Cleveland Browns Redraft:1991

The start of the 2008 NFL season is a few weeks away, and I find myself in an unfamiliar place … high expectations for the Cleveland Browns. A few months ago, I began to reexamine the drafts of the “expansion” Browns, starting with the 1999 draft. But a couple of things motivated me to go back even further and reexamine the Browns drafts before the infamous move to Baltimore. They were:

The Browns were coming off a disastrous season (3-13, second worst record in the league), after five straight playoff appearances, four division titles during that stretch, and playing in three of the last four AFC Championship games (losing all three to Denver). Their quick collapse was due to a number of factors:

  • poor drafting under head coach Marty Schottenheimer (anyone remember Mike Junkin? Nope, didn’t think so.)
  • the team got old, especially along the offensive line, defensive backfield and linebackers
  • the trading of Ernest Byner, scapegoat for the 1988 playoff loss
  • the Plan B fiasco of 1989-1990, which led to a number of players leaving due to contract disputes

This led to head coach Bud Carson getting canned after only two years on the job, and opened the door for Bill Belichick, defensive genius of the New York Giants. Here’s where I step in as fantasy General Manager with hindsight as my ally. First off, I don’t hire Belichick. Not because he’s not a good coach, but because he was horrible with the local media, was at odds almost from the beginning from existing team leaders, and completely disenfranchised the Browns fan base. When you do things like that, you gain no grace when the team struggles. Instead, I hire another candidate who was in the running for the job as well, Bill Cowher. He played for the Browns and was an assistant coach under Marty when he was Cleveland’s head coach. He served as defensive coordinator in Kansas City under Marty as well. Also, with hindsight, look what he did with Cleveland’s biggest rivals, the Steelers. Not only would the Browns get a great head coach, but screw Pittsburgh as well.

My next move would be to pick up some extra draft picks in the draft, since there are some major holes to fill, and the 1991 draft class was one of the richest in history. The Browns had the following picks:

Round Number Player
1 2 FS Eric Turner
2 29 G Ed King
3 57 DT James Jones
4 85 DE Pio Sagapolutele
6 141 WR Michael Jackson
8 197 DT Frank Conover
9 225 CB Ray Irvin
9 239 Shawn Wiggins
10 252 P Brian Greenfield
11 280 G Todd Jones
12 308 Elijah Austin

Originally, not a bad draft at all. Eric Turner and Michael Jackson became stars for the Browns, Ed King was a starter, and James Jones and Pio Sagapolutele were good defenders. However, every pick after Jackson was a waste. We need a more productive draft to get the Browns back on track.

My first task would be to pick up some additional picks in rounds 2-5. First I work out a deal with the Dallas Cowboys, who were stuffed with picks due to the raping of the Vikings over the Hershel Walker trade. I would swap first round picks (my #2 pick for their #20 pick), and give up my 9th round (239) pick for the Cowboys’ 3rd round (62) and 4th round (110) picks. As much as I liked Turner, this team needs too much help, and there’s too much talent in the draft not to make this deal.

Next I would work out a deal with Minnesota. I would trade the 20th overall pick (acquired from Dallas) and my 6th round pick (141) and 9th round pick (225) for the Vikings’ 3rd (68) and 5th (119) round picks, and WR Cris Carter. (Carter was acquired via waivers the following season from Philadelphia and had a very unimpressive year in 1990.)

One last deal would be with San Francisco. I would trade my 4th (85), 5th (119) and 10th (252) round picks in exchange for the 49ers’ 4th (95) and two 5th round picks (122, 127). Our draft board now looks like this:

Round Number Player
2 29 G Ed King
3 57 DT James Jones
3 62 (via Dallas)
3 68 (via Minnesota)
4 95 (via San Francisco)
4 110 (via Dallas)
5 122 (via San Francisco)
5 127 (via San Francisco)
8 197 DT Frank Conover
11 280 G Todd Jones
12 308 Elijah Austin

We end up with the same number of draft picks that we started with (11), lose out on FS Eric Turner (Round 1) and WR Michael Jackson (Round 6) by giving up those picks, but losing nothing else of significance. In exchange we add two additional picks in the 3rd round, pick up and additional pick in the 4th, and pick up two picks in the 5th round, while we shed our two 9th round picks and 10th round pick. We also steal away a potential Hall-of-Famer in WR Cris Carter. Now let’s examine our new draft pick-by-pick:

