Over the course of the past couple of weeks, the Cleveland Browns have traded not one, but two fairly recent top-10 draft picks for late-round draft picks in exchange. Even the Pittsburgh Steelers happened to get one of them a couple of days back when they forfeited a 2018 sixth-round pick for cornerback Justin Gilbert, the eighth-overall player in the 2014 NFL Draft.
A couple weeks earlier, however, they also gave up on 2013 sixth-overall draft pick, outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo, whom they traded to the Patriots for a fifth-round draft pick. The Browns have invested heavily in the outside linebacker position over the course of the past two drafts, so he may not have made the team anyway.
But the departure of these two former top-10 picks merely speaks to a very worrying trend—for Browns fans anyway—or at least a very poor period of time for previous Browns regimes that they hope is now finally in the past.
Dating back to the 2011 season, through the 2014 season, the Browns had six first-round draft picks, and every single one of them is now gone. Nose tackle Phil Taylor was their first-round draft pick in 2011, and he had a good season or two, but his career was derailed by injuries.
The following year was about as bad as it could possibly get, with two outright first-round busts. Running back Trent Richardson was drafted third-overall, which they traded up one spot to assure. They gave up on him after just one season, although they managed to recoup a first-round pick out of it.
Quarterback Brandon Weeden was taking next at the number 22 slot, where they previously drafted fellow first-round bust quarterback Brady Quinn a decade ago in 2007. But Weeden was not the last, as we’ll see in a bit.
Mingo was their 2013 prize. He had a solid first year, but never developed after that, and he was at very real risk of not making the roster. But 2014 proved about as dreadful as 2012, with Gilbert at eight-overall, and then the disaster of Johnny Manziel, again at the doomed 22nd-overall slot.
All six of them—Taylor, Richardson, Weeden, Mingo, Gilbert, and Manziel—underperformed, some immensely so, and it didn’t take too long for the Browns to cut ties with them. To their credit, they did manage to recoup draft picks in the cases of three of them, though their quarterback failures could not be salvaged, and Taylor was an injury.
The Browns organization is profoundly hoping that they have turned the tide with their terrible drafting at the top of the board. They will be starting all three of their first-round draft picks over the course of the past two years, playing big roles.
Danny Shelton is their starting nose tackle, while Cameron Erving will take over at center for Alex Mack—easily one of their best first-round picks since returning to the league, short of Joe Thomas, of course. 2016 selection Corey Colemon is expected to function as their top wide receiver.