The AFC North has been a two-team race for the vast majority of its history. The Pittsburgh Steelers have won the division in nine out of the 19 seasons that have been played since its formation in 2002, while the Baltimore Ravens won six times.
The Cincinnati Bengals had a brief period of relevance following the 2011 NFL Draft that brought them Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, but even during a five-year stretch of postseason appearances, they only played in the tournament as a division-winner twice. They have won the AFC North four times overall.
The Cleveland Browns have never won it, however, their unique ineptitude standing head and shoulders above all contenders. At least the Bengals won the division four times, with seven playoff appearances.
Given the imbalances reflected in the above, it’s no surprise to see the Browns and Bengals well-represented on a recent list compiled by Pro Football Focus that seeks to highlight the worst selection in each draft slot of the first round since they began coverage in 2006, which encompasses most of the division’s history.
Of the 32 first-round slots, the Browns represent the worst pick of the past 15 years in four of them, the most of any team in the NFL. The highest is the third overall pick, which they held after trading up in 2012 in order to draft Alabama running back Trent Richardson, whom they would trade the next season (though to their credit, they got a first-round pick out of it from the Indianapolis Colts).
They have another top-10 failure in their history, this with a Steelers tie, in 2014 eighth-overall cornerback Justin Gilbert. He quickly flamed out, but Pittsburgh was among the teams high on him. They acquired him in 2016 for a sixth-round pick, and he did play over 100 special teams snaps that season, his last in the league, plus 11 on defense.
The worst 15th overall pick of the PFF era also belongs to Cleveland in the form of wide receiver Corey Coleman, which is interesting in its ties to that year’s draft class. The Browns entered the process with the second-overall pick, which would eventually be used on quarterback Carson Wentz.
They would trade back not once, but twice, to harvest a series of draft picks that would ultimately offer relatively little in reward. As for Coleman, he would only last three seasons in the league, with just two in Cleveland.
And you know a quarterback had to be on here. Johnny Manziel gets the nod as the worst 22nd overall pick from 2014. But the reality is that the Browns, remarkably, may be their own strongest competition. They drafted two other failed quarterbacks in the exact same draft slot in Brady Quinn (2007) and Brandon Weeden (2012).
It’s no wonder the Browns hadn’t had a non-losing record since 2007 prior to last season, their last playoff appearance having been the first year of the AFC North in 2002—four years before PFF started covering football.