The Cleveland Browns drafted 25 players in the first three rounds of the last five NFL drafts. Ten of those selections were first-rounders, including five in the last two years alone (three of which were top-five selections and two of which were No. 1 overall picks).
The Browns have deliberately hijacked the draft as part of a strategic approach that essentially has them admitting that they aren’t smarter than the competition, and thus the best way to “win” is to simply have more rolls of the dice than everyone else in the crapshoot that is the draft.
But that experiment is complete now. The Browns don’t have any extra first- or second-round picks in next year’s draft, and the roster has begun to swell with talented young players who deserve time to prove themselves. They don’t have room for another dozen-player draft class, especially now that they’ve finally decided to start participating in free agency.
In the last two offseasons, the Browns have brought in key veterans Jarvis Landry, Tyrod Taylor, Carlos Hyde, Kevin Zeitler, JC Tretter, Chris Hubbard, Jamie Collins, Damarious Randall, T.J. Carrie, E.J. Gaines and Terrance Mitchell to complement recent first-round picks Myles Garrett, Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward, Corey Coleman, Jabrill Peppers and David Njoku, as well as high-potential Day 2 selections Emmanuel Ogbah, Austin Corbett, Nick Chubb, Larry Ogunjobi, Carl Nassib, Shon Coleman, Duke Johnson, Joel Bitonio, Nate Orchard and Christian Kirksey.
There’s more than half of your 53-man roster.
So the rebuild is complete. Taylor will eventually give way to Mayfield under center, Hyde will work with Chubb in the backfield, Landry will team up with Corey Coleman, Josh Gordon and Njoku in the pass-catching corps and the offensive line looks relatively set with Corbett having a chance to push Shon Coleman for the left tackle spot vacated by the retired Joe Thomas and Hubbard, Zeitler, Tretter and Bitonio playing the other four starting spots.
On the defensive side of the ball, Cleveland will look to Garrett and Ogbah to create most of the pressure up front, with Collins, Kirksey and Ogunjobi playing key roles in the front seven. Peppers and Ward highlight the secondary, with Randall, Carrie, Gaines, Mitchell, Jamar Taylor and Briean Boddy-Calhoun bringing the experience.
The Browns’ roster remains the youngest in the league by a wide margin, but for the first time in years it appears all of the pieces are in place.
Now we wait to see if it all comes together and the bold strategy pays off, Cotton. Otherwise, the Browns will find themselves rebuilding again and that high-quantity draft approach won’t likely catch on.