5 Best Cleveland Browns 5th-round picks since 1999
By Mitch Zoloty
No. 1: Long snapper, Ryan Portbriand (2003-2011)
You might say to yourself: really? a long snapper? Yes. A long snapper of this quality is more than deserving of the top spot on this list. With the 142nd pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns selected long snapper Ryan Pontibrand out of Rice University. What makes Pontibrand take the number one spot is the fact that he was selected to two Pro Bowls, and was the Browns only 5th round pick since 1999 to be selected to one.
Pontibrand was arguably the best long snapper in the NFL for most of his tenure with the Cleveland Browns. After making his first Pro Bowl in 2008, former Browns general manager Phil Savage had the following to say about Pontibrand:
"“Ryan (Pontbriand) has been amazingly consistent with his snapping ability over the years. He is considered by many to be the best in the NFL, so it is only fitting that he is receiving the recognition of being a Pro Bowler” — Savage, via NFL.com"
Some of you may question why the Browns would even use a draft pick on a long snapper, which is a position that doesn’t see a lot of snaps in a game. You may think that the position of long snapper may be the least valuable on the team, but I’d argue it is one of the most valuable. Without a good long snapper, a kicker or punter can end up with significantly more botched kicks and slower operation times, which lead to blocked punts and kicks.
Blocked punts and kicks are the difference between giving your opponent the ball at their 20 or your 20, or scoring 3 points or allowing your opponents to take one back for 6. Long snapping is a part of football that not many focus on or can even do consistently. One or two botched snaps and your career is pretty much done. Those who are able to be NFL long snappers are incredibly consistent and efficient. You have to be pretty much perfect to even keep your job, let alone become the best in the league at your position.
Browns fans often reminisce about having Phil Dawson on the Browns, but they should also remember Ryan Pontibrand, Phil Dawson’s right-hand man.