Usually, it’s a good thing to give it three years after a draft, to see what you really have. Sometimes it could take less time, other times players may be late bloomers. But, majority of the time you will know what your team has from that draft within that three year window.
The Cleveland Browns have had their fair share of missed picks in the last 10 years. This can happen for a multitude of reasons. If a different regimen takes over, it could sign off on past players for the sole purpose they were not their guys. It sucks, but, that’s the reality of a business like the NFL, or any professional sport at that.
Here at Browns Digest I wanted to highlight some different drafts that Cleveland could do over. You will find out that the Browns actually did have some solid picks that worked over a span of time. On the other hand, you will find some not so lucky draft picks made by the team in orange and brown.
Round 1, pick 8
Actual pick: Justin Gilbert
New pick: Aaron Donald
The Justin Gilbert pick was dead from the start in Cleveland, questionable as any pick you’ll see. Gilbert spent two years in Cleveland, before heading to the Steelers, where he would never sniff the field. With 23 games in a Browns uniform, Gilbert started just three games. A single interception in his NFL career, which resulted in a touchdown. That play had fans excited, but they’d never really see much more.
Aaron Donald was still on the board when Cleveland made their draft selection. The best defensive player in football over the last few years would have been an instant impact for Cleveland. Possibly over the long haul, at that. Racking up 72 sacks in six years from the defensive tackle position, that isn’t mentioning the run stopper that he is. Cleveland isn’t the only team to bypass the future hall of fame lineman but, it’s still crazy to think “what if”.
Round 1, pick 22
Actual pick: Johnny Manziel
New pick: Derek Carr
Everyone knows what went wrong here and it was to fault of Manziel himself. Not being able to draw a very distinct line between the partying life and your job will ruin things every single time and that’s exactly what it did. Cleveland probably gave him more chances than it should have. The Browns probably gave him more chances than what was reasonable, considering the known past that the former Heisman winner carried. Starting eight games in Cleveland, mainly because of the pressure to play him right way, this pick was a failure all around.
Cleveland could have went with the quarterback who made a lot more sense to draft. In fact, they could have waited to grab him as well. Having consistency at the quarterback position is huge and that’s what Derek Carr brings to the table. Former Fresno State standout, Carr has missed just two games in his six year NFL career. He doesn’t turn the ball over a ton, accurate and can win football games. At the time, this is what Cleveland could have dreamed for.
Round 2, pick 35
Actual pick: Joel Bitonio
Staying with this pick.
The first pick that Cleveland hit on in the 2014 draft was the offensive lineman out of Nevada. At the time it wasn’t an eye popping pick but, it surely did work out. A two-time pro bowler and a stud at left guard, Bitonio has been everything that Cleveland could ask for on the offensive front. An interesting stat that sticks out is that Bitonio has just one holding penalty in the last four years. Signed under contract through 2022, Browns have a steal at left guard, paying him just nine million a season.
Round 3, pick 71
Actual pick: Christian Kirksey
Staying with this pick
A recent departure in free agency, it was just time for the Browns and Christian Kirksey to go separate ways. But, the third round pick did well in his time with Cleveland — when he was able to stay healthy. 2016, Kirksey’s best year, when he probably should have been a pro bowler, he racked up 148 combined tackles. After starting every game in 2016 and 2017, the injury bug hit. Over the next two years the former Iowa linebacker would miss a total of 23 games, as we all know it’s hard to perform when you’re on the sideline. The Browns linebacker plans seemed to head another way, as did Kirksey, signing a two-year, 16 million dollar contract with the Green Bay Packers. Looks to be a good landing spot for a former fan favorite while in Northeast Ohio.
Round 3, pick 94
Actual pick: Terrance West
New pick: Devonta Freeman
Terrance West wasn’t the best of picks for Cleveland, when there was better backs on the board, such as Devonta Freeman. West spent just one full season in Cleveland before heading to Tennessee to spend just another season. Back to the AFC North he went, playing in Baltimore for three years. Seemed to potentially find himself in 2016 where he started 13 games for the Ravens and averaged four yards a carry. Nothing would make of it and he’d be out of the league at 26 years old in 2017.
On the other hand, Freeman put together two seasons of at least a thousand yards in his first three years. Cleveland certainly would have had better production from him, even if they didn’t resign him after his rookie contract.
Round 4, Pick 127
Actual pick: Pierre Desir
Staying with this pick.
In round four, their last pick of the draft, Cleveland selected Pierre Desir. At the time I was a big fan of this pick, but it just never worked out in Cleveland. I believe with better coaching and putting him a better place to succeed, Desir could have worked out in orange and brown. A late bloomer for his career however, finding himself in his fourth season. Starting every game in which he’s been healthy over the past couple years in Indianapolis, Desir has been a pretty good defensive back for them. Desir signed a one-year deal with the New York Jets, a deal that could make him some money if he can stay healthy.