For the fourth time, the Cleveland Browns hold the number one pick in the NFL Draft. When you think about how much the Browns have struggled since 1999, you’d think that number would be higher.
1954, 1999 and 2000 were the other three times they had the opportunity to select in their opinion was the best player coming out of college to lead their franchise.
Now up until the draft, I will go back and look at the history of the picks the Browns currently hold in the 2017 NFL Draft if they picked in that slot before and see how those players panned out.
1954-QB Bobby Garrett, Stanford
Garrett was an All-American quarterback at Stanford and also played defensive back. The Browns were looking for Otto Graham’s successor and thought Garrett could be that guy when they took him with the first pick in the 1954 NFL Draft.
However once he arrived in Cleveland, head coach Paul Brown found out Garrett stuttered which isn’t good for a quarterback because you need to able to call plays out to the rest of the offense.
The Browns traded Garrett to the Green Bay Packers before he even played in an NFL game. Garrett went on to play just nine games in the NFL.
15 of 30 passing (50%)
143 passing yards
-3 rushing yards
1999-QB Tim Couch, Kentucky
The Cleveland Browns returned in 1999 as an expansion team. Owner Al Lerner, President Carmen Policy, general manager Dwight Clark and head coach Chris Palmer were leading the new franchise and trying to get it back to the glory days of Cleveland football.
Being an expansion team they got the first overall pick in the 1999 draft. It was a class headlined by top quarterbacks Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb and Akili Smith as well as running back Ricky Williams.
Cleveland took Couch with the first overall pick, signing him to a seven year contract worth a maximum of $48 million dollars. The Browns had selected Ty Detmer in the expansion draft with the hope that he would start until Couch was ready.
Couch ended up getting in at the end of the season opener and went on to start 14 games his rookie year. He completed just 56% of his passes for 2,447 yards, 15 touchdowns and 13 interceptions as the team went 2-14 on the year.
The 2000 season saw Couch’s completion percentage jump to 64% but his season got cut short to just nine games due to a broken thumb.
The 2001 season saw not only Tim’s best season in terms of yards but the team was on the right track. Couch threw for 3,040 yards along with 17 touchdowns and 21 interceptions and the Browns went 7-9 and had it not been for a controversial call against Jacksonville, the Browns would’ve went to the playoffs.
The 2002 season was Couch’s best as a pro QB. He completed 62% of his passes for 2,842 yards, 18 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. He went 8-6 as a starter as well. He suffered a broken leg in Week 17 against Atlanta. Backup Kelly Holcomb came in and propelled the Browns to a win and their first playoff berth since 1994. Cleveland eventually lost to Pittsburgh in the wild card game a week later.
Head coach Butch Davis decided to have a quarterback competition in training camp the next season. Holcomb was named the starter but Couch ended up starting eight games. He completed 59% for 1,319 yards, 7 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.
Couch was released following the season. He spent time with Green Bay and Jacksonville before retiring in 2007 after years of shoulder problems.
Many would call Couch a bust but if you look at what was around him during his time in Cleveland, you’d understand why he didn’t work out. He was beaten into the ground with a poor offensive line protecting him, leading to multiple injuries.
When he played though, you could see the tools he had to be a franchise quarterback in the NFL.
62 games played (59 starts)
22-37 record as starter
1025 of 1714 passing (59.8%)
11,131 passing yards
2000-DE Courtney Brown, Penn State
1999 Consensus All American
Two time First-team Big Ten
1999 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year
6’4, 271 pounds, 4.52 forty yard dash
33 sacks, 70 tackles for a loss
Courtney Brown was the no brainer for the Browns with the first overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. Guy had the measurable that were off the charts for a defensive end as well as the production to back it up.
His rookie season was productive but could’ve been better with 69 tackles and 4.5 sacks.
His second season was limited to five games due to injury but he managed to get 21 tackles, 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries (one for a touchdown) so Browns fans had hope for the future.
He missed 14 games over the next three seasons and never showed much more promise. The 2003 season was his best in terms of sacks with 6 and he also had four forced fumbles.
Cleveland released Brown after the 2004 season and he went to Denver for one season and hasn’t played football since.
61 games played (60 starts)
184 total tackles
6 forced fumbles
8 fumble recoveries