Browns' cycle: April failures lead to April excitement

The opinion has been espoused both inside and outside the Cleveland Browns' organization that the upcoming NFL draft is a franchise-changing event, a monumental moment in the team's history.

"We are on the eve of a really momentous draft class for us in terms of positioning our team to return to winning here in Cleveland," vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said last week in his predraft news conference.

Which is true.

But which also sounds like the time Jimmy Haslam said the 2014 draft was arguably the most important in team history.
 How'd that first round double dip of Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel work out?

The Browns do have the first overall pick this year. Problem is that pick is earned through futility, so the Browns start the draft as the league's worst team. The 12th pick acquired in a trade is a bonus, though getting it required giving up what turned out to be Carson Wentz, the type of quarterback they now seek.

The Browns' recent history is replete with potential franchise-altering drafts. It's a cycle that fans endure. The team has not won since 2007, but hope springs eternal every spring when the draft arrives.

The team bungles them and bungles them, yet the fans continue to come back excited on draft night. It's tough to blame them when there's so little else to cheer.

The '15 draft was another important draft. The Browns had two first-round picks then as well.

They took defensive lineman Danny Shelton, who is improving, and center Cameron Erving, whose last chance to have a career in Cleveland will come this season — at right tackle.

Another time this decade when the Browns had two first-round picks was 2012. They moved up a spot to get running back Trent Richardson and chose quarterback Brandon Weeden 22nd.

Weeden had moments but fell victim to the changing administrations and coaches. Richardson was jettisoned in his second season.

Since 2010 the Browns have taken eight players in the first round. Two remain who are starters — Shelton and cornerback Joe Haden, though Corey Coleman will be given the chance to start this season.

Three of the Browns' first-round choices were in the top eight (Haden, Gilbert, LB Barkevious Mingo). On two other occasions the Browns traded down out of top-10 picks.

Five picks were in the top half of the first round (Haden, Mingo, Gilbert, Shelton and Coleman); three are on the team.

Of the eight first-round picks since 2010, one went to the Pro Bowl — Haden.

Which is why the Browns are as responsible as anyone for generating this April fervor. Chalk it up to any number of factors. Bad choices. Bad luck. Bad karma. Or perhaps constant change that leads to overhauls and restarts.

Any or all factor into play.

The Browns and their fans would far prefer December excitement to the overwrought focus on April. But the cruel irony is that April is more exciting because the Browns are losing in April.

Until that trend ends, the Browns will continue to be the focus of the NFL world at the wrong time of the year.