Browns' top draftees since 1999, Nos. 1-5

June, 27, 2014
Jun 27
9:00
AM ET
Continuing the theme of draft rundowns, today we count down the top five Cleveland Browns draft picks since 1999 -- with the top five appearing today. (Nos. six through 11 were here.) On Monday, we'll come up with a starting 11 from the team's draft selections since 1999.

There is one rule in this list: The 2014 draft is excluded, because as exciting as it was, at this point it's all based on potential. This list is based on production, and the emphasis is on consistent and dependable production.

NUMBER 5
Player: Jordan Cameron
Position: Tight end
When: Fouth round, 2011
By: Tom Heckert
Alford
Cameron
Cameron was a project who caught people's eye at the combine, which he has candidly admitted has nothing to do with football. He said he's glad it didn't, because he'd played so little tight end at college and the combine workouts gave him a chance to show his ability. The Browns were patient with him, though before his second season then-president Mike Holmgren stood on the sidelines during a practice and picked Cameron as the guy who would emerge from nowhere. The emergence came a year later, as Cameron made the Pro Bowl in his third season. That should be just the start for a guy who can give the team a legitimate receiving threat in the middle of the field for as long as he's a Brown.

NUMBER 4
Player: Ahtyba Rubin
Position: Defensive tackle
When: Sixth round, 2008
By: Phil Savage
The '08 draft was the year the Browns did not have picks in the first, second or third rounds. That meant Beau Bell was the most celebrated fourth-round pick in NFL history. Bell didn't work out, but Rubin, taken two rounds later, did. Rubin has been a dependable professional who's improved with each season he's played. The "high motor" phrase has become a caricature, but Rubin plays every down he's on the field all out. He runs down backs 10-to-15 yards down the field, and he's strong at the line. He gives all he has, causes no trouble and contributes. Given he was taken so low, this might be the Browns best value pick since the team returned in 1999.

NUMBER 3
Player: Alex Mack
Position: Center
When: First round, 2009
By: Eric Mangini
Mack
Mack's selection was greeted with derision after the Browns traded down twice to take a center. But in the long run he has had the last laugh. Mack used the transition status to his benefit after going to the Pro Bowl, and he'll now be tied to the Browns at least through the next two years. He's above the average center's pay scale, which is significant. But he's one of the guys who earns his keep. He's smart -- he is a Cal guy -- and can move. Joe Thomas called him the best he's ever seen at reading defenses presnap. When linemen who fit the zone blocking scheme are mentioned, Thomas tops the list -- but Mack is not far behind. In the long run, Mangini's choice has proven to be a strong presence in the middle of the offense.

NUMBER 2
Player: Joe Haden
Position: Cornerback
When: First round, 2010
By: Tom Heckert and Eric Mangini
Haden's growth has been a marvel. He has gone from a guy who was suspended for four games to a guy who made the Pro Bowl, studied with Deion Sanders and was rewarded with the richest contract for a cornerback in the league. GM Ray Farmer talked about how a few days later after signing the new deal Haden was diving for interceptions during an offseason practice. Teams never know how a guy reacts to being paid, but the team believes in Haden. And it believes his strong 2013 season is just the first step in his growth.

NUMBER 1
Player: Joe Thomas
Position: Left tackle
When: First round, 2007
By: Phil Savage
Thomas
Rarely does a player turn out to be everything he was slated to be. Thomas has been just that, and more. Thomas has been to the Pro Bowl every season he's played, and he has not missed a down since he was drafted. Dependable, capable, plays through difficult situations, never complains -- Thomas is the ultimate professional and the Browns' surest bet to be the team's next inductee in Canton. Thomas not only ranks as one of the best draft picks since 1999, but one of the best draft picks in Browns history.

Pat McManamon

ESPN Cleveland Browns reporter

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