This list includes some of the best players in the NFL today. That is because the Browns consistently have a top-10 draft pick, and a lot of times much higher (except for 2011 when they had the 21st draft pick and 2016 when they had the 15th pick). The Browns are always so bad that their draft spot is always so good. That means a lot of talented guys are on the board, but the Browns always seem to pick the wrong player.
This list will sting a bit for Cleveland fans. There’s a lot of really talented players that the Browns have passed up, but these rankings include the top 15 missed opportunities for Cleveland. The crazy part is that all of these guys have a chance to play in the NFL for many years to come and they have a chance to put together Hall of Fame worthy careers. At the pace they’re currently producing, most of these guys would be a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Regardless of what the following list of stars do in the rest of their careers, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the Browns would have been better off if they had gone a different route with their draft pick. Cleveland has a long list (that seems to be growing) of failed draft choices. Maybe this upcoming year will change things for Cleveland, but for now we take a look back at the top 15 players that the Browns could have drafted.
15 DAK PRESCOTT (2016)
Originally Drafted: #135 By Dallas Cowboys
It has only been one year since Dak Prescott was drafted, but that year has been amazing for the young star. Prescott started all 16 games, went 13-3 in the regular season and was selected to the Pro Bowl. Even more amazing was his stats. Prescott completed 67.8 percent of his passes for 3,667 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Still not convinced? Well he only threw four interceptions. For a rookie quarterback, that’s insane. Although he couldn’t push his team past the first round of the playoffs, making the playoffs was enough of an accomplishment for the rookie that took over the starting gig in Dallas. It looks like the Cowboys stole Prescott with their third round pick in 2016 and the only reason Prescott leads off this list is that he doesn’t have the multiple seasons of success that the rest of the guys on this list have accumulated.
14 LE’VEON BELL (2013)
Originally Drafted: #48 By Pittsburgh Steelers
Le’Veon Bell might be one of the most talented guys in the NFL, but he just can’t stay active long enough to truly be named one of the league’s best. Bell played and started the entire 2014 season. During that season he was a Pro Bowl selection and was a first-team All-Pro selection. He also made the Pro Bowl last season despite only playing 12 games.
Bell is unlike any other running back when he carries the ball. He looks like he’s moving in slow motion as he surveys the defense, then explodes through tight openings to make some solid gains out of plays that looked like they were going to fail. And he’s a good receiver too. In the 2014 and 2016, he had about 80 receptions each year. But he was suspended for four games each of the last two seasons and in 2015 he was injured and only saw six games of action. More time on the field would drastically improve Bell’s ranking.
13 DEZ BRYANT (2010)
Originally Drafted: #24 By Dallas Cowboys
One knock against Dez Bryant is that he has missed some time and only has three seasons where he’s played in every game. But he’s still started in 83 games over the course of his seven-season career. And Bryant has proven to be a star. He’s been selected to three Pro Bowls (2013, 2014 and 2016) and led the league in touchdowns in 2014 with 16.
Back in 2014, Bryant capped off his third-straight year of recording more than 1,200 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. But the past two seasons are keeping Bryant from getting any higher on this list. His catch percentage has plummeted to 43 percent in 2015 and 52 percent in 2016, and he has played in just 22 games over the last two seasons.
12 KAM CHANCELLOR (2010)
Originally Drafted: #133 By Seattle Seahawks
Kam Chancellor has been an absolute force on the Seahawks defense and he’s one of the reasons they’re so reliable. Chancellor had a rough rookie season as he did not start any games during his rookie season and saw limited time on the field (he recorded just 10 tackles that season). But everything changed in 2011.
Following his 2011 season, Chancellor was selected to his first of four Pro Bowls. During that year he recorded four interceptions, two forced fumbles and 73 tackles. Since then, he has started nearly every game, however, the last two seasons he has missed a total of nine regular season contests. But his production has remained consistent, so, as long as it doesn’t decline any more, he’ll remain on this list for years to come.
