The Cleveland Browns have been bad for far too long. How can we fix them?
As we go on through the 2016 NFL season, we see which teams should consider a rebuild, and which teams can establish themselves as legitimate contenders. There are always teams in the middle, but they are not focused on as much as the ones on the ends of the spectrum. Here we can focus on any team that isn’t a top-tier Super Bowl favorite this year, starting with vaunted Cleveland Browns. While they are better than their 0-9 record suggests, the Browns need some major help to get back on track and become “for real” contenders in the NFL. Below we will lay out the requirements for teams to make it back into contention.
Coaching and Front Office: We’re all set
The Browns have made some smart moves in their front office over the past year, with the move to a more analytics-based approach to scouting draft prospects and free agents. While they missed out on Carson Wentz, they had a strong draft in 2016, with all of their picks in the first three rounds playing meaningful snaps and making positive contributions to the team. Executive Vice President Sashi Brown and head coach Hue Jackson have done a good job of transforming this team, and while they remain winless in 2016, they have been competing with strong teams.
Offense: Good start, but keep going
One of the biggest stories surrounding the 2015 and 2016 seasons with the Browns has been the transition from quarterback to wide receiver by Terrelle Pryor. In his first full-time season as a wideout, he has 46 catches for 579 yards and 4 touchdowns through 9 games. That puts him on pace for 82 catches, 1,029 yards, and 7 touchdowns for the 2016 season. With him and intriguing first rounder Corey Coleman, as well as a strong year out of Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson in the ground game, they have a decent core of weapons to build around. While the Browns likely weren’t expecting rookie quarterback Cody Kessler to start any games for the team this year, he has impressed in his 6 games of action, completing 67.5% of his 160 passes for 1,150 yards (7.2ypa), 5 touchdowns, and just one interception. He has been a bright spot, and may be able to hold on to the starting job depending on who the Browns select in the 2017 NFL draft (more on that later). The offensive line remains a concern, with a hole at the center position, as well as a replacement for right tackle Austin Pasztor and the aging right guard John Greco.
Defense: Working on it
The Browns have invested heavily in the defensive line in recent drafts, picking up a good core of Danny Shelton, Emmanuel Ogbah, and Carl Nassib to go along with solid secondary play from Joe Haden and Jamar Taylor. They also have a decent trio of linebackers with Jamie Collins, Demario Davis, and Chris Kirksey. While they need help at the “will” linebacker position, they have a good core to start with, and will likely get better as time goes on. Talks of switching their defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3 have traveled through the media, and while that may be a good idea, it is left to the coaches and the executives to make those decisions, and not us writing about it. Regardless, the Browns should look to add more talent on the edges, as well as the back end of the secondary, needing a lot of safety help after the 2016 season.
Upcoming Free Agents of Note: OLB Jamie Collins, G/T Austin Pasztor, WR Terrelle Pryor, CB Jamar Taylor, FS Jordan Poyer
Current Positions of Need: QB, OLB, FS, SS, OT, OG, DL
2017 NFL Draft*:
Round 1, Pick 1: DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
Round 1, Pick 17 (From PHI): SS Jamal Adams, LSU
Round 2, Pick 1: QB Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Round 2, Pick 6: OT Adam Bisnowaty, Pittsburgh
Round 3, Pick 1: OG Zach Banner, USC
Round 5, Pick 1: OLB/S Jalen Reeves, Tennessee
Round 5, Pick 32: DT Vincent Taylor, Oklahoma State
Round 6, Pick 1: TE Darrell Daniels, Washington
Round 7, Pick 16: WR Mack Hollins, North Carolina
*Compensatory picks not included at this time