It is very reasonable to say that the Cleveland Browns are one of the worst franchises in all of sports. Heck, many even say that there is no argument and that the Browns are far and away the worst franchise in all of sports. It has been so bad in Cleveland that football insider Adam Schefter has referred to them as the NFL's version of a college. It is a college in the sense that many players will play out their four-year rookie contract with the team, but after that, it is time to head on out of town.
Can you blame players for having these types of thoughts? The Browns have had so many chances to take steps in the right direction. They have had numerous high draft picks over the years, and yet somehow they remain in the basement of the NFL. Therefore, it is easy to say the Browns are a terrible team and not fun to follow on the field.
However, it is very interesting (and funny) to go back and look at their management's history and see all of the awful decisions that have been made over the years. Therefore, this article is going to focus on 15 NFL stars that could have (and probably should have been) Cleveland Browns.
Note that this will focus on more "modern" players, mostly going back to 2000. It makes sense, considering the Browns have been the laughing stock of the league since they were brought back to the NFL in 1999.
A lot of people may also argue that these selections are hindsight. However, I counter that the Browns have taken missing out on good players to whole different level.
15 C.J. Mosley
If you look back at the 2014 draft, it is hard not to wonder what the Cleveland Browns were thinking. They missed out on many great players and linebacker C.J. Mosley is no exception. Mosley was taken 17th overall by the Ravens and has been an integral part of one of the leagues best defenses ever since. He is a great run stopper, can pressure the quarterback, and has produced around 80 solo tackles per year, already. Mosley will be in the NFL for a long time as a very good/Pro-Bowl linebacker.
Who did the Browns decide to take 8th overall that year instead of a high caliber player like Mosley? Justin Gilbert. Gilbert did have some potential, but had off the field issues and was eventually traded in 2016 for just a 6th round pick. Great value there, Cleveland.
14 Jarvis Landry
Every team could use a player like Jarvis Landry on their roster. He is a very versatile offensive player. He can return punts for touchdowns at any given time and is a great slot receiver (he can also lineup on the outside and catch deep routes).
However, the quality that makes Landry such a great player is his security blanket status. He is one of those players that can have a 10 catch 90 yard game, which in my opinion is one of the most underrated types of players in the NFL today. For example, if it is third down and three and you really need a first down, you know that Landry will be open. He may not put up the five catches for 100+ yards every game, but is one of those players that every team needs.
FYI: Landry was taken late in the 2nd round. Cleveland used their 2nd round pick in that draft on Joel Bitonio, who has not been able to stay on the field because of health issues.
13 Chandler Jones
Chandler Jones was drafted by the New England Patriots in 2012, 21st overall. He has been a very good player ever since his rookie season and is currently wreaking havoc with the Arizona Cardinals. You can count on Jones to register anywhere between 10-15 sacks a season, if healthy. How good is Jones? Well, consider the fact that the New England pass rush has taken a significant step backwards without his presence.
Of all head-shaking draft choices by the Browns, 2012 might be at the top of the list when they selected running back Trent Richardson with the 3rd overall pick. To be fair, he did have a decent rookie season by registering close to 1,000 rushing yards, but his career fell apart after that, and we are once again left to question the Browns.
12 Le'Veon Bell
Le'Veon Bell is a great player and probably should have been drafted higher by all teams, so I will not put too much of the blame on the Browns for this one, especially since they did not have a second round pick in the 2013 draft (Bell was taken 16th in the second round). Nonetheless, the Browns lost out on arguably the most versatile running back in the NFL. Brown has great patience and vision when running the ball and can go off any given game.
However, what separates him is that he can catch the ball like a wide receiver. When it comes to all purpose yards, there is no better back than Bell. Bell would be an instant upgrade to the brutal running game we have seen in Cleveland the last several years, but instead, he is a division rival that probably causes them nightmares.