11 T.Y. HILTON (2012)
Originally Drafted: #92 By Indianapolis Colts
There’s not many negative things you can find about T.Y. Hilton. The worst stat he’s put up since entering the league is 861 receiving yards during his rookie season and that was the only year he hasn’t been selected to the Pro Bowl.
Hilton has been active in all but two games during his career and has posted more than 1,000 receiving yards in his past four seasons. Last season he led the league with 1,448 reception yards. The one downside to Hilton’s gameplay is that he’s not much of a scorer. He averages six touchdowns a season and has never had more than seven touchdown receptions. He’s reliable, consistent and gets a ton of receptions. But if Hilton would score more, he’d be much higher up on this list.
10 DEREK CARR (2014)
Originally Drafted: #36 By Oakland Raiders
Derek Carr has transformed the Raiders since he started in the NFL back in 2014. The Raiders went from one of the worst teams in the league, to one of the best teams. Sure, there were some growing pains. In Carr’s first season the Raiders finished with a 3-13 record. But Carr still threw for 3,270 yards and 21 touchdowns with just 12 interceptions. And his numbers have gotten increasingly better each season.
In both 2015 and 2016, Carr was selected to the Pro Bowl. He had a 7-9 record two years ago as he three for nearly 4,000 yards and 32 touchdowns with 13 interceptions. Then, he led Oakland to the playoffs last season despite missing the final regular season game and postseason game because of an injury. Last season he was 12-3 in the games he started and tossed 28 touchdowns with just six interceptions.
9 ROB GRONKOWSKI (2010)
Originally Drafted: #42 By New England Patriots
Rob Gronkowski has the chance to go down as the best tight end in league history if he can avoid injuries. Last season he started in just six games and that was the second time in his career that he played in less than 10 games. But the four-time Pro Bowl selection has proved to be one of the best receivers in the game since he joined the league.
In 2011, Gronk led the league with 17 touchdowns. C’mon, a tight end posting a league-leading 17 touchdowns in just his second season is absolutely insane. Sure, he has had Tom Brady throwing him the ball each season. But Gronk’s talent is obvious and he’s the type of receiver that would elevate any quarterback throwing him the ball.
8 DAVID JOHNSON (2015)
Originally Drafted: #86 By Arizona Cardinals
David Johnson burst onto the scene last season. Last season, Johnson showed the NFL why he deserves to be considered one of the league’s best running backs. Johnson is a really good rusher, but his receiving ability is comparable to a wide receiver. He’s a really good receiver out of the backfield.
Johnson had a rough first year as he started just five games. During Johnson’s rookie season, he rushed the ball 125 times for 581 yards and eight touchdowns. He also had just 36 receptions (he was targeted 57 times) for 457 yards and four touchdowns. Those numbers are pretty good for a running back, but not good at all compared to what Johnson did last season. Last season Johnson astounded the league as he rushed for 1,239 yards and 16 touchdowns, then added 879 receiving yards with four receiving touchdowns.
7 EARL THOMAS (2010)
Originally Drafted: #14 By Seattle Seahawks
Earl Thomas is the second Seahawks defender to make this list (and another one is coming up a bit later). Part of the reason Seattle has been so good is its absolutely lockdown defense. How do the Seahawks have a lockdown defense? They have stars all over the place, and Thomas is one of their best athletes.
Thomas is a five-time Pro Bowl selection (2011 through 2015) and has been named to the first-team All-Pro four times (2012 through 2015), and he was a second-team All-Pro selection in 2011. The unfortunate thing is that he would have been selected to another Pro Bowl if he hadn’t been injured. In Week 12, he missed his first game in his career. Then, in Week 13, a collision with Kam Chancellor ended his season. He tweeted shortly after that he was considering retirement.
6 ANTONIO BROWN (2010)
Originally Drafted: #195 By Pittsburgh Steelers
Some people say that Antonio Brown wouldn’t be any type of star receiver without Ben Roethlisberger. Actually, it’s the other way around. Roethlisberger wouldn’t still be posting huge numbers at his age if it weren’t for Brown. For the last three seasons Brown has a caught about 70 percent of his passes and he seems to be getting better each year.
