For the first time in a long time, the Cleveland Browns will pick in the later stages of the NFL Draft.
Their 26th place overall is testament to the resumption of the 2020 season and a coveted playoff victory.
Beating Pittsburgh in the AFC Wild Card round was more than just a milestone for the Browns.
This assured them that they wouldn’t end up with the 22nd overall pick, a position with a negative history in Berea.
Cleveland was more successful in finding a franchise quarterback with his first pick in 2018.
Enough success not to pick a passer with the 26th pick in this year’s draft.
But that doesn’t mean it’ll be easier to pick that low, if the last decade of NFL draft history tells us so.
Few fans will remember Jonathan Baldwin (2011), Datone Jones (2013) or Marques Smith (2014).
Paxton Lynch (2016) is remembered as much for the legacy of bad quarterback ideas from John Elway as for any NFL success.
The jury is still out on last year’s No.26 pick Jordan Love, but so far there are few success stories in this niche.
Here are 3 of the top No. 26 Draft picks of the past decade, and the one Browns fans are hoping will be the best.
Calvin Ridley, WR 2018
The 2018 draft wasn’t just a home run for the Cleveland Browns.
Atlanta fans couldn’t understand why their team would pick a wide receiver in the first round of the season.
After all, they already had Julio Jones and other weapons in a powerful attack.
But few are questioning that decision more after Ridley’s 2020 campaign.
Ridley finished the season with 90 receptions for over 1,300 yards and 9 touchdowns.
It followed a second season with 63 catches for 860 yards and 7 scores.
Along with Jones, the Falcons probably have the best wide receiver tandem in the league right now.
Montez Sweatshirt, Edge 2019
The team formerly known as Washing Redskins blew their first-round pick in 2019.
But they made up for their selection of Dwayne Haskins by coming back in the first round to catch Montez Sweat at number 26.
Sweat was a starter right away, racking up 7 sacks, 13 quarterback hits and 2 forced fumbles as a rookie.
Then Washington ensured further success by drafting Chase Young in 2020.
Sweat and Young is one of the most powerful bookends in the league.
And Washington’s free agent investments at the cornerback and linebacker could improve them in 2021.
Whitney Mercilus, LB / Edge 2012
Along with having the perfect name for a passer, Whitney Mercilus delivers consistently strong play for the Texans.
His sack tally almost always disappoints, with just one season in double digits.
But he’s tough and menacing enough to get a 4-year extension in 2019.
Before 2 stints on the Covid list last year, Mercilus played at least 15 games in all seasons but one.
Even playing alongside Jadeveon Clowney and JJ Watt, Mercilus was seen as the defensive leader.
But there is definitely a drop from the top 2 to the third best pick on this list.
And Mercilus could drop to number 4 by the end of 2021, because of …
The player we hope turns into a top 2 No.26
Along with this year’s No.26 pick, there’s another player Cleveland Browns fans are looking for.
Takk McKinley was the 26th pick overall in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Atlanta saw him as a physical freak of nature and expected great things.
Former Falcons head coach Dan Quinn still believes McKinley has a breakout soon.
Andrew Berry has awarded the rusher a $ 4 million contract in hopes that his breakout will occur in 2021.
McKinley has shown many signs that he can excel in this league in his first two seasons.
He racked up 13 sacks and 25 hits as a situational player during that span.
After a 2020 campaign cut short by injuries, McKinley expects to climb this list quickly.