11 DeAndre Hopkins
Cleveland might feel a little bit better about missing on DeAndre Hopkins now that he is having a very tough year in Houston. However, make no mistake, the struggles of Hopkins this season mostly fall on the shoulders of poor quarterback play. Hopkins is still a legit number one receiver on any team and if Brock Osweiler ever figures it out, Hopkins will be just fine. The thing I appreciate the most about Hopkins is that he is able to run short, intermediate, and deep routes. He is also still very young and will get even better. Having Hopkins lined up beside Corey Coleman would look pretty good for the Browns right now.
Just to let you know, Hopkins was also taken in the first round of the 2013 draft, when the Browns made the infamous Barkevious Mingo selection.
10 Russell Wilson
Man, how Russell Wilson could have changed the Cleveland Browns franchise! Wilson is developing into a great quarterback and his career is just getting started. However, like many other teams, Cleveland didn't looked into the intangibles and ignored Wilson's heart and determination. Yes, he is short for a quarterback, but that has not stopped him from becoming one of the top QBs in the game. Just look back to the latest Sunday night football game on November 13, 2016 and you will see what makes Wilson so special. Not many many quarterbacks are able to go into Foxborough and do what he did.
Remember, Wilson also has a Super Bowl ring on his resume and probably will collect a few more before his career is finished. Cleveland will have regrets for years to come about passing on Wilson and expect him to be much higher than number nine on this list in the future.
The reason Wilson lands on the list is because the Browns did in fact need a QB at the 2012 draft and they selected one in the first round; Brandon Weeden.
9 DeMarcus Ware
I feel like DeMarcus Ware goes unnoticed when discussing stars that could have been on the Cleveland Browns. Well, it will not be the case here, as Ware is a future Hall of Famer and now also has a Super Bowl ring to promote his case.
In his prime, Ware was the ultimate game wrecker. Teams specifically had to game-plan for him and usually double team him, or else their offensive strategy would fall apart. His statistics are not that bad either, as he has recorded double digit sacks eight times in his career, including 20 in a season.
Now to be fair, Cleveland did draft a good player ahead of Ware in 2005: Braylon Edwards. However, Edwards was never close to being on the level that Ware was and I am sure if Cleveland had a mulligan, they would not hesitate to draft Ware.
8 Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham is yet another franchise changing wide receiver that the Browns missed out on. The worst part is that Odell Beckham Jr. was also drafted in 2014, when there were so many chances for the Browns to get at least one game changing wide receiver. Instead, they went with Gilbert and we all know how that worked out. Beckham was taken 12th overall, just four picks after Gilbert.
Beckham is nowhere near his prime yet and is already breaking records. For example, just as recently as November 14, 2016 in the Monday Night Football game, Beckham became the fastest receiver to reach 3,500 receiving yards, even though he had some injury issues in his rookie season.
Skill wise, Beckham can do it all with short, intermediate, and deep routes. I think it is safe to say the Giants found themselves a gem, while the Browns are again wondering what could have been.
7 Luke Kuechly
It must hurt knowing that you could have had the best linebacker in the NFL on your team. The major reason you do not is because your management made yet another drafting mistake. Luke Kuechly was drafted 9th overall by the Carolina Panthers and has been one of the best defenders in the league since. Kuechly is one of the best tacklers, run stoppers, and cover linebackers that we have seen in a long time. He is a major reason that the Panthers were able to make it to the Super Bowl last season. Just think, this man already has over 679 combined tackles in just parts of five seasons.
Now to be fair, the Browns are not the only team that passed on Kuechly, but those other teams have not been as historically bad as the Browns have been, so it is easier to give those other teams some slack. Oh, it must hurt the Browns when they think about drafting the likes of Trent Richardson over Kuechly.
6 Julio Jones
This is perhaps the most fitting entry, because the Browns traded away the pick that would eventually land Julio Jones.I get the idea of what Cleveland was trying to do when they traded their first round pick away. After all, we have seen teams like New England drop down in the draft many times to acquire multiple draft picks and draft value players. Unfortunately for Cleveland fans, they do not have Bill Belichick running their organization. In all, Cleveland drafted five players because their decision to trade down their 6th overall pick in the 2011 draft. You would think that they drafted some pretty good players that are contributing to their team right? Wrong, all five players are either out of the league or with another team.
