Apr 30, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Danny Shelton (Washington) poses for a photo with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected as the number 12th overall pick to the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
The Cleveland Browns still have a chance at landing the No. 1 overall pick in next spring’s NFL Draft, but will need some help.
Following Sunday’s victory the Cleveland Browns have slipped behind the Tennessee Titans for the No. 1 overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft.
The Browns are one of three teams – along with the Titans and San Diego Chargers – who currently have 10 losses, but the Titans will hold the tiebreaker because they have played the softest schedule this year. Tennessee’s strength of schedule is .473, followed by the Browns (.509) and Chargers (.521).
According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Browns currently have a 38 percent chance of landing the top pick and a 97 percent chance of selecting in the top five. Cleveland could overtake the Titans by losing their final three games against the Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers, all playoff contenders, while Tennessee picks up a win against either the New England Patriots, Houston Texans or Indianapolis Colts.
Of course, if the Browns get hot and somehow manage to win a game or two down the stretch, they could fall out of the top five as there are four teams with nine losses – the Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions.
The Browns have had the No. 1 overall selection in the draft just three times in franchise history.
In 1954 they selected Stanford quarterback Bobby Garrett. In those days the NFL held a lottery for the top pick and the Browns, despite going 11-1 and appearing in the league title game, came up winners – at least in terms of the lottery.
It wasn’t until after the draft that head coach Paul Brown reportedly found out that Garrett would have to serve two years in the military before he could start his professional football career. Not wanting to wait for Garrett, the Browns traded him – before training camp had even started – to Green Bay. Garrett appeared in nine games for the Packers, completing 15-of-30 passes for 143 yards and an interception.
He then spent two years in the military before the Packers traded him in August of 1957 – back to Cleveland. The Browns sent six players to Green Bay – quarterback Babe Parilli, end Carlton Massey, halfbacks John Petitbon and Billy Kinard, tackle John Macerelli and center Sam Palumbo – for Garrett and linebacker Roger Zatkoff.
Cleveland would eventually move on from Garrett because Brown could not deal with Garrett’s stutter.
The Browns did not pick in the top slot again until 1999, when they selected Tim Couch.
“We knew we were going to take a quarterback,” then-team President Carmen Policy said in Terry Pluto’s 2004 book, False Start. “Because if you have a chance to get a franchise quarterback, you take it.”
Couch never reached his full potential as he spent his five years in Cleveland handing the ball off to the likes of Travis Prentice, William Green and James Jackson, and throwing to such noted receivers as Leslie Shepherd, Darrin Chiaverini, David Patten, Quincy Morgan and Andre’ Davis.
The offensive line was even worse, as Couch was sacked 56 times as a rookie and an average of 3.1 times per game through his first three seasons.
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Despite all that, Couch wasn’t a bad quarterback when he was healthy. He completed more than 60 percent of his passes twice in his career (just missing out two more times), and remains the last Cleveland quarterback to lead the team to the playoffs (which he missed with an injury, naturally) and beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh (a shocking 33-13 victory on a Sunday night in 2003).
All those sacks and all those hits he took while running from opposing defenses finally caught up with Couch after the 2003 season – his final one in the NFL. The Browns wanted Couch to take pay cut and, when Couch declined, the team released their former No. 1 pick.
Cleveland was back at it the following year as they selected defensive end Courtney Brown with the No. 1 overall selection.
Injuries would limit Brown to just 47 games in his five seasons in Cleveland and he only played a full 16-game season in his rookie year. He recorded 19 sacks and 155 tackles with the Browns, and retired after spending the 2005 season with the Denver Broncos.
If the Browns do find themselves on the clock next spring when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell opens the 2016 NFL Draft, here’s hoping they have better luck than the previous three times they were in that position.