Best Browns Players Of All Time: Top 5 Legendary Cleveland Athletes, According To Fans

Cleveland is a beautiful midwestern city situated along the shore of Lake Erie and is home to the Browns. The Cleveland Browns are one of the oldest teams in the National Football League (NFL) and have some of the most passionate football fans in the league. The Browns have had some amazing players come through the organization, but only a few can be called the best Browns players of all time. 

Speaking of fandom, a new study found that the average sports fan is willing to travel and spend, to see their favorite team play in person. A survey of 2,000 self-identified sports fanatics examined the lengths people are willing to go to in order to watch their favorite sports team play in person. The survey found that the average fan is willing to travel a whopping five hours and 48 minutes plus spend $762.20 on tickets to see their favorite team play live. It sounds like a great way to spend a vacation in Cleveland and go watch the Browns play at the same time.

The Cleveland Browns have a storied history filled with legendary players who have left an indelible mark on the NFL. Among the best Browns players is Jim Brown, widely regarded as one of the greatest running backs in football history, known for his remarkable combination of speed and power. Additionally, Otto Graham’s unparalleled quarterbacking skills helped lead the Browns to multiple championships in the 1950s, solidifying his status as a football icon.

As we have only skimmed the surface, who are the greats in Browns history? StudyFinds did the research, consulting 10 sports and football websites in an effort to bring you a consensus list of the best Browns players of all time. Our list comprises the five most frequently listed Browns players from across these sites and delivers them to you. Think your favorite player was left off? Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments below! 

a sports field with a stadium in the background
FirstEnergy Stadium, home to the Cleveland Browns (Photo by Steve DiMatteo on Unsplash)

The List: Best Browns Players of All Time, According to Experts

1. Jim Brown

Easily topping the list of the best Browns players of all time is none other than the legendary Jim Brown. He is arguably the greatest running back in the history of the NFL and he’s a true icon of the sport of football

“Jim Brown is the greatest running back to ever step onto a football field. When Brown entered the league, he took over, leading the league in rushing yards and touchdowns. In his nine-year career, he would lead the league in rushing eight times and lead in rushing touchdowns five times. Since then, many running backs have surpassed his numbers, but Brown retired during his prime after only nine seasons,” explains Sports Illustrated

Brown played his entire career with the Cleveland Browns and is called a running back, but he was actually a fullback, which is an all-but-forgotten position in today’s NFL. In his day, fullbacks received just as many carries as running backs, and they weren’t known primarily for blocking. Jim Brown is not only a great Browns player, but he’s arguably the best football player of all time. 

“In his career (all of it with the Browns) from 1957-1965, Brown certainly amassed the numbers to back up such an argument. Brown had 12,312 rushing yards and 106 rushing TDs and an additional 2,499 receiving yards and 20 receiving TDs. Perhaps more important to his No. 1 designation here than his stats is the fact that Brown literally changed the game. His style and innovation of rushing changed the NFL’s ground game forever and for the better. Brown is not just a legend in Cleveland, he is a legend in football,” furthers Bleacher Report

Brown retired as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher and he’s still near the top of the list to this day. He is also the only NFL runner to average more than 100 yards on the ground per game

“The NFL’s all-time leading rusher when he retired in 1965, Brown still holds the league record for average yards per game at 104.3. Brown played nine seasons and was a first-team All-Pro in eight of them, making the Pro Bowl every year. The punishing fullback racked up eight rushing titles and led the league in rushing touchdowns five times. Even more than 50 years after his retirement, Brown still represents the greatness of the Cleveland Browns,” adds Browns Wire

2. Otto Graham

Next up on the list of best players in Browns franchise history is the legendary Otto Graham. He is by far the most accomplished quarterback in Browns history, and a beloved figure in Cleveland sports. “Graham is one of the first truly great quarterbacks. Most of Grahams records set during his career have been broken, but his winning percentage, the best ever in NFL history, may be the most important. The game was much different in Graham’s time. No list of the top 10 quarterbacks of all-time is ever complete without Graham,” writes The Grueling Truth

Graham was one of the first mobile quarterbacks the NFL had ever seen. Graham could run and throw, making him a true dual threat on offense. However, Graham did more than just throw for a lot of yards. Otto Graham was a winner, and he’s been beloved in Cleveland for generations. 

“If quarterbacks are evaluated by winning championships then there aren’t many better than Otto Graham. In 10 seasons in the AAFC and NFL, he won seven titles (including three NFL championships) and played in 10. He led the league in completion percentage four times, yardage five times, touchdown passes three times, and passer rating five times,” adds RotoBaller

Otto Graham always had his team contending for a championship. The league didn’t have a Super Bowl, yet, and the yearly title game was simply known as the Championship Game. Graham put his team in position to win every season. 

“Graham took Cleveland to an NFL Championship in 1950, and the QB was now five-for-five.  He continued to be one of the top QBs in the first half of the decade, winning two passing titles (1952 & 1953) and earning three UPI MVPs (1951, 1953 & 1955).  Graham again led the Browns to two more titles (1954 & 1955), and he retired after the 1955 Season, having won seven titles in ten years. Graham entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965, and his number 14 was retired by the team.  He was also part of the inaugural Browns Ring of Honor in 2010.  The NFL also named Graham to the 1950s All-Decade Team and the 75th and 100th Anniversary Team,” furthers Not in Hall of Fame

3. Joe Thomas

The third spot on the list of the best players in Cleveland Browns franchise history belongs to one of the greatest left tackles of all time – Joe Thomas. He was chosen third overall in the 2007 NFL Draft out of the University of Wisconsin and was immediately one of the top tackles in the entire league. 

