Paul Warfield – Wide Receiver
Few rookies in Browns history have made the impact wide receiver Paul Warfield did in 1964. Taken with the No. 11 overall pick in the NFL Draft that year, he led the club in every receiving category. He had 52 receptions, 16 more than anybody on the club, for 920 yards, 376 more than anybody else, and nine touchdowns, one better than the No. 2 man. His 17.7 yards-per-catch average was 2.2 yards better than anyone on the team with double-digit receptions, and his 62-yarder was the longest catch of the year.
He was a big boost to an already productive Browns offense, helping the club win its first NFL championship in nine years. Surprisingly, there was no learning curve at all for Warfield. Not only was he going against pro players for the first time, but he was also playing a new position. He had been a star halfback at Ohio State and before that at Warren (Ohio) Harding High School, a little over an hour away from Cleveland, but when Browns head coach Blanton Collier saw his speed and hands and the fluent manner in which he ran pass routes, he felt he'd be an even better wide receiver. Collier was correct in his assessment – maybe more so than he could have ever imagined at that time. Warfield played just one game in 1965 because of a separated shoulder, but he didn't let that slow his development. Although he finished third on the team in receptions in 1966 with 36, he increased his average yards per catch to 20.6, the first of seven straight seasons in which his per-catch average would be over 20 yards. It went up to 21.9, which would turn out to be his best as a Brown, in 1967. A year later, despite the team switching quarterbacks early in the season in going to Bill Nelsen from Frank Ryan, Warfield set a team record that stood for 21 years when he had 1,067 receiving yards on 50 receptions, and he led the NFL with 12 TD catches. He also averaged 21.3 yards per reception. It was more of the same in 1969 when, in his sixth year, he had 42 catches for 886 yards (21.1) and 10 scores.
That was the final season of his first tour of duty with the Browns. The club, knowing that Nelsen's knees were quite bad and that a young replacement to groom for the future was needed sooner rather than later, began exploring trade possibilities to position themselves to get a top-flight passer in the 1970 draft. The Miami Dolphins, who had the third overall pick, were willing to make the trade, but they insisted on getting Warfield in return. The Browns went through with the deal and ended up selecting Purdue's Mike Phipps. Warfield went on to help lead the Dolphins to three straight Super Bowls, two of which were for TDs, in the first season. He retired after the following year with 271 receptions for 5,210 yards (19.2) and 52 TDs, second-best in team history, during his eight seasons with the Browns. Overall in 13 years in the NFL, Warfield finished with 427 catches for 8,565 yards (20.1) and 85 scores.
– Steve King