The NFL draft starts tonight in Kansas City with the Carolina Panthers, after a trade-up, having the top overall selection. For a couple of decades, the NFL draft has “been the Super Bowl” for Cleveland Browns fans. Hope sprung eternal every April when the annual event rolled around for Cleveland’s loyal supporters who, generally, suffered through another losing season the previous year.
Starting last year, that hope and the excitement around the draft has faded for the Browns. The trade for QB Deshaun Watson dealt away many future selections including three first-round picks while other trades also moved the team out of the second round in back-to-back seasons.
For Cleveland fans, this is a unique position. Generally, barring major injuries, a fanbase either has the excitement of a team coming off a playoff run but lacking high picks in each round or their team has top selections to give their supporters something to look forward to.
The Browns have neither. The last winning season was in 2020 and the team’s first pick, unless another trade happens, won’t come until late Friday night. While I wrote for SBNation that the team can still be winners in the 2023 NFL draft, for those of us who love the team it doesn’t feel that way.
Instead, we must wait. Wait on a team that disappointed, in so many ways, last season. Wait on a front office that has made a lot of moves, many of which seemed good when they were made, but now has a very expensive roster that hasn’t won much. While there is hope that new coordinator Jim Schwartz and Bubba Ventrone will help the team, head coach and offensive play caller Kevin Stefanski has his, understandable, detractors.
All can and will be forgotten (or mostly forgotten) if/when the Browns start to win at a high level. Fans will laud the moves that help lead them back to the playoffs and, hopefully, on a run to the AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl.
Until then, in just a couple of years, “sports Christmas” as my wife has always called today has turned into just another day. An afterthought. My wife was confused this morning when she didn’t see the normal excitement, jitteriness and energy that she is used to on draft day.
We hope our coverage with mock drafts, player profiles, news and rumors has kept you as engaged as possible but it is clear that fans just didn’t care as much because Cleveland didn’t have the high picks:
Looking at the bottom of the list, we see a few teams dealing with the unique circumstances of not having high selections while coming off of bad seasons. The Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Rams join the Browns in that situation while the Miami Dolphins made the playoffs and the San Francisco 49ers played in the NFC Championship Game.
Cleveland fans will go one more year without a lot of hope for the NFL draft to bring excitement but, hopefully, a winning season in 2023 is ahead.
How much different is this year than normal NFL draft day for you?