Cleveland Browns Draft: Debunking the Mortgaging the Future Myth


With just over two weeks until the 2015 NFL Draft, the debates are starting to spark up between Cleveland Browns fans and media pundits alike. From articles to social media back-and-forths, one of the hottest topics is whether the Browns should “mortgage the future” to trade up for one of the top two quarterbacks in this class—Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota.

Most of the focus has been on Mariota when these conversations have occurred, as many expect Winston to go No. 1 overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Regardless of the QB available, there has been a perceived notion of the organization “mortgaging the future” in order to trade up into the Top 5 to land one of these two players that seems to be misplaced by a number of fans and media pundits.

First, let’s break down what “mortgaging the future” seems to mean this offseason for the Cleveland Browns.

Picking at Nos. 12 and 19 in the first round, there have been a number of talks about what it would take for the Browns to get up high enough to land one of these two QBs. When it comes to current conversations, it seems as if trading both of these picks and the team’s second-round pick is considered “mortgaging the future” due to the fact the Browns could potentially have three very good players with their own three picks—which is understandable.

However, trading three picks in one draft (one of which you received from the Buffalo Bills) is far from mortgaging the future—especially when you are attempting to address a position of need that you have had difficulty finding an answer at for quite some time. In fact, some first-round QB trades since 2001 tell us that a swap involving the Browns first three picks in this draft would be far from “mortgaging the future” when you look at the position.

Atlanta Falcons Move to No. 1 for Michael Vick in 2001

In this deal, the Falcons were picking at No. 5, so the price to move up to No. 1 was that No. 5 pick, a third-round pick in the 2001 NFL Draft, Atlanta’s second-round pick in the 2002 NFL Draft and wide receiver Tim Dwight. Since the Falcons were picking Top 5, the cost was not as high for them to move up to get Vick—especially since the Chargers couldn’t reach a contract with him.

Net Draft loss: 2001 3rd round pick, 2002 2nd round pick

New York Giants Swap Eli Manning for Philip Rivers in 2004

We all know the history behind this, as Manning did not want to play for the Chargers who held the No. 1 overall pick (again). The Giants, who were picking No. 4, had to pay more to secure Manning—trading Rivers (No. 4 pick), a third-round pick in 2004, a first-round pick in 2005 and a fifth-round pick in 2005, the land the No. 1 overall pick.

Net Draft Loss: 2004 3rd round pick, 2005 1st round pick (ended up being No. 12) and 2005 5th round pick

Denver Broncos Move up for Jay Cutler in 2006

Though not a move into the Top 5 (or to No. 1 for that matter), the Denver Broncos had to give up an early third-round pick (No. 68) to move from No. 15 to No. 11 with the St. Louis Rams to secure Cutler.

Net Draft Loss: 2006 3rd round pick

Cleveland Browns Trade up for Brady Quinn in 2007

Once again, this move was not one which vaulted a team into the Top 10—but it shows the value needed to move up to get a QB. The Browns, who had already picked in the first round, needed to include their 2008 first-round pick along with their 2007 second-round pick to move up to No. 22 in the first-round to get Quinn.

Net Draft Loss: 2008 1st round pick

New York Jets Make the Leap for Mark Sanchez in 2009

Another trade Browns fans are familiar with, the Jets traded their first-round pick (No. 17), second-round pick and three players to the Browns to move up to No. 5 to select Sanchez. In terms of value compared to other trades on here, it seems like the Browns did not get enough in this deal.

Net Draft Loss: 2009 2nd round pick

Jacksonville Jaguars Move up for Blaine Gabbert in 2011

In a move I’ll still never understand (Gabbert in round one), the Jaguars traded up from No. 16 to No. 10 to secure the Missouri signal caller by giving up their 2011 second-round pick.

Net Draft Loss (Aside from Dignity): 2011 2nd round pick

Washington Redskins Trade Up for Robert Griffin III in 2012

Ah, the good old “bidding war” from 2012 to be the team who lands RG3 after the Colts were getting Andrew Luck at No. 1. The St. Louis Rams were in the best position in the world sitting at No. 2, as they truly got a king’s ransom for RG3. The Redskins gave up the No. 6 pick in 2012, a second-round pick in 2012, a first-round pick in 2013 and a first-round pick in 2013.

Net Draft Loss: 2012 2nd round pick, 2013 1st round pick and 2014 1st round pick

So what does all of this tell us? There is a major difference between perceived “mortgaging the future” and actually “mortgaging the future.”

What the Washington Redskins did to secure RG3—trading two additional firsts and a second—is the closest thing to “mortgaging the future” on this list, and we likely wouldn’t even be talking about it as a failure had he not have gotten hurt after his stellar rookie season. Unfortunately for comparison sake, there weren’t any teams that really moved from where the Browns are (No. 12) to say No. 4 (Oakland’s pick) to see what the historical market value was.

But when you look at some of the deals, if the Browns had to give up No. 19 and their second-round pick to go from No. 12 to No. 4—it really wouldn’t be “mortgaging the future.” The Giants gave up additional first, third and fifth-round picks to move up three spots for a guy in Manning who didn’t even want to play for the team that drafted him. And the Redskins gave up two additional firsts and a second to move up four spots for RG3.

When you look at those two deals as a baseline of sorts, the net draft loss of No. 19 and a second-round pick for the Browns would fall one first rounder short of the RG3 deal, but not impact three drafts in the way Washington did. See, thanks to owning 10 picks in this class (two in round one) the Browns have the ability to only impact the top of one draft class–not three, which is a big deal when moving up to get a QB.

So what does all of this tell us?

Perception of “mortgaging the future” and actually “mortgaging the future” for a potential franchise/starting QB are two completely different things. In the Giants situation, do you think they would bat an eye at giving up those picks again for a QB who brought stability (insert interceptions jab here) to their position for the last 10-plus years? And for the Redskins, RG3 took them to the playoffs in year one—do you think they honestly would be worrying about those three picks if he never got hurt and continued the way he did his rookie year?

The answer to both of those questions is a resounding no. Because both teams understand, like the Browns would if they moved up to select one of these two QBs, that there is nothing more important than finding a guy who can lead your franchise at the QB position for the next 5-10 years. I’m sorry, even if all three players drafted went on to go to the Pro Bowl—a GM will trade that every time for stability under center.

This is not about whether or not you like Winston or Mariota, it is about whether the franchise feels they can be the “guy.” If so, the price of three picks in one draft is not as big of a deal as many make it out to be—it is the cost to go get a player they believe can alter the face of the franchise. And that is exactly what general manager Ray Farmer will do if he believes that Winston or Mariota have the potential—because until you have a QB, you are searching for one.

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Bob is the Founder, Site Director and Senior Writer of Cleveland Sports Zone. He has been writing about sports for over nine years thanks to his passion for Cleveland sports and a Journalism degree. His work has been featured on Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, ESPN, USA Today and other major sports networks.

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