Former Ohio State safety Malik Hooker is off to an incredible start to his NFL career with three interceptions in his first three games.
Former Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers’ NFL career is off to a… less auspicious… start.
As you undoubtedly know, the Cleveland Browns had their choice between Hooker and Peppers and opted to trade down for the guy who didn’t play his college ball in Columbus. That’s been one of two constant themes of the Browns’ draft history since the franchise returned in 1999. The other is making selections that end up on @OldTakesExposed within a few months.
Since the franchise returned to the NFL in 1999, the Browns have picked just two Buckeyes; WR Brian Robiskie in 2009’s second round and TE Darnell Sanders in the fourth round in 2002. And while it’s certainly too early to render a final verdict on the team’s 2017 draft day decision-making, there is a long history that suggests that the Muni Lot may have been a happier place if the Browns had simply picked the best available Buckeye in every first and second round for the past 19 years.
This is absurd, of course. You would occasionally end up picking guys who actually went in the mid-to-late rounds in the first or second round. And yet, as the results show… it might actually beat what they’ve done.
Before we start, a few ground rules: We’ll assign the Browns whichever Ohio State player was picked next in the draft after their selection for comparison’s sake, and look at how their career panned out compared to the guy the Browns took.
Trying to unwind trades involving draft picks gets complicated, so for the purposes of this exercise we’ll assume all the trades were made and go off the spots where they actually picked. So there is no Malik Hooker or Joey Bosa below. That is clearly to the detriment of the “OSU only” strategy, but as always, the Browns need all the help they can get.
Of course, it’s impossible to know whether that Buckeye would have then contracted MRSA, fallen into the Springfield Mystery Spot or suffered any other Browns-y fate if he was actually playing in Cleveland. But I think we can all agree – it couldn’t be much worse than reality.
By my math, there were seven years when the Browns would have clearly been better off just picking the best available Buckeye, seven years when their actual picks were better and four that were either too close to call or too recent to judge. I’ll show my work below, but this bears repeating: if the Browns just picked a Buckeye at whatever time they picked in the first and second round – didn’t try to trade up to get a different OSU player, didn’t trade down when the next Buckeye was still three rounds from getting picked, and took a kicker with the third overall pick in the draft one time, they would basically have drafted as well as they have in reality.
If they put an ounce of thought into this, and occasionally traded (or didn’t trade) with the idea to choose the best available Buckeye, they could easily have added Bosa, Michael Thomas, Bradley Roby, Santonio Holmes, Nick Mangold, Antoine Winfield, and probably even won a playoff game at some point during Bosa’s lifetime. Dare to dream, gang. Dare to dream.
Pour yourself a stiff drink and dig into the grim history below.
2017 Browns selections
1st round, 1st pick: Myles Garrett, Texas A&M DE
1st round, 25th pick: Jabrill Peppers, Michigan S
1st round, 29th pick: David Njoku, Miami TE
2nd round, 52nd pick: DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame QB
2017 Buckeye selections
1st round, 1st pick: Marshon Lattimore, OSU CB
1st round, 25th pick: Curtis Samuel, OSU WR
1st round, 29th pick: Raekwon McMillan, OSU LB
2nd round, 52nd pick: Pat Elflein, OSU C
The verdict: It’s too early to make a call on this, especially since Garrett and McMillan haven’t played a snap yet.
2016 Browns selections
1st round, 15th pick: Corey Coleman, Baylor WR
2nd round, 32nd pick: Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State DE
2016 Buckeye selections
1st round, 15th pick: Taylor Decker, OSU OT
2nd round, 32nd pick: Michael Thomas, OSU WR
The verdict: This isn’t totally in stone, but the early returns look Scarlet and Gray. Thomas has 117 career catches for 1,447 yards and 11 TDs. Coleman has 39 catches for 475 yards and 4 TDs. Ogbah has 35 tackles and 7.5 sacks. Decker started all 16 game his rookie year. Based on the WRs alone, 2016 is a Buckeye year. Also, it’s worth bearing in mind that the Browns traded out of the #2 pick, where they could have taken Joey Bosa (13 sacks in 16 career games) or Ezekiel Elliott (1,908 career rushing yards, 17 TDs).
