Cleveland Browns: Kamerion Wimbley

In the final in a series of post-1999 draft assessments, we present a starting 22 for the Cleveland Browns from players taken in the draft since the team returned in '99 (which is actually a starting 23 because there were three-four and four-three defenses, which means we have to include two DTs, two DEs and two ILBs).

In some ways, the starting 11 on offense and (12) on defense shows why the Browns have struggled so badly, with one playoff appearance, one playoff game, two winning seasons and 12 double-digit loss seasons in the last 15. The talent level is not exactly overwhelming.

Since 1999, by unofficial count the Browns have drafted eight quarterbacks, 11 running backs, two fullbacks, 17 wide receivers, seven tight ends, five offensive tackles, nine guards, four centers (including a long snapper), seven defensive ends, eight defensive tackles, 16 outside linebackers, six inside linebackers, 19 cornerbacks and 10 safeties.

Here's the starting 11/12 for each side of the ball, with the 2014 draft excluded:


Quarterback: Tim Couch

Also considered: Charlie Frye, Brady Quinn, Colt McCoy, Brandon Weeden, Luke McCown, Spergon Wynn.

I can hear the cackles, but among those drafted Couch had the most wins (22), touchdowns (64), and most yards (11,131). Check the list of other quarterbacks drafted. Find any better than Couch there?

Running back: William Green

Also considered: Lee Suggs, Jerome Harrison

Green edges out the other two, though an argument could be made for any. Not that any of them were sterling. Green lasted four seasons and in the last one that knife jumped out of the box and landed in his back. His 2,109 yards are the most by any drafted Browns back since '99.

FB: Lawrence Vickers

Also considered: Owen Marecic

Vickers was a Romeo Crennel favorite from Day 1 and has gone on to have a solid pro career. We could have done without the fullback option passes, though.

WR: Kevin Johnson, Josh Gordon.

Also considered: Braylon Edwards

Edwards should have dominated this position with his ability, but he could never get out of his own way. Johnson had flaws, but he finished with more receiving yards and games played than Edwards, though Edwards had more TDs (28 to 23). Gordon makes it based on his spectacular 2013 season, and on the fact that the Browns snagged him in the supplemental draft. However, it's become evident why many teams were wary of him.

TE: Jordan Cameron

Also considered: Kellen Winslow

Winslow could have been spectacular if not for his motorcycle accident. As it was he was pretty good, but he ended his time in Cleveland as a headache. Cameron does a lot right, has improved every year and could be on the verge of stardom.

OT: Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz

Also considered: Nobody

Thomas is the only no-brainer on the list. Schwartz should be fine in the long run.

OG: Jason Pinkston, Shawn Lauvao

Also considered: Nobody

Tough position because teams don't draft guards high. Most starters are guys like John Greco or Jim Pyne who work hard and don't say much. Those guys did not come via the draft, though. Pinkston and Lauvao are two who did.

C: Alex Mack

Also considered: Jeff Faine

Mack and Faine are two similar players. Smart, aggressive, tough, able to move. But Faine's career was short-circuited by trade after the Browns signed LeCharles Bentley. Mack's career as a Brown is entering its prime years.


DE: Courtney Brown, Jabaal Sheard

Also considered: Nobody.

How tough is it to find a defensive end who can rush the passer? Ask the Browns. Brown's career was short-circuited by injury, and Sheard is listed as an end because that's where he'll be this season and where he's spent most of his time since he was drafted.

DT: Ahtyba Rubin, Phil Taylor

Also considered: Gerard Warren

Rubin and Taylor are the real deal, unlike Warren, who was a lot of bluster in Cleveland and wouldn't have been with the Browns were it not for the fact that Butch Davis overruled his scouts and chose "Big Money" over Richard Seymour.

OLB: Kamerion Wimbley, Chaun Thompson

Also considered: Rahim Abdullah, Ben Taylor

Like at end, there's not a plethora of overwhelming choices. After Wimbley it's pretty much a roll of the dice. To this day, it's hard to comprehend why the Browns ever traded Wimbley.

ILB: Andra Davis, D'Qwell Jackson

Also considered: Nobody

Two very good players who contributed for several years. Neither were great, but both were good for the team on and off the field.

CB: Daylon McCutcheon, Joe Haden

Also considered: Anthony Henry, Eric Wright

McCutcheon and Haden have contrasting styles, but both were effective. McCutcheon was a small but physical guy who got the job done with smarts and savvy. Haden is bigger, faster and more athletic; he's more of a pure cover corner.

S: T.J. Ward, Brodney Pool

Also considered: Sean Jones, Chris Crocker

Ward is the better of the big hitter types, Pool the better of the rangy guys.

Fans must wonder, 'How much longer?'

December, 3, 2013
Two cups of half-filled beer sat on the ground outside the parking lot after the Cleveland Browns' loss to Jacksonville.

[+] EnlargeCleveland Browns fans
Ken Blaze/USA TODAY SportsIt's difficult to gauge what Browns fans are feeling after 15 seasons filled with false hope and disappointment.
After that loss, after that game, it was a bit surprising nobody had kicked them over. Because there was much for fans to be mad about, so much that encapsulated the way things have gone for this team since 1999.

This is not supposed to be the time of year for anger, but what else can fans feel after these 15 long, long seasons?

Smart people come to Cleveland to run the Browns. They're good people who will help the elderly cross the street. Yet for whatever reason it never works and the smart people leave trying to explain why it didn't. Which of course brings in a new group making old promises in new packaging.

Fans are left over and over asking why. And when.

There's the two winning seasons since 1999. There's the one playoff game, a loss.

There's the way the Browns go through quarterbacks without ever finding one. Injuries happen, but Sunday could be starter number four under center this season and 21 since 1999. In all that time, couldn't the Browns just stumble onto a longterm starter?

There's the way the team sells its product every spring and every training camp, with hope and promise and belief as if Harry Potter has just waved his wand over the previous season's mess and made everything just fine. Yet after gobs of energy and mind-numbing excitement over preseason have ended, it's the same old stuff on the field.

There's the constant change of front office, coach and (most recently) ownership. And every time there's change, there's the new group that undoes what the old group did and sends the team on yet another re-set.

There's the attitude of every front office, whose way is always the best way. Don't believe it? Name the last NFL team to trade two first-round draft picks on the same day the way the Browns did with Brady Quinn and Kamerion Wimbley.

And the way the former front-office types walk away year after year after year with the team's millions.

There's the new owner who promised transparency and excitement and commitment, but whose company is under federal investigation for seriously troubling crimes.

There's the win total. Soccer teams have an easier time scoring goals than the Browns do winning games. Since 1999, the Browns have averaged five wins per season. They haven't won more than five games since 2007.

There's coaching staffs trying to make do with decks that aren't even half full.

There's the constant reliance on drafts that never come through. The Browns have a bunch of picks in the 2014 draft, so that event in Cleveland will be like New Year's Eve in Times Square. And all the picks will become, by virtue of being drafted, "excellent players with great upside." Check back in three years.

Then there's the fans, who keep coming to the games and then have to wander in a daze around and around and around the exit ramps after depressing loss after depressing loss.

These fans are so starved for good football they were ready to send fireworks from the backyard because the Browns won a game over Baltimore and were one game below .500 at the bye.

How is that even possible?

They buy tickets. They spend their life savings on a beer and a hot dog. And they get dreck like they got against Jacksonville. The frustration list could go on and on, with story after story. You wonder when fans will pull a Howard Beale and say they're just not gonna take it anymore.

Yet Sunday there stood those cups, the remnant of pregame hopes placed gently on the ground.

Guess everyone figured the Browns had already made enough of a mess of things.