Fantasy (re)draft: Reforming the Cleveland Browns

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

We know what's said about hindsight, but could two of the NFL Draft's most noticeable figures have done better at forming the Cleveland Browns?

It takes three years to evaluate a draft class. That's the old adage that has dominated draft thinking for several years. It's a formula that ensures hasty judgment isn't applied and a player is given time to develop. We are now four drafts removed from 2010, and we're taking a look at the mock drafts of Mel Kiper and Todd McShay of ESPN to see if the Browns would have been better off taking their approach.

This process is complicated by teams ignoring needs. These play into every mock draft process, and a team that ignores a key need one year will likely address it the next. Patterns emerge however, and that's what we're looking at in reforming one of the league's cellar dwellers.

2010

Player Position School
Mel Kiper Derrick Morgan DE Georgia Tech
Todd McShay Derrick Morgan DE Georgia Tech
Cleveland Browns Joe Haden CB Florida

The first pick is easy to evaluate because Derrick Morgan has been mediocre in the NFL. 2010 was littered with good players in the first round. A grand total of 16 first-round picks became Pro Bowl players, but Morgan wasn't one of them.

Morgan was taken by the Tennessee Titans with the 16th overall pick and did nothing in his first two years. He's come on recently, posting 12.5 sacks over the last two seasons -- but that's not enough to justify suggesting him to Cleveland over Haden.

Haden is often overlooked when it comes to end-of-season awards, but the Browns cornerback made his first Pro Bowl in 2013 and was named a second-team All-Pro. There is little argument that he's one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL and a franchise cornerstone at the position.

Winner: Cleveland Browns

2011

Player Position School
Mel Kiper Julio Jones WR Alabama
Todd McShay Julio Jones WR Alabama
Cleveland Browns Phil Taylor DT Baylor

The Browns executed a big-time trade, and ended up with a big-time whiff. It's not that Phil Taylor is bad -- he's an upper-tier nose tackle -- but in allowing Atlanta to move up, they missed out on a score of playmakers.

Jones is a legitimate 1,000-yard receiver and a threat every time he has the ball in his hands. Injuries sidelined him in 2013, but it's unquestionable that a Pro Bowl receiver would have better suited the Browns than a competent nose tackle.

It's a question of whether Jones making Cleveland an elite offense is worth compromising having a middling defense. The answer should be "yes," and the Browns are lucky to have found another option in Josh Gordon when they used a supplemental pick on him in 2012.

Winner: Mel Kiper and Todd McShay

2012

Player Position School
Mel Kiper Justin Blackmon WR Oklahoma State
Todd McShay Trent Richardson RB Alabama
Cleveland Browns Trent Richardson/ Brandon Weeden RB/ QB Alabama/ Oklahoma State

Let's just forget this year, for all concerned.

Trent Richardson was an unmitigated disaster for the Browns, but thankfully they found a sucker in Indianapolis to bail them out. He was highly touted, looked like a can't-miss running back but he's completely lost in the NFL and hasn't shown any of the burst he had at Alabama.

Kiper went in a different direction, continuing to preach that Cleveland needed a wide receiver. Justin Blackmon has shown flashes, but they've been buried under suspension and missteps. He wouldn't make the Browns better, unless he has a turnaround in 2014.

Selecting a quarterback at the back end of the first round is a risky prospect and Brandon Weeden has been nightmarish. He'll forever be remembered for being taken early when Seattle landed Russell Wilson, and for that reason alone it was another whiff.

The Browns had two first-round picks, and they screwed up both of them.

Winner: Nobody wins this, nobody.

2013

Player Position School
Mel Kiper Dee Milliner CB Alabama
Todd McShay Tyler Eifert TE Notre Dame
Cleveland Browns Barkevious Mingo OLB/DE LSU

Remember what we said about it being too early to judge a draft class? Well, this is where that comes into play. It would be a cop-out to leave this incomplete, so let's see how they stack up.

Dee Milliner was tasked with taking over for All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis and largely struggled in 2013. At times he looked lost in coverage and the developmental process is taking longer than expected. Kiper's rationale was that getting another corner to pair with Haden would put the Browns over the top, but the defense proved it needs far more than that.

The Cincinnati Bengals landed a competent tight end in Tyler Eifert, but he doesn't look fully comfortable in the NFL yet. There's a lot of room for growth if he gets more targets in 2014. Pair this with the emergence of Jordan Cameron and it's impossible to recommend Eifert over the other options.

Barkevious Mingo was used in a rotational role in 2013 and he played well. He finished with 5.0 sacks in 15 games, and with a little extra weight he could become a vital part of the defense. There's a lot to like about his game and if he puts it all together, he has a chance to be better than the other two players at their peak.

Winner: Cleveland Browns

Final result

If you're evaluating this box score-style, then it seems like the Browns win. They made the correct pick in two of the four occasions, while Kiper and McShay went 1-3.

Giving the Browns a trophy is cute and unnecessary. They missed so badly in 2012 that the team is still trying to recover. Yes, other options missed also -- but at best it's rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Kiper tried to give the Browns a solid secondary and passing offense, McShay wanted to overwhelm on offense with a variety of weapons and Cleveland split the middle of offense and defense, doing neither very well.

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