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Browns, Josh Gordon, Dante Lavelli, Ray Renfro, Mac Speedie, Paul Warfield

5 best wide receivers in Cleveland Browns history

Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the NFL’s best wide receivers today, but after one season with the Cleveland Browns, is he one of the team’s five best all-time pass catchers?

Well, he certainly still has a lot of work to do.

With that said, we take a look the five best wide receivers in Browns history.

5. Josh Gordon

It’s not an overstatement to say that Josh Gordon could have been the greatest receiver in the history of the game. The physical talent he possessed was nothing short of incredible. Suspended twice for marijuana use while at Baylor, Gordon entered the 2012 Supplemental Draft and the Browns spent their  second-rounder on him.

In 16 games as a rookie, he caught 50 passes for 805 yards and five touchdowns. A solid season, but it was nothing compared to what came next.

In one of the most dominant performances ever, Gordon hauled in 87 passes for a league-leading 1,646 yards and nine scores in 2012. He did that while catching passes from Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer.  What’s more amazing was that he played in only 14 games that year, making people believe like he was on the path to legend status.

Unfortunately, Gordon hadn’t gotten past his demons (of which weed was the least of) and missed the next two seasons due to suspension. He returned to the team in 2017, and in Week 1 of the 2018 season, he caught a touchdown pass late against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

After the Steelers game though, Gordon was traded a week later. He played for the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks since, but he was still unable to overcome his substance abuse issues.

It’s a sad story about the waste of premier talent, and Gordon is still just 29. It was short-lived, but his success with the Browns was so amazing that he makes this list over both Beckham and Jarvis Landry.

4. Ray Renfro

Ray Renfro played for the Browns from 1952 to 1963, winning two NFL championships and making three Pro Bowls. As a Brown, he caught 281 passes for 5,508 yards and 50 touchdowns.

He also played running back early on, carrying the ball 137 times over his first seven seasons. Renfro topped 500 receiving yards in seven seasons, which is a huge accomplishment considering the forward pass had not fully overtaken the league yet during his time.

3. Mac Speedie

As impressive as Renfro’s numbers were, Mac Speedie and his teammate Dante Lavelli (spoiler alert, he’s on this list too) put up even better stats.

A member of the original Browns team, Speedie spent seven years in the league — all with the Browns — and totaled 349 grabs for 5,602 yards and 33 scores. A five-time league champion and six-time All-Pro, Speedie averaged over 800 yards receiving per season, a feat that wasn’t topped for a full 20 years after his retirement.

The early Browns were ahead of their time in many ways, and that’s no surprise considering the great Paul Brown was the team’s head coach.

2. Paul Warfield

An Ohio State legend, Paul Warfield was drafted 11th overall in 1964 and spent his first six NFL seasons in Cleveland. He made three Pro Bowls and topped 700 yards each year sans 1965 — when he played in only one game.

Warfield was traded to the Miami Dolphins in 1970 (a deal that did not work out for Cleveland in the slightest; see Phipps, Mike) and returned to the Browns in 1976 to play out his final two seasons in his home state. Overall, Warfield won three championships and was named to eight Pro Bowls.

With Cleveland, he caught 271 passes for 5,210 yards and 52 touchdowns. He did a lot of his damage with the Dolphins, but his time with the Browns was good enough to earn him a spot on this list.

1. Dante Lavelli

Like his teammate Speedie, Dante Lavelli was part of the first Browns team and ended up in the Hall of Fame. A hometown hero, he played at Ohio State at the college level before serving in World War II.

After returning home, he joined the Browns and spent 11 years in the league, winning a total of seven championships. He caught 386 passes for 6,488 yards and 62 touchdowns.

After football, Lavelli became an assistant coach and scout with the Browns and the Chicago Bears. He also ran multiple small businesses around the Cleveland area. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1975 and passed away in 2009 at the age of 85. Nicknamed “Gluefingers,” there have been few WR duos in NFL history as great as Lavelli and Speedie.