What if the Cleveland Browns Never Drafted Josh Gordon?

The Cleveland Browns once sacrificed a second-round pick for troubled wide receiver Josh Gordon. What if the Browns never would’ve drafted him?

The Cleveland Browns could have possessed two top-40 selections in the 2013 NFL Draft. That didn’t happen, though, as the Browns sacrificed what would have been their second-round selection in 2013 by acquiring wide receiver Josh Gordon in the 2012 Supplemental Draft.

Gordon, as those who followed his career from the start know, flashed moments of brilliance and dominance. It is not a stretch to suggest Gordon was the best wide receiver and arguably the best overall offensive player in the NFL for roughly a month during the 2013 campaign. Gordon seemed to have the goods to be a perennial All-Pro and potentially a future Hall-of-Famer.

The talented wideout also dealt with numerous off-the-field issues, though, most notably an alleged failed league drug test. He participated in only a handful of games during the 2014 campaign and has been suspended by the NFL ever since. His scheduled return to the field on Oct. 9 when the Browns host the New England Patriots was canceled on Sept. 29 when Gordon and the Browns announced the troubled talent was voluntarily entering a rehabilitation facility.

What’s done is done—and what’s done is Gordon’s tenure with the Browns. For all we know, Gordon will remain on some type of perma-suspension and merely float off into our memories like a dinner that tasted good, at first, but that eventually wasn’t worth the trouble.

Many “what if” scenarios regarding Gordon’s talent, his supposed inability to abide by certain NFL guidelines, and what could have been for the player have already been floated out there by journalists, observers and fans. More will likely come in the future. Fans of the Browns shouldn’t bother with such takes. Gordon isn’t be a Cleveland player. It’s not happening. Let’s move on to the topic to at hand.

What if the Browns passed on Gordon in the Supplemental Draft? What if those running the team back in the spring and summer of 2012 acted like the majority of football minds in the country and ignored the supplemental draft that year?

The 2012 Browns, unsurprisingly, were a bad football team. Thus, the club would’ve owned the rights to the sixth and the 39th overall picks in the 2013 draft had the Browns pretended Gordon didn’t exist.

The New York Jets selected Geno Smith with the 39th pick of the 2013 draft. Cleveland still needs a legitimate starting quarterback three years later. However, Smith probably wouldn’t be the guy to turn the franchise into a winner.

Running backs Le’Veon Bell and Eddie Lacy were both drafted outside of the top 40 spots of that draft class. Both would look good in brown and orange these days, and it would be nice if the Browns didn’t have to worry about Bell torching their defense as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Granted, Bell has had his own off-the-field troubles, but that’s a different matter for a different piece.

Linebacker Kiko Alonso, who has had an up-and-down career as a pro, could’ve been a member of the Browns instead of Gordon. The same goes for Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

Don’t forget about Tyrann Mathieu. The young safety known as the “Honey Badger” went to the Arizona Cardinals via the 69th overall pick. That one stings differently for Cleveland fans than prior examples as the Browns drafted cornerback Leon McFadden one pick before Mathieu went off the board. McFadden last played for the New York Giants in 2015.

It’s too early to judge Cleveland’s 2016 draft class. We can, however, look back at the club’s draft history since 2011. Counting Gordon as a 2013 second-round pick, here are the first two players drafted by the Browns from 2011 through 2015:

2015: Danny Shelton/Cameron Erving

2014: Justin Gilbert/Johnny Manziel

2013: Barkevious Mingo/Josh Gordon

2012: Trent Richardson/Brandon Weeden

2011: Phil Taylor/Jabaal Sheard

Shelton and Erving, second-year pros, remain with the Browns. Shelton has improved following an awful rookie season, but Erving hasn’t looked like a true NFL offensive lineman since his first days with the Browns. Gilbert, Manziel, Mingo, Gordon, Richardson, Weeden, Taylor and Sheard are all with different teams, out of the NFL, or suspended. One would think you’d have to try to be this bad at the draft.

Gordon will now go down as yet another wasted draft pick in the history of the Browns. Fans shouldn’t feel any anger or resentment if Gordon gets his life together and becomes a star playing outside of northeast Ohio. Maybe, in time, a change of scenery and a new team will do wonders for Gordon’s career. The Browns have Gordon chance after chance after chance…

Those chances are over now, even if he gets himself right.

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