After years of working with a crazy advantage in draft position over the rest of the AFC North that advantage can be seen now as past picks are revealing themselves as players.

Editor's note: Ahead of the 2019 NFL Draft, this is the first of two articles illustrating how much the Browns' recent advantage in draft position over the rest of their division can mean now that picks are revealing themselves as players.

After spending years with a crazy advantage in draft position over the rest of the AFC North, a new moon is rising on the Cuyahoga River.

This time, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati are the draft-week "haves." The Browns are the "have-nots."

Yet, the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals must wonder if the Cleveland's collection is about to hit like a meteor, even if a few chunks got lost in space.

The average spot for the Browns' first five scheduled picks this week is No. 109.4 overall. The corresponding averages are 68.6 for Pittsburgh, 76.8 for Cincinnati and 89.0 for Baltimore.

This is an incredible contrast to 2017, when the Browns' top five picks were at 1, 25, 29, 52 and 65. Baltimore made only two picks in the top 70. Pittsburgh made two in the top 90.

The disparity was just as stark last April. Consider the position of the top four picks of the Browns (1, 4, 33, 35), Ravens (25, 32, 83, 86), Bengals (21, 54, 77, 78) and Steelers (28, 60, 76, 92).

The pecking order for the earlier rounds this week adds up to culture shock:

Round 1 (Thursday): 11, Bengals; 20, Steelers; 22, Ravens

Rounds 2-3 (Friday): 42, Bengals; 49, Browns; 52, Steelers; 66, Steelers; 72, Bengals; 80, Browns; 83, Steelers; 85, Ravens; 102, Ravens

Round 4 (Saturday): 110, Bengals; 113, Ravens; 119, Browns; 122, Steelers; 123, Ravens

But then, the Browns gave up this year's No. 17 and a No. 25 from 2017 (Jabrill Peppers) to secure Odell Beckham. Like a tableside chef twirling ginsu knives over leaping flames, General Manager John Dorsey has whipped up an appetizing roster.

Dorsey has worked around past draft mistakes, amid which division rivals often got more with less, drafting lower than the Browns yet coming away with better players.

He arrived on time to operate the earth-moving 2018 draft. And enough good came of crazy advantages of 2016 and '17 to make a difference.

Let's put the last three years worth of AFC North draft picks into one hopper and draft them all over again, considering only how much each player seems likely to help his team in 2019. Here's one view of how that draft would go, through 22 picks. It reflects why the Browns are a favorite to win their first division title in 30 years.

1, Browns, QB Baker Mayfield, No. 1 overall, 2018. One analyst called him "the most dominant rookie quarterback in some time." Browns fans prefer to think of him as the most dangerous.

2, Browns, DE Myles Garrett, No. 1 overall, 2017. Joined Von Miller as a second team All-Pro "edge rusher" (the first-teamers were J.J. Watt and Khalil Mack).

3, Steelers, OLB T.J. Watt, No. 30 overall, 2017. Led off 2018 with three sacks vs. Browns, wound up with 13 (Garrett had 13.5).

4, Steelers, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, No. 62 overall, 2017. Had a Fantasy Island 2018, 111 catches for 1,426 receiving yards.

5, Browns, CB Denzel Ward, No. 4 overall, 2018. Made the Pro Bowl and learned from Gregg Williams how not to use his head (concussions).

6, Ravens, QB Lamar Jackson, No. 32 overall, 2018. Mayfield was 5-2 in his last seven starts. Jackson made all of his starts in that stretch and was 6-1, with a win over Mayfield.

7, Ravens, LT Ronnie Stanley, No. 6 overall, 2016. Has learned how to play left tackle with the big boys.

8, Browns, RB Nick Chubb, No. 35 overall, 2018. Averaged 5.2 yards on 192 carries; 10 rushing-receiving TDs.

9, Bengals, RB Joe Mixon, No. 48 overall, 2017. Missed two games in 2018 but led AFC with 1,168 rushing yards (4.9 per carry); also caught 43 passes.

10, Ravens, CB Tavon Young, No. 104 overall, 2016. Injured and out in 2017, played so well at the nickel in 2018 that he got a three-year, $25.8 million extension.

11, Steelers, RB James Connor, No. 105 overall, 2017. In 2018, led Chubb 215-192 in carries and 12-9 in rushing TDs; trailed Chubb 996-973 in rushing yards.

12, Browns, DT Larry Ogunjobi, No. 65 overall, 2017. Played 930 defensive snaps in 2018, almost as many as Garrett; 84 tackles in two years.

13, Bengals, DB Jessie Bates, No. 54 overall, 2018. He and Derwin James (No. 17 overall, Rams) were the safeties on the Pro Football Focus all-rookie team.

14, Steelers, DB Terrell Edmunds, No. 28 overall, 2018. Started all 16 games at safety, playing every possible defensive snap in 10.

15, Browns, LB Joe Schobert, No. 99 overall, 2016. Has been in a Pro Bowl; lost some 2018 time to injury but played every defensive down in 11 games.

16, Browns, TE David Njoku, No. 29 overall, 2017. Led AFC North tight ends in 2018 in catches (56) and receiving yards (639).

17, Bengals, WR Tyler Boyd, No. 55 overall, 2016. Made 76 catches for 1,028 yards despite missing two games in 2018.

18, Browns, WR Antonio Callaway, No. 105 overall, 2018. Played 765 of a possible 1,091 offensive snaps; 43 catches, 586 yards, five TDs.

19, Ravens, TE Mark Andrews, No. 86 overall, 2018. Played in all 16 games (three starts), making 34 catches for 552 yards.

20, Ravens, OT Orlando Brown, No. 83 overall, 2018. Played every down at right tackle across final 10 games.

21, Bengals, DE Sam Hubbard, No. 77 overall, 2018. Played nearly half the defensive snaps, appearing in every game (no starts); six sacks.

22, Bengals, DT Andrew Billings, No. 122 overall, 2016. Emerging nose tackle started all 16 games in 2018.

Granted, the list is quite subjective. It ignores the possibility (or probability) that three high picks from 2018, Cincinnati center Billy Price (No. 21), Baltimore tight end Hayden Hurst (No. 25) and Cleveland guard Austin Corbett (No. 33) will take big jumps in 2019.

Yet, the exercise hints at why Cleveland's crazy advantage in recent draft position does in fact bode well, a point to be illustrated in greater detail tomorrow.

 

Coming tomorrow: We present all of the AFC North's 2016-18 picks in the top 150, in order, with a quick look at how each player's career has developed.

 

Reach Steve at 330-580-8347 or

steve.doerschuk@cantonrep.com

On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP