Cleveland Browns: Ray Farmer is the Best General Manager Since 1999


I see it way too often on social media: “Ray Farmer didn’t hit on either first-round pick last year. If he doesn’t hit on both first-round picks this year, he needs to be fired.”

In Cleveland we are typically all too quick with overreaction. We demand perfection from our players, coaches and front office personnel. And after 15 years of below average records, Browns fans are getting restless.

The franchise’s ineptitude over the years has made it easy for local and national media to jump on any miscues and classify the Browns as a poorly run organization. They tend to compare the current organization to ones of the past, using the phrase “same old Browns,” even though the current members of the coaching staff and front office have nothing to do with the last organization, or the one before that.

In order to make a statement and get themselves in the limelight, media members will often employ hyperbole, deeming players, coaches, performances, etc., the “best” or “worst” ever. Unfortunately for the Browns, the latter is the usual description.

I’m here to change that perception with hyperbole of my own. As the title of this article insinuates, Farmer may very well be the best general manager the Browns have had since the team’s return in 1999.

A general manager has three main responsibilities: manage the salary cap, sign free agents and draft rookie players. For this article, I’ll focus on drafting of rookie players.

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Farmer is the seventh general manager of the Browns since 1999. The others, in order, are Dwight Clark, Butch Davis, Phil Savage, George Kokinis, Tom Heckert and Michael Lombardi. Using a non-analytical process, I’ve compiled a list of “immediate impact” players each general manager has drafted.

We live in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world, and with the craving for instant gratification by fans and media, I only considered the first year for each rookie drafted. Thus, players such as Jordan Cameron, who have been rather productive in their entire career, were not considered an “immediate impact” player (Cameron only had six receptions his rookie season).

For the sake of this “analysis” I did not consider the 1999 season as that was an expansion season and rookies were more likely to get significant playing time. Also, in my opinion, the first draft of a general manager’s tenure is the most difficult. They have less time with their staff, are taking over a roster that they did not put together and have the pressure of pleasing the owner with a job well done. Thus, I will only look at the first year of each general manager’s tenure.

The following is a list of each general manager, their first draft season, the total number of draft picks they made and the “immediate impact” players selected. If you want to dispute my choices of impact players, feel free to leave your comments at the end of the article.


Season of 1st Draft

Total No. of Picks Immediate Impact Players (Round Drafted)

% of Impact Players




Courtney Brown (1), Dennis Northcutt (2)





William Green (1), Andre Davis (2)





Braylon Edwards (1)





Alex Mack (1)





Joe Haden (1), T.J. Ward (2)









Joel Bitonio (2), Chris Kirksey (3), Terrance West (3)


*1999 excluded

What does this chart tell me? Well, for one, Farmer doesn’t have a good track record in the first round. Although, I like to look at it and say Farmer is the most prolific late-round general manager. If the history in this chart tells us anything, it’s that the first round is the easiest round to hit on. I have full confidence that Farmer will have a successful first-round pick or two during his tenure. Even though he missed on both first round picks last season, he was able to draft immediate impact players with 50 percent of his picks – the highest percentage of any other Browns general manager.

Joel Bitonio paved the way for a pair of diamond-in-the-rough backs Ray Farmer found.
Joel Bitonio paved the way for a pair of diamond-in-the-rough backs Ray Farmer found.

Add in the fact that he signed undrafted free agent rookies Taylor Gabriel, Isaiah Crowell and K’Waun Williams, who were all impact players in 2014, and Farmer may have had the best draft Cleveland has ever seen.

Teams like the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots are praised for their late-round draft prowess. Yes, the two teams that competed in Super Bowl XLIX. If the Browns are truly trying to model themselves after these teams, it’s time they stick to a plan, allow Farmer to craft his own roster, and enjoy long term success.

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Prior to joining Cleveland Sport Zone, Kevin got his debut writing for Buckeye State Sports in the world of journalism. He graduated from Bucknell University in 2010 with a B.S. in Civil Engineering and currently works as a Transportation Engineer. Although never previously involved in the writing community, Kevin has always had a passion for his beloved Cleveland sports teams, and that passion drives him to write and express his opinions to his readers. After graduating from Bucknell, Kevin moved to Pittsburgh, Pa., to pursue his engineering career, but his roots remain in Cleveland. Born and raised in northeast Ohio, Kevin lives and breathes Cleveland sports. Living in the heart of Steeler country, Kevin is a member of the Pittsburgh Browns Backers and wears the brown and orange with pride. In joining Buckeye State Sports, he strives to share unique, positive views about the Browns, Cavaliers and Indians, unlike the views typical of most Cleveland sports media outlets.

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