2015 Browns selections
1st round, 12th pick: Danny Shelton, Washington DT
1st round, 19th pick: Cameron Erving, Florida State C
2nd round, 51st pick: Nate Orchard, Utah DE
2015 Buckeye selections
1st round, 12th pick: Devin Smith, OSU WR
1st round, 19th pick: Jeff Heuerman, OSU TE
2nd round, 51st pick: Michael Bennett, OSU DT
The verdict: This was one of the shallowest OSU draft classes in recent history. Bennett went in the 6th round of the draft, but was the third Buckeye picked. None of them have had much success in the NFL. Score one for the Browns.
2014 Browns selections
1st round, 8th pick: Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State CB
1st round, 22nd pick: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M QB
2nd round, 35th pick: Joel Bitonio, Nevada OT
2014 Buckeye selections
1st round, 15th pick: Ryan Shazier, OSU LB
1st round, 22nd pick: Bradley Roby, OSU CB
2nd round, 35th pick: Carlos Hyde OSU RB
The verdict: This class is a great example why you should listen to my draft advice instead of homeless people’s. Gilbert was a bust. Manziel was worse than that. Bitonio has been a multi-year starter, but all three of the Buckeyes can say the same thing. This one is all OSU.
2013 Browns selections
1st round, 6th pick: Barkevious Mingo, LSU DE
2013 OSU selections
1st round, 6th pick: Johnathan Hankins, OSU DT
The verdict: Hankins was a second rounder in the actual draft, but has put up better career numbers (94 tackles, 11 sacks) than Mingo (73 tackles, 7 sacks), who went 43 spots before him. So has the second Buckeye off the board that year, John Simon, who went 123 picks after Mingo and has 92 career tackles as 12 sacks. That is Browns as hell. Score another one for the Buckeyes.
2012 Browns selections
1st round, 3rd pick: Trent Richardson, Alabama RB
1st round, 22nd pick: Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State QB
2nd round, 37th pick: Mitchell Schwartz, Cal OT
2012 Buckeye selections
1st round, 3rd pick: Mike Adams, OSU OT
1st round, 22nd pick: DeVier Posey, OSU WR
2nd round, 37th pick: Boom Herron, OSU RB
The verdict: Herron went 191st overall, late in the 6th round. Richardson went 3rd overall. Want to guess which one outrushed the other by nearly a yard per carry (4.2 vs. 3.3)? Schwartz was the only good pick from the Browns here. He put together a better career than Adams, and is still playing. That’s basically the difference here. In a year when the Browns picked three times before a single Buckeye was off the board, they just barely beat the “best available Buckeye” strategy in a weak OSU draft class.
2011 Browns selections
1st round, 21st pick: Phil Taylor, Baylor DT
2nd round, 37th pick: Jabaal Sheard, Pittsburgh DE
2nd round, 59th pick: Greg Little, North Carolina WR
2011 Buckeye selections
1st round, 31st pick: Cameron Heyward, OSU DE
2nd round, 37th pick: Chimdi Chekwa, OSU CB
2nd round, 59th pick: Jermale Hines, OSU S
The verdict: Cameron Heyward has 158 career tackles and 28 career sacks. Taylor had 69 tackles and 7 sacks. That’s nice, but not close. At least Browns fans get to see Heyward play a couple times each season. Sheard has outperformed Heyward by a bit (180 tackles, 37 sacks). Little was a three-year starter, but never topped 709 yards in a season. Hines’ career was over quickly, and Chekwa was never a consistent starter. This one goes to the Browns.
