How Tough Is It to Screw Up the Fourth Overall Pick of the NFL Draft?

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In his most recent press conference, when asked about the fourth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Cleveland Browns general manager Tom Heckert said, “It’s gonna be tough to screw that one up, I think.”

Browns fans are certainly hoping that will be the case, as the team is in desperate need of another solid crop of draft picks. With the No. 4 and No. 22 picks in the first round of the upcoming draft, the Browns have a rare opportunity to stock up on playmakers.

But, as everyone knows, there are no sure things when it comes to the NFL Draft. No matter how many sure-fire predictions we talk ourselves into – and once the pick is actually made – there is no guarantee that the player chosen will amount to anything in the league.

Keeping that in mind, here is a list of the fourth overall picks of the last ten years:

  • 2011: WR A.J. Green
  • 2010: OL Trent Williams
  • 2009: LB Aaron Curry
  • 2008: RB Darren McFadden
  • 2007: DE Gaines Adams
  • 2006: OL D’Brickashaw Ferguson
  • 2005: RB Cedric Benson
  • 2004: QB Philip Rivers
  • 2003: DT Dewayne Robertson
  • 2002: OL Mike Williams

Of those players, only two are out of the league: Mike Williams and Gaines Adams (due to his unfortunate death). But looking at the rest of that list, how many are truly great players?

Philip Rivers has shown flashes of brilliance in his career, but his team’s lack of postseason success has ultimately made him a disappointment. Cedric Benson is experiencing a career resurgence in Cincinnati while Darren McFadden cannot seem to stay healthy. A.J. Green looks to be the real deal, but it’s still far too early in his career to make a real judgment.

The overwhelming sentiment from that list is actually that of being underwhelmed – many players drafted fourth overall in the last ten years have been unable to live up to their massive expectations. At this point in the Browns’ rebuilding process, they really can’t afford to pick a tremendous bust, meaning they will have to go against history.

Luckily for them, Heckert has produced two solid drafts in his tenure with the team. This will be one of the Browns’ most important drafts in the expansion era, which means screwing up the fourth overall pick is not an option.

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