- Pat McManamon, ESPN Staff Writer
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Continuing the theme of draft rundowns, the next two days we will count down the Cleveland Browns' top draft picks since 1999 -- with Nos. 10 through 6 appearing today and the top five tomorrow (and a bonus Honorable Mention today!). On Monday, we will 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.
The toughest question to answer: Does one include Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards as top draft picks even though their careers flamed out quickly in Cleveland? Both had exceptional seasons, but in the long-term were they productive and dependable when they only played a short time with the Browns?
Here is one list, starting with ...
Player: Ryan Pontbriand
Position: Long snapper
When: Fifth round, 2003
By: Butch Davis
A lot of people chuckled when Davis made a long snapper the fifth-round pick in 2003. Including Pontbriand. And me. I can still hear Pontbriand talking in disbelief that he was even drafted. “I’m only a long snapper,” he said, “and I must be pretty good at it.” Then he laughed. But until a couple years ago, Pontbriand was as dependable a player as the Browns had on the team. When he was released in 2011, placekicker Phil Dawson said he had witnessed perfection for the previous eight seasons.
Player: Daylon McCutcheon
When: Third round, 1999
By: Dwight Clark and Chris Palmer
Smart, steady, dependable -- and also the first owner of the “teeny tiny break” (more later), McCutcheon was a very good Cleveland Brown for seven years. He started 96 of 103 games, and always played bigger than his 5-foot-10 size (Radio analyst Doug Dieken immediately dubbed him “McMunchkin.”) McCutcheon was honest, a good teammate and dedicated to winning. That it didn’t happen a lot in his tenure was not because of his failing. As for the teeny tiny break ... many Browns fans remember that happened with quarterback Kelly Holcomb and the “teeny tiny break of a non-weight bearing bone” in his leg, after which Davis said Holcomb might play the following week. The original “teeny tiny” break, though, belonged to McCutcheon. Davis said the corner had a “teeny tiny” break of his thumb. When the media saw McCutcheon in the locker room a few minutes later, he had a a cast the size of Gibraltar after having six screws and a plate surgically placed in the thumb.
Player: Josh Gordon
Position: Wide receiver
When: Second round, supplemental draft, 2012
By: Tom Heckert and Pat Shurmur
Were it not for Gordon’s looming suspension, he would be ranked as high as second. The guy is that talented, and his breakout season in 2013 seemed to bode well for the future. He still could have a bright future for the Browns even with a suspension -- provided the Browns stand by him. He is still young enough to come back from a missed season -- if he proves trustworthy. Gordon should go down as one of the all-time greats at receiver, and a draft steal. But there are these off-the-field issues. His selection was much questioned, and the suspension shows why. But on talent alone, the risk proved to be worthwhile.
Player: Andra Davis
Position: Middle linebacker
When: Second round, 2002
By: Butch Davis
Dependable, steady, team-oriented, humble ... Andra Davis gave the Browns seven very good years, and in one was voted the team’s Player of the Year by the local Pro Football Writers. While guys like Edwards and Winslow had flashier seasons, Davis had a more consistent and dependable Cleveland career. He might not have had the impact of a Brian Urlacher, but he was a good player in different systems.
NUMBER 7 (tie)
When: First and second round, 2011
By: Tom Heckert
For whatever reason, these two guys seem to be a tandem. Both have been strong contributors to the Browns for four seasons and both seem to want to be with the Browns for the long-term. Sheard could be on the verge of stardom in the new defensive system, and Taylor is a run-plugging defensive tackle who can be dominant. As the foundation of the future defense with Joe Haden, they deserve mention.
Player: D'Qwell Jackson
When: Second round, 2006
By: Phil Savage
The logical choice for a team that needed a middle linebacker was Jackson, the best player on the board, from Maryland. The Browns wound up with a quality player and person. Jackson played seven years for the Browns, overcame injury and contributed every season he was healthy. His only flaw was being too nice on the field when it came to teammates’ mistakes, but in the aggregate he was a big plus for the team for many years.
Tomorrow: The top five