Cleveland Browns: 15 best defensive backs of all time

Joe Haden, Cleveland Browns. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Joe Haden, Cleveland Browns. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images) /
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Thom Darden
Thom Darden #27 (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images) /

1. player. 53. . S. 1972-81. Thom Darden

Greatest defensive backs in Cleveland Browns history: #1. Thom Darden

Coming in at No. 1 overall in our 15 best defensive backs in franchise history of the Browns is safety Thom Darden. Born and raised in Sandusky, Ohio, Darden ended up choosing Michigan, but Cleveland fans forgave him for that after the stellar career he had for them.

Chosen No. 18 overall in 1972, the Browns were thrilled to add the former All-American who was also a two-time selection to the All-Big Ten First Team (1970 and 1971) while with the Wolverines.

In 10 seasons, Darden started 124 of 128 career games. It wasn’t long before he was making a name for himself. Lining up at strong safety as a rookie, Darden had three interceptions and a fumble recovery. After that year, he moved to free safety where he really started to shine.

In 1974, Darden had eight interceptions and recorded his first-career defensive touchdown when he took a fumble recovery back 29 yards for a score. He missed the entire season in 1975 but continued his knack for finding the ball over the next few seasons after returning to the field.

Darden had seven picks in 1976 and another six the next year, which included his first interception return for a score. He then had his best campaign, which was 1978 when he led the NFL with 10 interceptions. He was also named to his first and only Pro Bowl.

For whatever reason, the voters just never gave him the respect he deserved, but Darden was one of the best in the game during his tenure. He finished with 45 career interceptions, which puts him at first all time in team history.

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After his days were over, Darden worked as a sports agent and even tried to help Maurice Clarett’s challenge the league’s eligibility rules.