Top 50 Cleveland Browns

The ranking of the Cleveland Browns is one of the more complicated ones in our big four Professional sports teams, as this is the only one that relocated and was given back to the city in question.

Formed in 1946 by Paul Brown, the Browns were an inaugural team in the All-American Football Conference.  Cleveland was an undisputed power in the new football league, winning the four Championships in the league’s existence.  The AAFC merged with the NFL in 1950, and to the shock of the stalwarts, Cleveland won the 1950 NFL Championship.

The Browns remained a power for years, winning the NFL Championship in 1954 and 1955, and they would draft Jim Brown, whose rushing skills transformed the game.  They would win it all again in 1964.  The Browns haven’t been to a title game since.

In 1995, Browns owner Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore, but a deal was struck with the city of Cleveland, keeping the intellectual property of the Browns with the city.  The Browns were back in 1999 but have not made a deep playoff run in this incarnation.

This list is up to the end of the 2020 season.

Note: Football lists are based on an amalgamation of tenure, traditional statistics, advanced statistics, playoff statistics, and post-season accolades.

Jim Brown is a football god.   We could end it here, but out of deference to the man we think is not only the most outstanding rusher in the history of the game but the best offensive player ever, we will go through all the reasons why Brown is the best player in franchise history. An absolute beast at Syracuse,…
We believe Jim Brown is the greatest Cleveland Brown of all time, but it was Otto Graham who was the first team legend. Playing for Northwestern, Graham was the Big Ten Player of the Year in 1943, and he was third in Heisman voting. Following his career as a Wildcat, Graham enrolled at Colgate for flight school, and he continued to…
The second incarnation of the Cleveland Browns had a bad start.  Going one step further, there is no inaccurate negative pejorative you could use to describe their first 20 years.  One thing they universally did perfectly was select Joe Thomas with the Third Overall Pick in the 2007 Draft. Thomas, who won the Outland Trophy in 2006 with Wisconsin, was an All-Rookie…
An original Cleveland Brown, Lou Groza was recruited by Paul Brown, primarily to act as the Browns’ Place Kicker.  Groza led the AAFC in Points in his rookie year, and after two seasons, Groza also helped out on Cleveland’s Offensive Line, and he would perform a dual-role for the next twelve seasons. The Browns won the first four AAFC Championships, and…
At the time of his retirement, many felt that Ozzie Newsome was one of the most prolific Tight Ends in football history, and some say he still is. Taken in the First Round (23rd Overall) out of Alabama, Newsome brought his blocking and receiving skills to the Browns in 1978.  Known for his cerebral play, Newsome helped take the Browns to two…
From Ole Miss, Gene Hickerson was chosen in the Seventh Round in the 1957 Draft, where Cleveland Browns Head Coach, Paul Brown, liked his speed and moved him to the Right Tackle position, where he became their starter in his second season.  As Hickerson improved, his 1961 Season was taken from him due to a broken leg, but he returned the…
Backs.  The Cleveland Browns of the 1960s had some of the best runners, and Dick Schafrath was a big reason they found as much opportunity to run as they did.  Stepping in from Ohio State, Dick Schafrath maintained the high-level coaches expected at that position.  He protected the weak side brilliantly but used his robust frame to create holes for Cleveland's backs.  In…
While there were African Americans in pro football before Marion Motley, they had been phased out, but this was about to change after World War II.  Motley tried out for the Cleveland Browns of the new All-American Football Conference, and he made the team and would become of the best players in team history. Motley was an excellent rusher who won…
Paul Brown knew that Otto Graham would be the player he built his team around and quickly adopt Marion Motley as another offensive stud.  The man who helped stir that drink was an unexpected player named Frank Gatski. Gatski played college football at Marshall and then enrolled in the American military during World War II.  Following the war, Gatski tried out and…
We can't even imagine what it must have been like for Leroy Kelly to follow in the footsteps of Jim Brown.   Realistically, who could?   Despite this, Kelly, who was taken in the NFL Draft in 1964, was initially Brown's understudy and assumed the starting role when Brown shockingly retired.  Kelly thrived, going to six straight Pro Bowls (1966-71) and winning the…

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Dante Lavelli played for Paul Brown at Ohio State, where the duo won the National Championship in 1942.  Lavelli entered the U.S. Military in World War II, and when the conflict ended, he rejoined Brown, who built the Cleveland Browns of the new All-American Football Conference. Along with Mac Speedie, Lavelli was a star at End who led the AAFC in…
Mac Speedie played collegiately at Utah and was a late-round pick (15th) in the NFL Draft.  He did not enter the NFL, opting instead to go to the military to serve the United States in World War II, and when he returned, he tried out, and made the Cleveland Browns of the upstart All-American Football Conference. Browns' Head Coach, Paul Brown,…
From USC, Clay Matthews Jr. was the son of a four-year NFL vet, Clay Matthews Sr., and the brother of Bruce Matthews, who would enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Clay Jr. did not make it to Canton, but many in Cleveland feel that he should have. Matthews Jr. was taken in the First Round in 1978, and in his…
A National Champion at Michigan in 1947, Len Ford signed with the Los Angeles Dons of the AAFC, but the Dons were not one of the teams that would be absorbed into the NFL when the two leagues merged after the 1949 Season.  The Cleveland Browns took Ford in the Dispersal Draft, who was one of the teams that the NFL…
Paul Warfield was a National Champion at Ohio State in 1961, an All-American in 1963, and would stay in the state as a professional football player when the Cleveland Browns used the 11th Overall Pick to select the End. Warfield joined an already potent Cleveland offense, led by Jim Brown.  He was immediately plugged into the scheme, accumulating 920 Yards as a…
Bill Willis played for Paul Brown at Ohio State, where he was a part of the 1942 National Championship Team.  Willis graduated in 1945 and wanted to play pro football, but as a black man with the knowledge that the NFL had an unspoken rule about African-Americans, there was nowhere for him to go.   Enter the All-American Football Conference. In 1946,…
Mike McCormack played for the New York Yanks as a rookie, but he would leave them to serve his country in the Korean War.  When he returned, the Yanks had folded, and the Baltimore Colts were created to replace them.  McCormack signed with the Colts, but Cleveland Browns Head Coach, Paul Brown, remembered the Lineman and traded for him before he played…
Taken in the 4th Round from North Texas, Ray Renfro was one of the many players that Paul Brown acquired who turned out to be a hidden gem. Renfro played his entire 12-year career with the Browns, with the middle ten as one of the better Flankers in football.  A three-time Pro Bowl Selection, Renfro led the NFL in Receiving Yards per…
A 1981 First Round Pick from Southern Mississippi, Hanford Dixon played nine seasons in the National Football League, all with the Cleveland Browns. Playing at Cornerback, Dixon started 128 of his 131 Games on the right side, and he would come into his own in the last half of the decade.  Dixon went to three consecutive Pro Bowls (1986-88), with the…