So let's recap: last night, the Cleveland Browns had a few pretty nice first round draft picks, including the number one pick in the draft. Somehow managing to set aside their worst impulses as a franchise, they were able to make the correct choice and draft Myles Garrett, a very good (if not world-beating) lineman who should help them quite a bit. Cool.
Then, with the 12th pick in the draft and with the likes of Malik Hooker and Gareon Conley (we'll get back to him in a second) and a bunch of other really, really good players still on the board, the Browns decided to trade down to the 25th selection because they hadn't reached their quota for stupid decisions yet. And, because God hates a Browns fan, both Hooker and Conley were gobbled up by other teams right before they could throw their hat into the ring, leaving them to select every Ohioan's favorite player... Jabrill Peppers.
But wait! They weren't done, because yet another trade gave them the 29th pick, allowing Cleveland's most beloved franchise to pick up tight end David Njoku, who I had literally never heard of until last night.
The Browns being the Willy Lomans of the NFL is nothing new, but at a certain point you have to wonder if they (and the Bengals) are paying a karmic price for willfully ignoring talented Ohio State players. After DJ linked to a particularly interesting article in the Skull Session a few days ago which pointed out that the Browns and Bengals have combined to draft only four of the 100-plus Buckeyes drafted since 2000, I thought it might be instructive to see just how badly the pros have screwed things up in the 21st century.
First, a few caveats. It's probably important to point out that oftentimes the Browns and Bengals aren't going to draft Ohio State players simply because the Buckeyes in the draft don't play any positions of need. That brings up the whole "best player available" debate, but in any case, it's understandable that you wouldn't draft a left tackle in the first round if you're the Browns or a quarterback if you're the Bengals (I mean, you should, but you won't).
Second, injuries, controversy, and poor combine performances are all perfectly valid reasons not to draft a player. Both the Browns and the Bengals can be forgiven for shying away from Gareon Conley, because even if the accusations against him are proven to be false, the situation alone is enough to scare off many teams.
Still, none of that completely absolves the two teams from making a series of dumbass moves that took them away from really good and sometimes great Ohio State players.
The story of Cleveland trading down and missing out on Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, and Eli Apple is pretty well known at this point. Any one of those three players would've made the Browns much better almost instantly, but instead the Browns ended up picking up Corey Coleman, who missed much of 2016 with a broken hand.
The Bengals went with a cornerback in the first round, but were still looking for receiving talent. Tyler Boyd would fill in that gap, but it was a gap that could've been filled by Michael Thomas had the Bengals been able to make a selection eight teams earlier.
The Browns went with Justin Gilbert, who they'd later trade for a sixth round draft pick when they could've had Ryan Shazier (albeit in a different defensive position). The Bengals made the logical choice in drafting corner Darqueze Dennard, given that he had won the Thorpe Award that year, but that also meant they took a pass on Bradley Roby, one of the best Ohio State corners of the last 20 years.
This was an unusual year. The Browns bit the bullet and drafted a Buckeye (Brian Robiskie), but that ended up working out about as well as drafting Ohio State players worked out for the Bengals in 2012 (Boom Herron) and 2013 (Reid Fragel).
It's interesting, if not particularly surprising, that the Ohio State draftees to Ohio NFL teams hasn't worked out so well; not always because of a lack of talent by the players, but maybe the fact that the talent around their teams hasn't been that great. Robiskie was taken 72 spots before the more successful Brian Hartline, which should tell people something about talent evaluation all around.
The Browns were probably happy in the short term with ol' Kellen Winslow III, but in retrospect they could've had Will Allen in the orange and brown, which would've been a lot more fun. The Bengals didn't have too many chances at quality Ohio State players, but the fact that they picked up bad Michigan running back Chris Perry just ahead of both Michael Jenkins and Chris Gamble has always stuck in my craw.
It hasn't always been like this; decades ago, the Browns in particular had a penchant for drafting Ohio State players, a trend that has fallen off in recent years as the Browns and Bengals, deeply jealous of the success of the Ohio State Buckeyes, have refused to allow more than a token few on their teams for fear of making them look bad.
I'm kidding! The idea that any NFL team would deliberately overlook players from any particular school simply because they're from said school is silly (although, if we're being honest, the Browns and the Bengals are two of the teams that one can envision doing this), but that's not really the point with all of this. It's not that these teams are avoiding Buckeyes intentionally, it's more that the two professional football teams in Ohio are the two most obvious examples of why you shouldn't sleep on Ohio State players in the NFL Draft, especially as of late.
Hopefully for fans of both the professional and collegiate teams, the former might start to build more of an appreciation of the latter. They'll have a few more opportunities tonight to start.