2010 Browns selections
1st round, 7th pick: Joe Haden, Florida CB
2nd round, 38th pick: T.J. Ward, Oregon S
2nd round, 59th pick: Monterio Hardesty, Tennessee RB
2010 Buckeye selections
1st round, 7th pick: Thaddeus Gibson, OSU DE
2nd round, 38th pick: Doug Worthington, OSU DT
2nd round, 59th pick: Kurt Coleman, OSU S
The verdict: Coleman went late in the 7th round, 244th overall. He has 323 tackles and 21 interceptions in his career. Haden, who went 237 picks higher, has 307 and 19. Ward’s very solid career tips this to the Browns, but do you think it might have been worth spending… say… a fifth-round pick on Coleman?
2009 Browns selections
1st round, 21st pick: Alex Mack, Cal C
2nd round, 36th pick: Brian Robiskie, Ohio State WR
2nd round, 50th pick: Mohamed Massaquoi, Georgia TE
2nd round, 52nd pick: David Veikune, Hawaii LB
2009 Buckeye selections
1st round, 31st pick: Chris Wells, OSU RB
2nd round, 36th pick: Robiskie
2nd round, 50th pick: Donald Washington, OSU CB
2nd round, 52nd pick: Brian Hartline, OSU WR
The verdict: Mack turned into a very good player for the Browns, but the Robiskies are a wash, Hartline had a far better career than Massaquoi and Wells looked pretty good until he got hurt. This is fairly close. As a tie-breaker, I’ll mention they could have taken OSU CB Malcolm Jenkins (486 tackles, 14 interceptions) if they hadn’t traded out of the 5th overall pick. They also missed on OSU LB James Laurinaitis (663 career tackles, 16.5 sacks, 10 INTs) by one pick and could have traded up if they were really interested in going all-in on the OSU strategy. Call this a win for the Buckeyes.
2008 Browns selections
Thanks to trades for Brady Quinn, Corey Williams and Shaun Rogers, their first picks were in the 4th round, so we’ll use those.
4th round, 104th pick: Beau Bell, UNLV LB
4th round, 111th pick: Martin Rucker, Missouri TE
2008 Buckeye selections
4th round, 104th pick: Larry Grant, OSU LB
4th round, 111th pick: Kirk Barton, OSU OT
The verdict: Grant and Barton were both 7th rounders in the actual draft. Grant had by far a better and longer career than either of the guys the Browns picked three rounds ahead of him. The Bucks take this one.
2007 Browns selections
1st round, 3rd pick: Joe Thomas, Wisconsin OT
1st round, 22nd pick: Brady Quinn, Notre Dame QB
2nd round, 53rd pick: Eric Wright, UNLV DB
2007 Buckeye selections
1st round, 3rd pick: Ted Ginn, OSU WR
1st round, 22nd pick: Anthony Gonzalez, OSU WR
2nd round, 53rd pick: Quinn Pitcock, OSU DT
The verdict: When you pick Joe Thomas, you win. The end.
2006 Browns selections
1st round, 13th pick: Kamerion Wimbley, Florida State DE
2nd round, 34th pick: D’Qwell Jackson, Maryland LB
2006 Buckeye selections
1st round, 13th pick: Bobby Carpenter, OSU LB
2nd round, 34th pick: Ashton Youboty, OSU CB
The verdict: This is an example where the framing of this exercise hurts OSU. The Buckeyes had five first-round picks (A.J. Hawk, Donte Whitner, Carpenter, Santonio Holmes, and Nick Mangold) and the Browns easily could have moved around in the draft to grab several of them, including a future Super Bowl MVP or franchise center and made this an OSU year. But under the rules, it goes to the Browns.
2005 Browns selections
1st round, 3rd pick: Braylon Edwards, Michigan WR
2nd round, 34th pick: Brodney Pool, Oklahoma DB
2005 Buckeye selections
1st round, 3rd pick: Mike Nugent, OSU K
2nd round, 34th pick: Dustin Fox, OSU CB
The verdict: Only one of these guys is still playing, and it’s not the guy who dropped to the Browns at #3 overall. No, his time in Cleveland slipped through his fingers in just over four inconsistent years. That has to leave Browns fans feeling a little incomplete about the pick. But compared to taking a kicker in the top 5, it’s probably still a Browns year.
