Turns out, Hue Jackson, he of the 3-36-1 record before he was fired midway through the season, was the catalyst for all of Cleveland's losing. Once the organization jettisoned him, everything changed. Credit goes to interim coach Gregg Williams and interim offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens, and of course to first-overall pick Baker Mayfield, the franchise quarterback the Browns spent two decades searching for.
Here's what you need to know about the Cleveland Browns and the 2019 NFL Draft.
2019 draft picks
- Round 1: Cleveland
- Round 2: Cleveland
- Round 3: Cleveland, New England
- Round 4: Cleveland
- Round 5: Cleveland, Jacksonville, New England
- Round 6: Cleveland
- Round 7: San Francisco*, Jacksonville*
The Browns earned an extra third-round pick after trading Danny Shelton to the Patriots last offseason. They also acquired two extra fifth-rounders in deals that sent Carlos Hyde to the Jaguars and Josh Gordon to the Patriots. The Browns have been busy in the seventh round, getting picks from the Steelers and conditionally from the Jaguars and 49ers but also trading away that Steelers pick in the Jarvis Landry deal and their own seventh to get Devaroe Lawrence.
Biggest offseason needs
- Offensive tackle
- Defensive lineman
- Wide receiver
- Interior offensive line
After just two winning seasons since returning to Cleveland in 1999, the Browns finally appear poised for sustained success. Stockpiling picks in recent drafts starting paying dividends in 2018 with the emergence of the rookie Mayfield, his backfield mate Nick Chubb and deep threat Antonio Callaway. Along with the other 2018 first-rounder, Denzel Ward, not to mention 2017 first-rounders Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers and David Njoku, the Browns team is stacked.
Now it's just a matter of adding the few remaining pieces that could make them a force in the AFC North for years to come.
Prospects to watch
Yodny Cajuste, OT, West Virginia
Extremely athletic with good feet, Cajuste was tasked with protecting Will Grier at West Virginia. When he locks on to pass rushers, he doesn't let go. He also shows the ability to pull effectively in the running game, and while he's not a technician, Cajuste keeps his head up and his weight balanced. He has the quickness to beat defensive ends to the spot on speed rushes and shows the ability to combo-block and get to second level with ease.
Jeffery Simmons, DT, Miss. State
Simmons regularly requires double-teams and even then is hard to stop. He has a non-stop motor and that, coupled with linebacker-like sideline-to-sideline mobility, means he's never out of a play. He routinely splits blockers on stretch plays to make tackles in backfield, and he has the ability to disengage from blocks to make tackles too. One of the best athletes in the draft, Simmons is someone adept against the run and the pass who is best described as a disruptive backfield presence.
N'Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State
At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Harry is a physically imposing wideout with big-play ability. He regularly wins at the line of scrimmage and even when he doesn't, he makes contested catches as well as anyone in this draft class. And it's not over once the ball is in his hands; Harry is a YAC machine -- he's incredibly difficult to get on the ground. He's part JuJu Smith-Schuster, part Anquan Boldin.
Byron Murphy, CB, Washington
Greedy Williams is the best athlete in this cornerbacks class but Murphy might end up being the best player. He is impressive when changing direction and his mirroring techniques are second to none. Has excellent ball skills as evidenced by his two interceptions in the Pac-12 Championship Game against Utah -- and the 13 passes defended during the season.
Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama
Thompson is the best safety in this draft class. He has the speed and athleticism to cover vast swaths of turf, and the ball skills to turn pass breakups into interceptions. Imagine a Browns secondary starring Peppers and Thompson.
Dalton Risner, OT, Kansas St.
Risner is an animal in the run game and he's athletic enough to protect the quarterback as an offensive tackle in the NFL. That said, his best position may be at guard where his strength and hand usage would serve him well. Either way, Risner's versatility will be an attractive quality as team's evaluate him in the coming months.