Power Rankings: NFL.com Ranks the Cleveland Browns Low
The Cleveland Browns went defense-first at the 2015 NFL Draft. While many fans were hoping to get a top wide receiver in the first round, Browns management decided to select defensive tackle Danny Shelton and offensive lineman Cameron Erving instead. In addition to that, six other defensive players were picked to join the Dawg Pound, which makes for eight defensive players out of an NFL-high 12 selections.
In the later rounds, the Browns drafted running back Duke Johnson, wide receiver Vince Mayle, full back Malcolm Johnson, and tight end Randall Telfer. The question is, are these additions enough to improve the offense around quarterback Josh McCown, who is expected to go into the season as the starter?
If not, will the defensive additions, especially Danny Shelton, solidify the run defense? After all, the Browns allowed a league-worst 2,265 rushing yards last season. If neither that can be improved, nor the offense, where does the team expect to go?
NFL Media analyst Elliott Harrison expects them to be one of the worst teams in the league. In his post-draft power ranking, he has the Cleveland Browns ranked as the 30th team, leaving only the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers behind them.
This is what Elliott has to say about the Browns:
"While Cleveland had a decent draft in terms of quality, the story here is quantity. Rarely do you want the latter over the former, but like the Patriots, the Browns acquired enough talent to spark competitive training camp battles. My favorite? Seventh-rounder Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. If Ekpre-Olomu gets back to where he was before he got hurt in December, then this was a steeaaaaaaal."
He is very right in the observation that the Browns earned quantity over quality, although the quality is certainly still there. Instead of improving key-positions like wide receiver or quarterback with high draft picks, depth was added to positions that are already solid. Best example here is Duke Johnson, who was added to the young WR-duo of Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West.
Furthermore, Elliott is right with his statement that cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu can be the biggest steal of the draft, if he can completely recover from his knee injury. I did not expect him to fall that far, but I am certainly glad he did. If he gets healthy and back to his old form, he will be a huge addition to the Browns’ secondary.
To be honest, the Cleveland Browns are a total wild card next year.
But where does the team really rank among the competition? That is really hard to predict. To be honest, the Cleveland Browns are a total wild card next year. There is a variety of reasons for that. However, they mostly revolve around the same issue.
Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine have stated that they wanted to strengthen the defense – which they did – to lower the importance of the quarterback position and the rest of the offense. That all sounds nice – but does it really work? And this is the big question. It is almost like flipping a coin.
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It remains to be seen if Josh McCown can go back to who he was back in Chicago. If Johnny Manziel can finally make the trainsition to being an NFL quarterback. If the defense is really that much stronger than this year. If an improved defense is really enough to win games.
Right now, I have to agree with Elliot Harrison’s evaluation. The Cleveland Browns are currently one of the worst teams in the league and cannot be expected to easily get a winning record next season. As long as the questions above have not been answered, the team can hardly be ranked higher than 30th. However, if McCown and Manziel pan out as the quarterback duo and if the Browns can be a good running team that is stronger against the run, there is a chance that they can indeed end up somewhere in the top-20 of the league.
Where do you think the Browns rank among league competition? Let us know in the comment section!