From Brown To Thomas, Cleveland Has Hit It Big With Some Top Draft Picks
By Steven King
The NFL Draft is like being a batter in baseball. Sometimes a team connects solidly and hits a home run. Other times, the team swings and misses, striking out. And when either occurs at the top of the draft, evreryone notices.
So with Thursday’s opening of this year’s draft quickly approaching, here are the home runs the Cleveland Browns have hit with their top picks over the years, beginning with the earliest players to the latest (they were all taken in the first round unless otherwise noted):
S Kenny Konz, LSU (No. 14 overall in 1951) – The Browns legend played seven seasons, is fourth overall in franchise history with 30 career interceptions and led the NFL in punt return average (14.4) in 1956.
RB Jim Brown, Syracuse (No. 6 overall in 1957) – Paul Brown wanted Purdue quarterback (and Alliance, Ohio native) Len Dawson with this pick, but when the Pittsburgh Steelers selected him one spot ahead of the Browns, Brown went to Plan B and got the greatest player in the game’s history.
OLB/DE Jim Houston, Ohio State (No. 8 overall in 1960) – One of the greatest linebackers in team history, the Massillon, Ohio native went to four Pro Bowls.
WR Gary Collins, Maryland (No. 4 overall in 1962) – He has a team-record 70 career touchdown receptions, caught three scoring passes in the 1964 NFL Championship Game victory over the Baltimore Colts and should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
WR Paul Warfield, Ohio State (No. 11 overall in 1964) – Coach Blanton Collier took the two-way back for the Buckeyes, quickly put him at receiver and watched him build a Hall of Fame career.
TE Milt Morin, Massachusetts (No. 14 overall in 1966) – Before there was Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome, Morin more than held his own, catching 271 passes (12th-most in team history) and standing eighth with 4,208 receiving yards.
DB Clarence Scott, Kansas State (No. 14 overall in 1971) – Scott played 14 seasons and is third on the club with 39 career interceptions.
S Thom Darden, Michigan (No. 18 overall in 1972) -- The Sandusky, Ohio native battled through a severe knee injury to become the team’s all-time leader with 45 interceptions.
RB Mike Pruitt, Purdue (No. 7 overall in 1976) – After a slow start caused by fumbling problems, he turned into the third-leading career rusher for the Browns.
OLB Clay Matthews, USC (No. 12 overall in 1978) – Followed by Ozzie Newsome 11 picks later in one of the best first rounds by any team ever, he is the best linebacker in team history.
OLB Chip Banks, USC (No. 3 overall in 1982) – Had he not battled off-the-field problems, then he likely would be in the Hall of Fame.
WR Webster Slaughter, San Diego State (No. 43 overall in 1986) – Without a first-round pick, the Browns were looking for a great downfield pass-catcher who would slip through the cracks, and they found him.
RB/KR Eric Metcalf, Texas (No. 13 overall in 1989) – He’s one of the most electrifying – and best – skill-position players the Browns have ever had.
WR Braylon Edwards, Michigan (No. 3 overall in 2005) – He had a very good career that was cut short because of his selfish persona.
LT Joe Thomas, Wisconsin (No. 3 overall in 2007) – He is likely headed to the Hall of Fame after making six Pro Bowls in six seasons.