafted free agents have seen playing time ahead of him on defense. If the coaching staff under Jackson and the latest regime manages to salvage him and turn him into a defensive contributor at any level, it might be regarded as a nice surprise, a bonus for the team.

The parting gifts of the latest regime, meanwhile, both figure to start, though that is largely due to a lack of alternatives. After losing Pro Bowl center Alex Mack in free agency, 2015 first-round pick Cameron Erving really has no choice but to start. Danny Shelton is also set to start at nose tackle. The former needs to put on weight, the latter needs to drop it.

Considering this recent history lesson, it might not be a surprise that the Browns played it conservatively in the first round this year, trading back from the second-overall pick to the middle of the round, taking a seeming sure thing in wide receiver Corey Coleman. With a first-round track record such as this, it’s almost understandable how many times the staff has been turned over.

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