Browns Among the Worst in NFL in Getting Production From Top Draft Picks

click to enlarge Justin Gilbert - Wikipedia
Justin Gilbert
The Cleveland Browns have been bad at a lot of things since their return to the NFL in 1999, but it’s the team’s baffling ineptitude at selecting players with a modicum of talent in the NFL Draft that has, by far, been their worst subject. Jimmy Haslam may be a crook, Ray Farmer may think you can win without wide receivers and Mike Pettine may have an unhealthy love affair with Josh McCown, but some good old fashion football players can trump even the most self-destructive regime. Just look at the 2015 Oakland Raiders. As our friends at the A to Z podcast like to say, you need Jimmies and Joes before Xs and Os.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case here in Cleveland, no more evident than the inability of Johnny Manziel and Justin Gilbert, last year’s high profile draft picks, to even see the field. (Yes, JFF played a good game yesterday.)

Calculating a player’s snap count over the course of a season can be a good indicator of a draft’s success. If a player is seeing more snaps, it should mean the coaching staff trusts him, or he’s performing on the field.

Snap count stats can be skewed, of course, by a handful of factors. A bad team may have no choice but to play its recent draft picks because they have no other options. A good team may not be playing its draft picks because there are better, more experienced veterans in front of them and said team is afforded the time to bring those picks along slowly. Draft picks who should be on the field can be injured, and draft picks who shouldn't be on the field can land there when the guy in front of them gets injured. Guys that should at least get a look-see might be inactive week after week or on the bench because the coach doesn't like who the GM drafted. And/or guys that shouldn't get a look-see might be inactive week after week because the coach knows the GM drafted badly. There are also teams that go through wholesale roster changes because last year's suckitude is shuttled out the door as new suckitude comes in, last year's garbage giving way to this year's garbage. Those last three, you well know by now, are at play in Berea.

Regardless of all those factors, after a couple years, the cream usually rises to the top, and draft picks worth their salt should start seeing the field on a consistent basis.

We decided to break down the total number of snaps (offensive, defensive and special teams) played by every team’s first, second and third round draft picks since 2012, that fateful year the Cleveland Browns selected Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson. Here are the results, as rudimentary as they are:

Total Snaps Played By Each Team’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd Round Draft Picks Since 2012 (Number of draft picks in parentheses) as of 11/12/15

22,969 – St. Louis Rams (16) 
19,195 – Minnesota Vikings (13)
18,658 – Philadelphia Eagles (13)
18,608 – Indianapolis Colts (10)
18,121 – Buffalo Bills (12)
17,162 – Cleveland Browns (16)
16,239 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11)
15,903 – New York Jets (13)
15,166 – Miami Dolphins (13)
14,796 – New England Patriots (13)
14,762 – Dallas Cowboys (10)
14,593 – Baltimore Ravens (12)
14,324 – Cincinnati Bengals (15)
13,977 – New York Giants (12)
13,858 – Houston Texans (12)
13,730 – San Diego Chargers (12)
13,609 – Kansas City Chiefs (12)
13,566 – Jacksonville Jaguars (12)
13,363 – Detroit Lions (11)
13,103 – Tennessee Titans (12)
12,258 – Pittsburgh Steelers (11)
12,198 – Chicago Bears (9)
12,114 – Seattle Seahawks (9)
11,709 – Carolina Panthers (9)
11,263 – Atlanta Falcons (10)
10,908 – Arizona Cardinals (11)
10,813 – Green Bay Packers (11)
10,054 – New Orleans Saints (9)
9,813 – San Francisco 49ers (13)
9,596 – Washington Redskins (10)
9,398 – Oakland Raiders (13)
8,686 – Denver Broncos (11)

As you can see, some teams, like the Cleveland Browns and St. Louis Rams, are higher than you’d expect. There’s a reason for that. The Rams earned a bevy of draft picks when they traded their no. 2 overall pick the in 2012 draft to the Washington Redskins so the latter could select Robert Griffin III. Surprisingly, the Browns have had the same amount of draft picks, 16, as the Rams over the same period of time. So we decided to break down the average snaps per draft pick of each team to give us a better look at the production team are, or aren’t getting from the amount of picks they’ve had

Average Snaps Per Pick Since 2012

722.92 – Oakland Raiders
754. 85 – San Francisco 49ers
789.65 – Denver Broncos
954.93 – Cincinnati Bengals
959.6 – Washington Redskins
983 – Green Bay Packers
991.63 – Arizona Cardinals
1,072.62 – Cleveland Browns
1,091.92 – Tennessee Titans
1,114.36 – Pittsburgh Steelers
1,117.11 – New Orleans Saints
1,126.3 – Atlanta Falcons
1,130.5 – Jacksonville Jaguars
1,134.08 – Kansas City Chiefs
1,138.15 – New England Patriots
1,144.16 – San Diego Chargers
1,154.83 – Houston Texans
1,164.75 – New York Giants
1,166.62 – Miami Dolphins
1,214.81 – Detroit Lions
1,216.08 – Baltimore Ravens
1,223.31 – New York Jets
1,301 – Carolina Panthers
1,346 – Seattle Seahawks
1,355.33 – Chicago Bears
1,435.23 – Philadelphia Eagles
1,435.56 – St. Louis Rams
1,476.2 – Dallas Cowboys
1,476.27 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1,476.54 – Minnesota Vikings
1,510.08 – Buffalo Bills
1,860.8 – Indianapolis Colts

Ah, that’s better. The Browns jump from sixth highest in overall snap count to ninth lowest in terms of average snap count of those 16 draft picks, who’ve played an average of just 1,072 snaps. The Oakland Raiders, who, up until this season, may have been the only team run worse than the Browns, nab the top spot here. The forever atrocious Washington Redskins are up there too.

There’s still some anamolies. The Denver Broncos just haven’t had that many draft picks since 2012. Ditto for the Green Bay Packers. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers actually come in fourth highest with an average of 1476.27 snaps played by each draft picks, a sign that guys like Mike Evans, Jameis Winston and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins are imporving at a rapid rate. And despite their recent struggles, the Indianapolis Colts killer 2012 draft, which resulted in Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton and tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, land them in them top spot.

As for the Browns, players like Joel Bitonio and Mitchell Schwartz have been on the field quite a bit, which skews just how fruitless picks like Gilbert have been.

In other news, the 2016 NFL Draft is 163 days away and as of today, Ray Farmer is still in charge.
Scroll to read more Cleveland Sports articles
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join Cleveland Scene Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.