AFC North Power Rankings: Cleveland Browns Still Cellar Dwellers


It’s a perfect time to take a look at the AFC North Power Rankings heading into the 2015 NFL season. Minicamps are over, and the NFL world (outside of deflated footballs) seems kind of boring.

So, here’s how the North stacks up:

1. Baltimore Ravens: Debate all you want about whether Joe Flacco is an elite quarterback. The truth the matter is that if Browns fans could have him Cleveland, the Dawg Pound would whip him up batch of biscuits faster than you can blink an eye. The Delaware product is now 30, entering his eighth professional season, and he’s never had a losing year.

To make matters worse for the Browns, GM Ozzie Newsome came away with two players during the NFL Draft Cleveland fans would’ve went nuts for in receiver Breshad Perriman and tight end Maxx Williams.

While Perriman is faster than the departed Torrey Smith, he has questionable hands. Of course, he won’t drop a pass playing in the purple and black to the chagrin of Browns fans.

Sep 27, 2014; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats defensive end Alvin Dupree (2) celebrates during the game against the Vanderbilt Commodores in the second half at Commonwealth Stadium. Kentucky defeated Vanderbilt 17-7. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The draft also gave Newsome a chance to select a  gap plugger in fourth-rounder Carl Davis in wake of the franchise trading Haloti Ngata to Detroit. Even without Ngata clogging the middle, the Ravens still have two of the best pass rushing outside linebackers in Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs.

2. Cincinnati Bengals: Winning in the playoffs remains to be problematic, but that hasn’t stopped Cincinnati from getting there, and all the main characters are set to return with Andy Dalton playing under a microscope on the Ohio River.

A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu lead a feared recovering corps, while Tyler Eifert could be a dangerous weapon at tight end after injuries plagued his rookie season. Throw Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard into the mix, and Cincinnati’s offense could be poised to be among the top 10 offenses in the league.

The Bengals defense was decimated by injuries in 2014, and defensive tackle Geno Atkins was the poster boy for the unit. He was coming off an ACL tear and wasn’t himself. With some more time in the training room, Atkins figure to be much better in 2015.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers still have Ben Roethlisberger, who shared the NFL’s passing mark with Drew Brees in 2014 after throwing for 4,952 yards, but their defense had serious questions going into the offseason. That’s why the franchise sold out on rectifying this problem during the draft.

Coach Mike Tomlin attempted to fix his pass rush by taking Alvin Dupree out of Kentucky with the No. 22 overall pick. The Steelers had 33 sacks a season ago–the fewest their franchise has recorded since 1989. Dupree should help boost that total.

The defense will still have problems. The Troy Polamalu era is over and no ball hawking safety lays in wait.

Pittsburgh’s offensive line, long an anchiles heel for Big Ben, may be the best it’s been in a long time.

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4. Cleveland Browns: The Browns got better in the NFL Draft with the selection of Danny Shelton, but so did every other team. The truth is Cleveland is going into the season with a journeyman quarterback in Josh McCown and an offense that figures to be run-heavy behind Isiah Crowell, Terrence West and Duke Johnson.

The receiver position was upgraded with the addition of Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe, but neither will make anyone forget the Josh Gordon of two seasons ago.

Defensively, the Browns have talent, especially in the secondary behind Joe Haden, Donte Whitner and Tashaun Gipson but will the offense score enough so that the defense will see the fruits of the their labor?

How do you see the AFC North standings shaking out?

Next: No Set Answer For Browns' Starting Tight End