“Joe Thomas became a Brown with the 3rd pick of the 2007 NFL Draft. Little did Browns fans know he would go one to become one of the greatest offensive linemen in NFL history. Joe Thomas immediately won the Browns starting left tackle job and was on the field for every Browns’ offensive play for the next 10 years. Thomas played an NFL record 10,363 consecutive snaps,” explains Browns Nation

Thomas is known for being one of the true “iron men” the NFL has ever seen. He didn’t miss a snap for 10 years – not a single play! For anyone who has ever played football at any level, Thomas’s streak is nearly unfathomable. 

“During his career, he never missed a single snap, amassing 10,363 snaps in a row before an injury ended his career in 2017. He is believed to be the only player in NFL history ever to have over 10,000 consecutive snaps. Even more impressive than his resilience to injury is that in that stretch, he only committed 61 penalties while playing tackle. Thomas also only allowed 30 sacks during his 10-year career, an astounding four-thousandths of a percent of his total 6,680 pass-blocking plays. He is one of five players ever to start their career with 10 straight Pro Bowl appearances,” explains Sports Illustrated

It’s a shame that Thomas never really got a chance to win a championship or even sniff a Super Bowl. Thomas played for some pretty bad Browns teams, and he seemingly always had a new coach and quarterback. 

“Joe Thomas played with the Browns for an exemplary eleven seasons as an offensive lineman, often through injury. In that time, he held a streak of 10,363 consecutive snaps, believed to be the longest streak in NFL history. Joe Thomas was born in Brookfield, Wisconsin on December 4, 1984, and was an All-American at Wisconsin University before he was drafted by the Browns in 2007. An injury eventually ended Thomas’s streak and career in 2017,” notes Rookie Road.  

4. Ozzie Newsome

The fourth spot on the list of the best players in Browns franchise history is occupied by the one and only Ozzie Newsome. The legendary tight end was a true pioneer of the position and is one of the most beloved athletes to come through the great city of Cleveland. 

“Ozzie ‘The Wizard of Oz’ Newsome is one of the greatest tight ends to ever step on a football field. When Newsome entered the league he was told that he could be a good wide receiver or a great tight end. Newsome would go on to revolutionize the game, becoming one of the best pass-catchers in the league and being completely unguardable. Newsome was too fast for linebackers to keep up with, and too big for cornerbacks to be physical with. This matchup nightmare led to him becoming the Browns franchise leader in receptions and receiving yards. During his time in the NFL, Newsome also had more receptions, yards and receiving touchdowns than Kellen Winslow,” writes Sports Illustrated

For the record, Kellen Winslow is considered one of the best tight ends to ever play in the NFL, and Newsome had better numbers. He was truly a great NFL tight end, but his NFL success wasn’t just limited to his playing career. Ozzie Newsome went on to become one of the best general managers in the league post-retirement.  

“The long-time Baltimore Ravens general manager had a Hall of Fame career as a tight end for the Cleveland Browns. He was the top target of Brian Sipe during the Kardiac Kids’ run, leading the team in receiving five times and going for over 1,000 receiving yards twice. He would have finished as the TE1 if fantasy football were a thing in 1979, and he had five other hypothetical top-five TE seasons,” explains RotoBaller

Ozzie Newsome retired as the NFL’s top tight end. He amassed over 7,000 receiving yards and scored more than 45 touchdowns over the course of his illustrious career“The greatest TE of all time when he retired (and still among the best, to this day), Newsome was an offensive juggernaut. Newsome spent his entire career with the Browns from 1978-1990, during which time he had 7,980 receiving yards and 47 receiving TDs. Impressive numbers for a WR but even more impressive for a TE. Perhaps most impressive though, in his entire career, Newsome fumbled just three times,” adds Bleacher Report

5. Paul Warfield

Rounding out the list of the best players to ever suit up for the Browns organization is legendary wide receiver, Paul Warfield. He started his career in Cleveland before moving on to other teams. However, Warfield’s natural position wasn’t wide receiver. 

“Paul Warfield is arguably the greatest wide receiver to ever wear a Brown’s uniform. While he played running back in college, he excelled at WR in the NFL. Warfield immediately stepped in and impacted the team, leading them in all receiving categories with 52 catches, 920 yards and nine touchdowns. He is currently ranked sixth in yardage and third in receiving touchdowns on the Browns’ franchise list, but would probably lead all their categories had he not left for Miami for five seasons. Unfortunately, Miami was able to get some of the best years of Warfield’s career, but he was still one of the best players on the field when he was in Cleveland,” explains Sports Illustrated

Turns out, LeBron isn’t the first athlete to leave Cleveland for Miami. Warfield played in Cleveland for five years before moving to the Miami Dolphins where he was part of the legendary ‘72 Dolphins team that went undefeated straight through the Super Bowl

“Warfield was drafted in 1964 and played with the Browns until 1969, after which he went to Miami for five seasons, one of which was the Dolphins 1972 perfect season. At the end of his career, he returned to the Browns for two more seasons in 1976-77. In his eight years in Cleveland, Warfield racked up 5,210 receiving yards (as well as an additional 3,355 in Miami) and 52 receiving TDs (as well as an additional 33 with Miami). Warfield was an eight-time Pro Bowler in his career and was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1983,” furthers Bleacher Report

Warfield was an incredibly skilled wide receiver. His days as a running back in college helped him as a receiver in the NFL and he was known for being one of the speediest receivers in the league. 

“Although his best years were with the Dolphins, the fleet-footed flanker also enjoyed two successful stints with the Browns. Warfield was named to three Pro Bowls during his time in Cleveland. His 12 touchdown receptions led the NFL in 1968. Among players with at least 300 catches, Warfield still holds the NFL record for average yards per reception at 20.1,” adds Browns Wire

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