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.

After being drafted in the Fourth Round by the Browns in 1964, Jim Ray Smith played at Defensive End as a rookie.  Smith was not a starter but played well enough for Paul Brown to think his talents would be better served on the Offensive Line.  As was often the case, Brown was right. Smith gained six starts at Right Guard in…
Gary Collins was one of the first major offensive stars at Maryland, where he set numerous receiving records and was eighth in Heisman Trophy voting in his 1961 All-American season.  The Browns landed Collins with the Fourth Overall Pick for the 1962 Draft, and he joined an already potent squad. Collins was eased into the receiving part of the game, only…
Bob Gain was drafted 5th Overall in 1951 by the Green Bay Packers, but he elected to play in Canada with the Ottawa Rough Riders instead.   The following year the former Outland Trophy winner's NFL rights were in the hands of the Cleveland Browns, and the two-way star was happy to return to his home state of Ohio.  Gain was at his…
An exceptionally popular player during his days in Cleveland (the local McDonalds franchises even had a sandwich named after him for a time), Michael Dean Perry was a defensive beast who, while with the Browns, was one of the leaders of a strong defense.  MDP would go to five Pro Bowls as a Brown (his sixth coming with Denver), and…
Frank Ryan played his first four NFL seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, and while he was never a primary starter, he was considered a Quarterback with potential.  When the Rams drafted Roman Gabriel, Ryan was traded to Cleveland, where he would have the best run of his career. Ryan was pegged to be the backup to Jim Ninowski, but an…
After establishing himself as one of the top Guards of the 1970s with the Buffalo Bills, Joe DeLamielleure was traded to the Cleveland Browns in 1980.   DeLamielleure, who had five Pro Bowls with the Bills and was a blocker for O.J. Simpson star turns, made history in his first season with the Browns.  Not only did DeLamielleure earn his sixth consecutive…
Brian Sipe had a slow journey from San Diego State to NFL stardom, as the 13th Round Pick needed two years on the taxi squad before making the Browns team. Sipe was a backup in his first two years, starting seven times, and while he was believed to be talented, there was no reason to think he was going to be…
Walt Michaels was one of the best players that small Washington & Lee College ever produced, and the Browns took him in the Seventh Round in 1951.  Cleveland didn't use him that year, not because he wasn't good enough, but because they traded him to Green Bay before the season started.  After one year in Green Bay, Paul Brown saw something special…
Bobby Mitchell was one of the many finds that Paul Brown found in the middle rounds of the NFL Draft, in his case, the Seventh in 1958.  Mitchell was used as an everything weapon for the Browns, rushing, receiving, and returning.  In the four seasons he competed for Cleveland, Mitchell accumulated 5,916 All-Purpose Yards, and was in the top six in…
Through the rules at the time, Miami Hurricanes Quarterback and National Champion Bernie Kosar were available in the 1985 Supplemental Draft, which allowed him to play for the team he wanted to, the Cleveland Browns. Kosar started as a backup to Gary Danielson, but an injury to the incumbent escalated Kosar’s emergence as a starter.  While Kosar had feet of concrete,…
After a promising career at Louisville, Frank Minnifield was not drafted by any NFL team, but he landed employment with the Chicago Blitz of the USFL.  As the team migrated to Arizona, he proved himself NFL worthy, though he had to sue his way out of the fledgling league.  Once he did, the Cleveland Browns were waiting. Minnifield was an All-Rookie starter…
Unlike the 1950s and 1960s, the 1970s were not the glory days of the Cleveland Browns, but they did have some bright spots, one of which was Defensive Tackle Jerry Sherk. Sherk was a Brown for the entirety of his 12-year career, winning the starting job on the right side as a rookie.  He would grow into one of the top…
The Cleveland Browns got exactly what was advertised when they took the USC Linebacker with the number three pick in 1982.   Banks was electric as a rookie, winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year with the first of what would be four Pro Bowls in five seasons.  Banks also was a First Team All-Pro (1983), and from 1982 to 1986, he…
Greg Pruitt was a bit undersized (180lb), but when you are a two-time All-American (and eventual College Football Hall of Famer), the NFL will still call, which in his case were the Browns with a high Second Round Pick in 1973. In his rookie year, Pruitt was used as a backup Running Back and was a Pro Bowl as a…
Doug Dieken does not get much press for his work as a player outside of Cleveland, but this is one of the best value picks in franchise history. From the University of Illinois, Dieken came in as a Sixth Round Pick in 1971, and he would stay with the Browns until he retired after the 1984 Season.  Dieken started five Games…
An All-American at Kansas State, Clarence Scott was the recipient of Cleveland’s First Round Pick (14th Overall) in 1971, and it was with the Browns that he would spend his entire 13-year career. Scott started at Cornerback, and he would record at least two Interceptions every year except for 1972.  A Pro Bowler in 1973, Scott cracked the five-pick mark that year…

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A collegiate player at Ohio State, Tommy James played with the Detroit Lions of the NFL in his rookie year, but he was cut following a year with a broken arm.  Like Brown did with many former Buckeyes, Paul Brown signed James, and he would make the Cleveland Browns for the 1948 Season. James was a good Defensive Back who helped…
Another product of Ohio State who became a Cleveland Brown, Jim Houston was a First Rounder in 1960, and the Linebacker became a starter during his rookie year. The Browns in the 60s were known more for their explosive offense, but it was players like Houston that were needed to keep the balance on the other side.  Houston was a member…
A star at Purdue, Mike Pruitt only had to travel one state east when the Browns drafted him in the Second Round in 1976.  Pruitt did not have a lot of playing time early on, but after receiving more playing time in 1978, the Fullback was poised for a breakout. In 1979, Pruitt had the best year as a pro, posting…