Those who didn’t like the Browns trading down in the 2011 NFL Draft have reason to like it even less today.
The Browns’ release of wideout Greg Little on Friday leaves Cleveland with just one player left from a five draft-pick package acquired from Atlanta three years ago — defensive tackle Phil Taylor.
The massive trade landed the Falcons the No. 6 overall pick, which Atlanta used on wideout Julio Jones, who has established himself as a game-breaker.
In moving down from No. 6 pick, the Browns received three 2011 selections: the Falcons’ first-round pick (No. 27), the Falcons’ second-round pick (No. 59) and the Falcons’ fourth-round pick (No. 124). They also received the Falcons’ No. 1 pick in 2012 (No. 22) and their No. 4 pick in 2012 (No. 118).
Using the first of their three 2011 picks from the Falcons, the Browns moved up to No. 21 in the 2011 draft to take Taylor, who has been a solid starter for Cleveland throughout this three-season career.
From there, the Browns’ draft work didn’t go quite as well.
With their next pick from the Falcons (No. 59), the Browns took Little. By the numbers, Little’s stint with Cleveland wasn’t a complete loss (155 passes for 1,821 yards, eight TDs). However, he struggled with drops at times, and the Browns didn’t even see fit to keep him for a fourth season at a relatively low cost. What’s more, only 21 of his catches went for 20 yards or more (13.5 percent).
Jones, meanwhile, has become a star in Atlanta, though a foot injury did prematurely end his 2013 season. He’s hauled 174 passes for 2,737 yards and 20 TDs since 2011, with nearly a quarter of his catches going for 20 yards or more (42-of-174).
The Browns’ final Atlanta pick of 2011 (No. 124) was used on fullback Owen Marecic, who played 24 games in two seasons for Cleveland before being waived in August 2013. Marecic, who had a short stint with San Francisco last season, is currently out of the NFL. In all, Marecic caught five passes for 31 yards and rushed four times for eight yards in regular season play with the Browns.
The Browns didn’t fare any better with Atlanta’s picks in 2012. Quarterback Brandon Weeden, whom the Browns took in the Falcons’ spot in the draft order (No. 22), was waived earlier this offseason after just two seasons with Cleveland.
And in the end, the Browns didn’t exercise the Falcons’ fourth-rounder (No. 118). They traded it to Minnesota to move up from No. 4 to No. 3 to select running back Trent Richardson.
Richardson, of course, is also no longer in Cleveland, but the Browns were at least able to get a 2014 No. 1 pick in return for the former Alabama back.
In all, the Browns have less than they would have hoped for after such a draft-pick haul. However, there is one caveat. The pick the Browns acquired from Indianapolis for Richardson (No. 26 in 2014) was dealt to Philadelphia to move up to take quarterback Johnny Manziel No. 22 overall in last week’s draft. Perhaps this is a branch of the trade tree that will bear fruit.
Moreover, it’s perhaps too easy to simply call the Falcons the runaway winner of the Jones trade without conceding that Atlanta did forego some opportunities to build up its depth by dealing away its No. 1 pick and four others to move up for the talented wideout.
On the other hand, the Falcons aggressively targeted a high pick and came away with a blue-chip player.
The Browns took the volume approach, and there is data to suggest that is not a bad approach.
But without the proper execution, it is just action, not accomplishment.