In the days leading up to their matchup with the San Diego Chargers, the Cleveland Browns found themselves doing what they could have been doing eight months ago: Singing the praises of Joey Bosa.
“He’s further along than a lot of guys,” said Browns head coach Hue Jackson, per Tom Withers of the Associated Press. “He’s a tremendous player.”
In the first 10 games of his professional career, the former Ohio State star has transformed into the front-runner to win the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. He’s tallied 31 tackles and 7.5 sacks. His advanced stats are even more impressive. Historic, even.
Bosa had 1 sack+5 hurries today. He remains on a historic pace with the most pressures for anyone in their 1st 10 games in the past decade pic.twitter.com/MuaOma4de6
— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) December 19, 2016
And yet when the Browns had the chance to take Bosa with the No. 2 overall pick in last spring’s NFL draft, Cleveland said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Two losses away from becoming only the second 0-16 team in NFL history, the Browns now seem willing to admit they may have made a mistake.
Hue Jackson: Joey Bosa (they passed on) “is a tremendous player” adds it “hurts when you don’t have good players” didn’t want 2 relive past
— Daryl Ruiter (@RuiterWrongFAN) December 20, 2016
It’s not necessarily a surprise that the Browns opted instead to trade back twice, eventually selecting Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman 15th overall instead of taking the ex-Buckeyes player or his college teammate, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. You’d have to go back to 2009 to find the last time the Browns drafted a player out of Ohio State and 1995 for the last time they did so in the first round.
In that span, ownership in Cleveland has changed hands thrice, front-office regimes nearly too many times to count.
The Browns’ stance toward drafting ex-Buckeyes, however, has stayed the same.
So, too, have the results.
Cleveland hasn’t enjoyed a winning season since 2007 and last appeared in the playoffs in 2002. This isn’t to say that a more Buckeyes-friendly draft strategy would turn the Browns from worst to first.
But in the Urban Meyer era, it also couldn’t hurt.
Since Meyer arrived in Columbus in 2012, 26 Buckeyes have been selected over the course of four drafts, including 12 in a historically good 2016 draft class. Bosa leads all rookies in sacks, Elliott leads the NFL in rushing and Michael Thomas has the most receptions and receiving yards of any player in his class — by a lot.
Cleveland passed on all three.
The Browns have also passed on the four starting offensive linemen Meyer has put into the pros at Ohio State, as well as cornerback Bradley Roby — opting instead for Justin Gilbert — and linebacker Ryan Shazier.
Anytime you’re 0-14, the lack of talent on your roster becomes all the more apparent. As a Browns fan, it’s even more frustrating when some of the best players in the most recent drafts have been groomed right down the road.
Browns’ 2016 draft class:
— 56 receptions, 709 yards, 4 TDs
— 7 sacks
Michael Thomas: 76 catches, 883 yards, 8 TDs
Joey Bosa: 7.5 sacks
— Kevin Kleps (@KevinKleps) December 19, 2016
“We like a lot of those guys,” Browns executive vice president Sashi Brown said of the Buckeyes in this past year’s draft. “A lot of them were very high on our board, and unfortunately for us, we weren’t able to get the guys we liked.”
That and a dollar will get you an 0-14 record.
Ironically, arguably the Browns best player this season, quarterback-turned-wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, is an Ohio State alum. Only there’s no guarantee Pryor’s stint in Cleveland will be a long one as he approaches the free-agent market this offseason.
As for the 2017 draft, where the Browns could possess as many as 10 picks, ex-Buckeyes could once again litter the first few rounds. Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller’s most recent big board features three Ohio State players in his top 50.
As for the present, Bosa will return to the Buckeye State on Saturday for the first time since the final home game of his college career. Based on the season he’s having, his signature shrug celebration will likely make an appearance.
And, based on the season the team that passed on him is having, Bosa won’t be the only one in FirstEnergy Stadium with his arms in the air.