Meanwhile, Julio Jones is one of the best wide outs in the game and is only getting better. With Matt Ryan, Jones is part of an offense that can strike at any time. Currently, Jones is the league leader in receiving yards by a longshot and this is not a new trend. Oh Cleveland, oh Cleveland another stud wideout you missed out on.
5 Rob Gronkowski
This is one selection where I cannot really make fun of the Browns because they actually took a pretty good player in front of Rob Gronkowski. T.J. Ward was taken 38th overall by the Browns and Gronk was selected 42nd by the Patriots. There are no complaints here in regards to the selection by the Browns, as Ward is one of the best safeties in the league (although he now plays for Denver). Plus, no one really knew if Gronk would be able to stay healthy in the NFL due to his well chronicled back complications.
Nonetheless, it is still fun to imagine what the NFL would be like had Gronk gone to the Browns instead of the Patriots. He is, after all, one of the greatest tight ends to ever play and by the time it is all said and done, he probably will be the greatest, assuming good health.
4 LaDainian Tomlinson
Tomlinson is another one that deeply hurts Cleveland Browns fans, especially since their running game has been MIA for many years. Tomlinson had a great NFL career and was probably the best running back in the NFL during his prime. What did the Browns miss out on when they decided to draft Gerard Warren over Tomlinson? Well, how about five Pro Bowls, six All-Pros, two rushing titles, and most importantly, a running back that helped his team make the playoffs consistently. Tomlinson will be in the Hall of Fame soon enough.
Now I did mention Warren, but I also must make it clear that I did not mean to state he was a bad player by any means. He did play 11 seasons in the NFL, which is very respectable. However, he definitely is no Tomlinson.
3 Brian Urlacher
Urlacher is yet another star linebacker that probably should have been a Cleveland Brown. What is it with these guys and disregarding star linebackers? Anyway, Urlacher was drafted 9th overall by the Chicago Bears, after the Browns decided to take defensive end Courtney Brown with the 1st overall pick. To be fair, Brown did show potential in his rookie season and who knows, if it was not for nagging injuries, he may have lived up to the hype.
However, this was obviously not the case and the Browns lost out on another Hall of Fame linebacker. Urlacher went on to play 13 seasons, all with the Bears, and record over 1,000 tackles. He was also very good at generating pressure on the quarterback and being an overall leader. Another big mistake by the Browns.
2 Ben Roethlisberger
The worst part about Ben Roethlisberger being on this list is that he wanted to play for Cleveland. He is from the area and wanted to be the franchise quarterback. Obviously this did not happen and instead it made Roethlisberger angry. The anger can be seen in Roethlisberger stating that after the Browns passed on him, he was determined to prove them wrong and would be extra motivated to beat them every time.
I mean, what was Cleveland thinking when a franchise quarterback wanted to play for them and they passed on him? It is not like free agents are dying to go there. Take what you can get! Overall, the funniest part about this whole situation is that he ended up being drafted to a division rival (Pittsburgh Steelers). That means the Browns have been playing Roethlisberger twice a year and usually, Big Ben embarrasses them twice a year.
1 Tom Brady
The obvious choice for number one on this list is Tom Brady. At least Cleveland can say that they were not the only team to pass over Brady. In fact, every team passed on Brady multiple times, including the New England Patriots themselves. However, this does not change the fact that Brady could have been a member of the Cleveland Browns and their franchise could be in a much different position today.
What would the NFL look like today if this had happened? Would Cleveland have four rings instead of the Patriots during the Brady era? Would Cleveland still stink because Brady would not have been afforded the same opportunity he was in New England?Obviously these questions can never be answered, but it is always fun to debate and wonder what could have been. There is probably one thing that can be assumed and that is Brady is thanking his lucky stars Cleveland did not draft him.