The Cleveland Browns still get no love in Power Rankings
Coming into the 2019 season, the Cleveland Browns had all kinds of hype. It was understandable, with how Baker Mayfield broke the NFL rookie single-season passing touchdowns record with 27 in 2018, and Odell Beckham Jr. arriving via trade with the New York Giants.
The Browns had him and Jarvis Landry as a wide receiver tandem, to go with Rashard Higgins as a nice third wideout, and David Njoku and Mayfield established rapport in the latter’s rookie year. Plus, Cleveland’s defense had closed the previous season strong, and that unit was looking to be on an upward trajectory.
Unfortunately for us Browns fans, then-first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens didn’t have the group on the same page nearly enough. Mayfield had a rough second year, and Beckham and Landry were not the duo we would’ve hoped for.
Injuries of course played into that, though, and Mayfield having the second-worst completion percentage among qualified starting quarterbacks in 2019 at 59.4 percent didn’t help. Nor did Njoku (wrist) only being active in four games.
Granted, Kitchens’ play-calling outside of the beginning stretches of games, by and large, didn’t aid Cleveland’s offense, which aside from Nick Chubb, who finished second in the NFL in rushing with 1,494 yards, was inconsistent. The offensive line play was as well, and in terms of pass protection, didn’t help especially.
The Browns this upcoming season should hopefully have an upgrade at head coach in Kevin Stefanski, who though he’s another first-time head coach, should aid Mayfield and the offense. We’ll see a very heavy dose of Chubb, and Kareem Hunt along with tight end acquisition Austin Hooper should provide a great security blanket-type element for Mayfield, and Stefanski and new offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt seem well aware of that.
That said, in 2020, after how the sky seemingly fell out last season for Cleveland, as they ended out at 6-10, it is evident that the Browns need to let their play do the talking. They frankly have work to do and need to get some quality W’s before the hype train starts really picking up steam again.
The Cleveland Browns coming in at No. 17 on Bleacher Report’s current NFL power rankings shows that as well
In Bleacher Report’s latest NFL power rankings, featuring the opinions of writers Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon, and Brent Sobleski, the Browns came in at No. 17, which seems pretty reasonable. For reference, Bleacher Report also displayed each team’s championship odds, via DraftKings, with the Browns at +4000.
Cleveland and Mayfield have plenty of offensive toys, and regardless of what plays out with Njoku, the hope is, Stefanski/Van Pelt should aid Mayfield in getting the ball out quicker. A piece such as Beckham can ideally, be more efficient in terms of him connecting with Mayfield more down the field after Chubb/Hunt soften up opposing defenses, too, to go with Hooper to an extent.
New starting tackles in free-agent add Jack Conklin and first-round pick Jedrick Wills Jr., even while he is making the adjustment to the left side, one would imagine should be upgrades over mostly Chris Hubbard and Greg Robinson, too.
Again, however, the Browns have work to do before we can fully be sold, even with their talent, and more so offensively, as B/R’s latest power rankings showed. B/R touched on how the Browns in 2019 were “a massive disappointment in just about every way imaginable,” which was fair to say.
Here was the aforementioned Sobleski’s take on the Cleveland Browns heading into the 2020 campaign, which sticks to the narrative that they have work to do before we completely buy in.
"“The Browns are jam-packed with talent at nearly every level. Yet, this team is transitioning to yet another head coach with new systems on both sides of the ball. If this group comes together quickly, it’ll emerge from its long-term dormancy and become a player among the league’s better squads. Though it’s more likely the Browns will display plenty of inconsistency, especially early in the season after myriad training camp injuries, as they try to find themselves.” — Sobleski"
As Sobleski/B/R noted, the Browns training camp injuries, and on the defensive side, in particular, have been cause for concern. There’s already been a crushing Achilles injury to Grant Delpit, of which DPD’s Mitch Zoloty hit on, a knee hyperextension for Mack Wilson, and Greedy Williams (shoulder), Karl Joseph (foot) and even a bit in relation to Myles Garrett (wrist), could lead to potentially further uncertainty.
Hopefully, we see the Browns defense be able to generate more consistent pressure, though, tackle better and be able to at least be sound in the red zone/create timely turnovers.
Swinging back, it’s on Mayfield to be much more competent in year 3, and one would think that Stefanski, Beckham, Hooper, Chubb, Conklin, and company should aid the Browns signal-caller. So could rookie fourth-rounder Harrison Bryant it appears, who has apparently killed it in camp and was recently named Cleveland’s top rookie in it, as DPD’s Justice Sunderland highlighted.
We’ll have to see what ultimately plays out in 2020 for the Cleveland Browns on the gridiron if the season does go on in regards to the novel coronavirus pandemic, that is. But one thing’s for certain: the Browns need to let their play do the chirping, unlike in 2019.
This group is definitely capable of making the postseason. We’ll have to see, though, as B/R’s current power ranking slot for them at realistically a middle-of-the-pack team shows.