For the last three seasons he’s been a first-team All-Pro selection and he’s been selected to the Pro Bowl after the last four seasons (he was also selected to the Pro Bowl in 2011). The even more impressive stat is the in 2014 and 2015 seasons, Brown averaged more than 100 receiving yards a game and started ever regular season contest. Regardless of who’s throwing Brown the ball, he’ll be a star receiver as long as he’s healthy in the NFL.
5 JUSTIN HOUSTON (2011)
Originally Drafted: #70 By Kansas City Chiefs
Justin Houston has been one of the NFL’s best linebackers since he was drafted in 2011. The only bad thing is that he played in just five games last season. He would have been higher on this list if he had a better year, but his career thus far warrants a lot of respect. From 2012 through 2015, Houston was selected to the Pro Bowl and in 2014 he was a first-team All-Pro selection. That was the third year in a row where he recorded more than 10 sacks.
Houston actually led the league with a whopping 22 sacks, which is a Chiefs franchise record. He also forced four fumbles that season, also a career high for Houston. In total, he’s recorded 60 sacks and 243 tackles with nine forced fumbles and three interceptions in his career.
4 DeMARCO MURRAY (2011)
Originally Drafted: #71 By Dallas Cowboys
Even though DeMarco Murray had an absolute terrible year in Philadelphia, he’s shown a level of talent that is unmatched by a majority of guys in the NFL. Murray had a rough season in 2015 with the Eagles when he started just eight games and had posted just 702 rushing yards. That was low but he also had just 193 rushing attempts, which was the least he’s had since the first two seasons of his career.
Every season where he’s received more than 200 rushing attempts, he’s been selected to the Pro Bowl. And in 2014, he led the league with 1,845 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. He also led the league with an average of 115.3 yards per game and 2,261 yards from scrimmage. And last season he rebounded from his dud year with a Pro Bowl selection after starting 16 games for the Titans.
3 RICHARD SHERMAN (2011)
Originally Drafted: #154 By Seattle Seahawks
Richard Sherman has been great since he started in the NFL. Sherman has been one of the NFL’s best defenders and has shown no signs of slowing down. For the past four seasons, Sherman has been selected to the Pro Bowl. From 2012 through 2014, Sherman was a first-team All-Pro selection. He’s proven the ability to lock down the best receivers in the league and in 2013 he led the NFL with eight interceptions (he also recorded eight interceptions in 2012 when he was a first-team All-Pro selection but was not selected to the Pro Bowl). In 2014, Sherman was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Year. And he’s consistent for Seattle. Sherman has been active for every game of his career and has started every game since the beginning of the 2012 season.
2 RUSSELL WILSON (2012)
Originally Drafted: #75 By Seattle Seahawks
We knew Russell Wilson was good from the beginning. Everybody did. Wilson was named the Rookie of the Year following his breakout first season in the NFL. Wilson, a Super Bowl champion, jumped into the NFL with an 11-5 regular season record and tossed 26 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. Wilson has started every game for the Seahawks since entering the league and has a 56-23-1 record.
The impressive part is he has been seemingly getting better each season and more comfortable throwing the ball. Each season he’s improved on his passing yards total, and last season he had a career-high of 4,219 (though he did see a slight dip in completion percentage as he finished at about 65 percent). The year before, he threw for 4,024 yards and 34 touchdowns. Following the 2015 season, Wilson was selected to his third Pro Bowl.
1 ODELL BECKHAM JR. (2014)
Originally Drafted: #12 By New York Giants
Odell Beckham Jr. is undoubtedly ranked in the top two receivers in the NFL going into next season. Beckham only has a few seasons of work in the NFL, but it’s been obvious since his rookie season that he was going to be a star. During that 2014 season Beckham started just 11 games but he still posted 1,305 receiving yards and 12 receiving touchdowns. He led the league that year with 108.8 yards per game.
And in his short three-year career, he averaged 96 receiving yards per game and has tallied a total of 4,122 receiving yards and 35 touchdowns. Eli Manning is getting old and might not have many years left, but we’re confident Beckham’s talent will shine with any quarterback who can throw the ball in his direction.
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