Rearview Mirror: Grading the Cleveland Browns' Recent Drafts

Immediately after every NFL draft, thousands of articles hit the web grading how each particular team did. It’s fair as long as everyone keeps in mind that it is a preliminary grade. Nobody knows how it’s truly going to work out. The popular consensus is that it takes three years to get a true look at a particular draft. Seems like an arbitrary number, but okay.

Some people take that grade and carry it with them throughout the general manager’s tenure. His first draft gets a preliminary grade of D, and no matter what time tells, some people never let go of the initial grade. This tends to happen among embittered Browns fans when the grade is low.

Though the team has had three general managers draft over the past three years, let’s take a look back at them anyway.

I’m not going to grade the pick based on something a front office ended up doing with that player, like exchanging him for a first-round pick, ala Trent Richardson. I graded the players based on their current impact on the team, and not so much my feeling of them or their futures.

You may think it’s a little unfair to grade a guy drafted in the 7th round an F. Too bad. That’s what they deserve. But, to be fair, I won’t grade the high-round picks any harsher because of their position.

For Grade Point Average, “+” is worth +.3, and “-” is worth -.3, that way a C+ and a B- aren’t worth the same. Plus because I said so. MY ARTICLE, MY RULES!

General Manager: Tom Heckert
Original Draft Position: 4
Previous Season’s Record: 4-12

Average Draft Grade: D- (GPA .88)

General Manager: Michael Lombardi
Original Draft Position: 6
Previous Season’s Record: 5-11

Average Draft Grade: D- (GPA .72)

General Manager: Ray Farmer
Original Draft Position: 4
Previous Season’s Record: 4-12

Average Draft Grade: C+ (GPA 2.27)

Obviously these are my grades and some will take exception with a few of them. That's fine. That's what talking sports is all about.

As you can see, Ray Farmer had the best draft that the Browns have had over the past three. No matter how you grade things, I doubt this point is debatable, if for no other reason than the previous two were bad. Had Farmer not missed on those two first-round picks - and maybe in time we'll find out that he didn't - the 2014 draft may have been a serious table setter for this team's future.

It's also probably fair to point out that Farmer only made one pick out of the top 100, a credit to him for positioning himself so, but also easier to hit on draft picks the higher they are drafted. Unless you're the Browns and it's the first round.

Speaking of, another interesting/sad note is that as of now, Barkevious Mingo is the best 1st round draft pick the Browns had over the three-year span, despite having five chances. I'm really pulling for either Gilbert or Manziel to pay off.

I have more hope for Gilbert than I do Manziel, which I think is no surprise to anyone. Had Manziel not gone to rehab, and yet had a quiet offseason, would I still feel the same way? Honestly, probably not. Maybe because of his success in college, maybe because of the hype, and maybe just because he's a quarterback.

I also wonder if Bitonio will move into an A+ pick. Right now I consider that Joe Thomas/Joe Haden territory, but it's possible.

This leads us to the coming 2015 draft. I'm hopeful. Farmer deserves credit for what he did with the roster last year. The team finished 7-9 and looked like they may make the playoffs for the first time in - oh my god - 12 years. It all fell apart with the offensive line having a sudden gaping hole in the middle, but much can be said about what he was able to do, as well as what he didn't do.

If the Browns can have a bit better draft than they had last year, this team really could be poised to move ahead. The question mark at quarterback isn't going away soon, unfortunately.

It's hard to have hope as a Browns fan for fear of being let down and looking like an overly-optimistic fanboy. But I'll admit, I'm hopeful that the foundation of this team will be stronger when the season starts in September.
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