2004 Browns selections
1st round, 6th pick: Kellen Winslow, Miami TE
2nd round, 59th pick: Sean Jones, Georgia DB
2004 Buckeye selections
1st round, 6th pick: Will Smith, OSU DE
2nd round, 59th pick: Ben Hartsock, OSU TE
The verdict: Smith’s 67.5 career sacks make him clearly the best player out of this group. Jones and Winslow both had solid careers and Hartsock played in the NFL for a full decade. We’ll call this a push.
2003 Browns selections
1st round, 21st pick: Jeff Faine, Notre Dame C
2nd round, 52nd pick: Chaun Thompson, West Texas A&M LB
2003 Buckeye selections
1st round, 21st pick: Mike Doss OSU S
2nd round, 52nd pick: Kenny Peterson, OSU DT
The verdict: Faine made 124 career starts, which is good enough take this for the Browns. Doss’ career was off to a promising start, but was derailed by injuries.
2002 Browns selections
1st round, 16th pick: William Green, Boston College RB
2nd round, 47th pick: Andre’ Davis, Virginia Tech WR
2002 Buckeye selections
1st round, 16th pick: LcCharles Bentley, OSU C
2nd round, 47th pick: Derek Ross, OSU CB
The verdict: Bentley was a two-time Pro Bowler and Ross had a promising rookie season before falling off. Green was a spectacular bust, and Davis never managed 600 yards receiving in any season. OSU wins this one.
2001 Browns selections
1st round, 3rd pick: Gerard Warren, Florida DT
2nd round, 33rd pick: Quincy Morgan, Kansas State WR
2001 Buckeye selections
1st round, 3rd pick: Nate Clements, OSU CB
2nd round, 33rd pick: Rodney Bailey, OSU DE
The verdict: Clements, who went 18 spots later than Warren, played in and started more games in his career than Warren did. Bailey had a few good years in Pittsburgh, Morgan had one good year in Cleveland. The Browns could have moved up four spots and picked OSU DT Ryan Pickett (who started 185 games in his career) second if they were really pursuing this strategy. Or they could have moved up one spot and grabbed Drew Brees. Either way. This is close, but we’ll give it to the Buckeyes.
2000 Browns selections
1st round, 1st pick: Courtney Brown, Penn State DE
2nd round, 32nd pick: Dennis Northcutt, Arizona WR
2000 Buckeye selections
1st round, 1st pick: Ahmed Plummer, OSU CB
2nd round, 32nd pick: Na’il Diggs, OSU LB
The verdict: Plummer played in more games than Brown, but their careers were pretty comparable. Diggs (who went 66 picks after Northcutt) had somewhat similar career to Northcutt as well, in whatever metric you can realistically use to compare a WR and LB. Call it a push, but when you pick #1 overall and can’t beat the all-OSU strategy, that’s pretty much a loss.
1999 Browns selections
1st round, 1st pick: Tim Couch, Kentucky QB
2nd round, 32nd pick: Kevin Johnson, Syracuse WR
2nd round, 45th pick: Rahim Abdullah, Clemson LB
1999 Buckeye selections
1st round, 1st pick: David Boston, OSU WR
2nd round, 32nd pick: Joe Montgomery, OSU RB
2nd round, 45th pick: Joe Germaine, OSU QB
The verdict: Couch never really got a fair shake since his supporting cast was sooooo bad. But, for all his eccentricities, Boston made a Pro Bowl. Antoine Winfield, who went 9 picks ahead of Johnson, was a Pro Bowler as well. Johnson actually had a pretty solid few years in Cleveland, but Abdullah was done after one year so we’re going to call this a tie. Again, if you have the #1 overall pick and can’t separate from the “blindly pick Buckeyes” plan, that’s damning. That’s also the Browns.