How do the Browns compare to the favorites?
Former head coach Hue Jackson was very high on Desmond Harrison, who started the first eight games and gave up four sacks and had eight penalties including five holding calls, and PFF liked him better than Robinson in pass protection.
Despite my admitted Browns bias, PFF is bat crazy on this player. John Dorsey rewarded him with a $7 million dollar contract in the off-season, so apparently, Dorsey is okay with ignoring PFF’s evaluation as well.
The Patriots, unlike the Browns, have some major holes to fill on offense, after scoring a trifecta of losses: Rob Gronkowski has retired, Chris Hogan left via free agency, and Josh Gordon…well, Josh is taking an extended vacation again, at the invitation of Commissioner Goodell and the NFL drug policy.
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For that reason, their bar chart shows second string running back James White rather than a WR3, because they don’t have a third wide receiver that was graded highly by PFF. The Doctor, Julian Edelman, is in again, but age 33 old enough to be a fossil for an NFL wide receiver. It goes without saying that Tom Brady was unbelievable last year in last minute drives in the post-season last year, but to this analyst, he didn’t make all the throws that he used to make.
Tackle Isaiah Wynn of the Patriots was a first round draft pick and was IR’d due to an Achilles injury. His situation is similar to Corbett’s in that he generated no grade in 2018 from PFF, bugt is likely to start in 2019. It’s not a slam dunk that an athlete can fully recover from an Achilles injury, but more likely than not he will be at full strength. Rather arbitrarily, he’s listed as an average NFL starter (32nd). To summarize, this offense has some holes, and in many cases, they’re patched together with some great but aging talent.
The Chiefs appear to be a match for the Browns on offense, though PFF seems not to be fans of ex-Brown Cameron Erving who ranks only 75th, despite the buzz that he found himself under Andy Reid’s tutelage. Another ex-Brown, Mitchell Schwartz is at the top of his profession, and a third ex-Brown, Austin Reiter got good reviews in limited duty in 2008.
Tyreek Hill was sensational last year, but fellow wide receiver Sammy Watkins was just okay. But both Rashard Higgins and Antonio Callaway of the Browns had more yards last year than Watkins and yet they don’t even show up in the Browns’ top 11. Both Callway and Higgins cost much less than Watkins huge cap number of $19.2 Million in 2019. A few more signings like that, and the Chiefs are going to spend themselves out of contention, with or without superstar Pat Mahomes at the controls.
The Rams are Las Vegas’ highest ranking team to win the Super Bowl at 8-1, tied with the Chiefs. Their PFF rankings are very high across the board, although Jared Goff ranks below Mahomes, Brady and Mayfield. Todd Gurley scored lower this year than last year, and there is some suspicion that the pounding may be getting to him because he tailed off in the playoffs last year. Andrew Whitworth is on his way to Canton, but at 37 he is the oldest star this side of Tom Brady. Joseph Noteboom is a third round draft pick moving into the starting lineup this year, and John Sullivan was not highly regarded by PFF.
Figure 1. Browns Offense, modified percentiles based on PFF. Kareem Hunt is the second running back in lieu of wide receivers Rashard Higgins and Antonio Callaway. Likely backup Eric Kush is shown with the starters because he had enough stats to generate a ranking (seven starts for the Bears), while Austin Corbett did not.
Figure 2. Patriots Offense, modified percentiles based on PFF. Isaiah Wynn missed 2018 with an Achilles injury. Halfback James White is listed instead of a third WR because the Patriots don’t have a highly graded third WR after losing Chris Hogan to free agency and Josh Gordon to another vacation at the invitation of Commissioner Goodell. Matt LaCosse is assigned to replace Hall of Famer Gronkowski. Phillip Dorsett was not good but not great last year.
Figure 3. Chiefs Offense. Patrick Mahomes is All-Universe, but you knew that already. PFF sees WR depth as a problem. Also, Cam Erving is ranked 75th among guards. Another ex-Brown, Austin Reiter, played well but without a lot of reps. It will be interesting to see who puts up bigger numbers, the Chiefs or Browns.
Figure 4. Rams offense scored very high overall. Jared Goff scores lower than the QBs for the other contenders, but the Rams, like the Browns, have depth at wide receiver. Woods, Cooks and Kupp. Kupp played in only eight games due to a knee injury but was outstanding.
The trio combined for over 3000 receiving yards. On top of that, they have another kid in Josh Reynolds who got enough playing time to add another 402 receiving yards. They have less depth on OL, where Andrew Whitworth seeks to become the OL version of Tom Brady and is joined by under-performing John Sullivan and second-year man Joseph Noteboom.