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
2 29 G Ed King QB Brett Favre

Let me make two points before you read the rest of this. First, I’m a realistic Browns fan, willing to see the faults in the team and players, and also willing to see the team improve itself for the long term. Secondly, I liked Bernie Kosar. He had talent, he wanted to play for the Browns, and we’re both from the Youngstown area. With that said, Bernie was never going to take this team to the Super Bowl at this point. He was becoming injury-prone due to his lack of mobility and the bad offensive line he had in front of him. This would have been the perfect pick in getting his replacement. I’m not going to list all of Favre’s accomplishments and records to justify this pick, because I don’t need to.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
3 57 DT James Jones CB Aeneas Williams

The defenisve backfield was a mess in 1991. Starting Safety Felix Wright left after a contract dispute, Minnifield was getting old, and Blaylock and Hilliard weren’t much. Williams was an 8-time Pro Bowler for the Cardinals. Enough said.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
3 62 (from Dallas) OLB Mo Lewis

The linebackers was another area in trouble. Eddie Johnson retired, Clay Matthews was starting to run out of gas. David Grayson and Mike Johnson were good, but not great. Van Waiters, well, he was better than Mike Junkin, which isn’t saying much at all. Mo Lewis was a 3-time Pro Bowler.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
3 70 (from Minnesota) T Erik Williams

Originally taken by Dallas with this pick, Williams, a 4-time Pro Bowler, became the anchor for the offensive line for a Cowboys team that won three Super Bowls in the 1990s and saw Emmitt Smith become the league’s all-time leading rusher.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
4 95 (from San Francisco) OLB Bryan Cox

Bryan Cox made an immediate impact for the Dolphins, making the first of three Pro Bowl trips in his second year.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
4 110 (from Dallas) TE Ben Coates

It’s amazing that a team that drafted one of the best tight ends in history in Ozzie Newsome completely missed out on a quality tight end three years in a row. They drafted Scott Galbreath in 1990 over Shannon Sharpe. Coates could arguably be considered the next best tight end during the 1990s. Five Pro Bowl appearances will do that for you. He would be a necessary offensive weapon that struggled with an offensive identity since Lindy Infante left to coach the Packers in 1988.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
5 122 (from San Francisco) FS Merton Hanks

As noted above, the defensive backfield was a mess in 1991. Along with Williams, Hanks would have added a second future Pro Bowler (four times) in one draft.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
5 127 (from San Francisco) DE Michael Sinclair

The defensive line was one of the only strong points of the Cleveland team in 1991 with future Pro Bowlers Michael Dean Perry and Rob Burnett. Sinclair, a 3-time Pro Bowler, would have made this one of the best lines in the league.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
8 197 DT Frank Conover RB Gary Brown

The running game was also a major problem. Byner was continuing to play at a Pro Bowl level in Washington, Mack was getting beat up too much (and soon to get into legal trouble), and Metcalf was not a featured back. Brown, the only player in our redraft to never make the Pro Bowl, was a good running back for both Houston and the Giants. His two best years were 1993 (Houston) with 1,002 yards and six TDs, and 1998 (NY Giants) with 1,063 yards and five TDs.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
11 280 G Todd Jones WR Keenan McCardell

Originally drafted by Washington, McCardell spent four good, but unspectacular, years in Cleveland before becoming the 2-time Pro Bowler in Jacksonville. His presence becomes more important with not drafting Michael Jackson.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
12 308 Elijah Austin FB Kimble Anders

Another important piece to repair a broken running game. Originally undrafted, Anders was a 3-time Pro Bowler and a devistating blocker for the Chiefs.

1991 Redraft Summary

The 1991 redraft adds some important pieces to a team that is aging quickly. Only one of the 11 picks have at least two Pro Bowl appearances in the career. Favre (9), Aeneas Williams (8), Lewis (3), Erik Williams (4), Cox (3), Coates (5), Hanks (4), Sinclair (3), McCardell (2), and Anders (3) have a whopping 44 Pro Bowls combined. Add in the eight from Cris Carter and our Pro Bowl total climbs to 52. The defense would have quickly been rebuilt with five key players at CB, FS, DE and LB. The offense would be on its way back with a repaired running game with Brown and Anders, a major piece to the line with Williams, some receiving playmakers in Coates, Carter and McCardell, and the QB of the future in Favre.

3 Responses to “Cleveland Browns Redraft:1991”

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