ESPN ranked the Cleveland Browns No. 32 out of 32 teams in its way to early power rankings, which predicts the future of the 2016 NFL season.
If you buy into what ESPN is selling in its “Way Too Early” power rankings, the Browns will be the worst team in the NFL when the 2016 season is all said and done.
The website acknowledged that it’s hard to predict anything before the draft and free agency, and added the panel of experts that voted on the topic was small, with just 21 experts (presumably ESPN beat writers?) casting votes.
“Why they’re here: No voter placed the Browns higher than No. 31. That’s what happens when you lose 10 of 11 to finish the season, fire the head coach, make major front-office changes, and move on from your recent first-round pick quarterback. And Cleveland could lose a pair of its top offensive linemen this offseason.”
And to give the Browns some optimism, the website stated these things could change the team’s fortunes for the better…
"“Start with the culture, with Hue Jackson in town and Johnny Manziel soon to be out. Jackson was a coveted interview and the Browns got him, a major positive for the organization after the Chip Kelly drama of a few years ago. There’s also this: Exactly 15 months ago, the Browns were 7-6 and one game out of a playoff spot, switched to Manziel and have gone 3-16 since. No, the losing wasn’t all Manziel. But there are at least embers of winning still on the roster, Josh Gordon could return, and an exciting new face is leading the charge.”"
No one expects the Browns to win in 2016. Ideally, they’ll draft Jared Goff and play him right away, like what Oakland did with David Carr. There’s no need to bench the new QB. Start developing him right away.
But with a rookie quarterback, comes losing. And the Browns will probably do their share of it in 2016. As long as the quarterback shows development, though, there’s reason to be optimistic.
Some other thoughts on the Browns being ranked dead last:
-The ESPN article did mention Josh Gordon’s return. It easy to say Gordon’s to pick up where he left off, but his Pro Bowl season is now two seasons in the rearview mirror. He’s played a grand total of five games the last two years. I don’t know how that drop-off is going to affect him.
There’s being in shape, and then there’s being in game-shape. Hopefully Gordon can come close to being the player he was in 2013. I don’t expect him to be the malcontent who came back from suspension in 2014 and looked disinterested. There’s too much on the line ($$$) for Gordon not to give it is all.
–The defense showed some age in 2015. What can we expect from Karlos Dansby, Tramon Williams and Donte Whitner in 2016?
–With that said, I expect a huge bounce-back season from Joe Haden. There’s no reason to believe he can’t return to Pro Bowl form. Additionally, look for Ray Horton to re-vitalize Paul Kruger’s career.
It’s still unexplainable to this day, but Mike Pettine and Jim O’Neil didn’t use Kruger at what he does best: rushing the passer. Look for Horton to correct this, and look for the Kurger and the defense as whole to benefit.
–Bold prediction time. The Browns won’t own the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, because they will NOT be the worst team in the NFL. Take that ESPN!
My way too early prediction? Cleveland takes Goff, and he progresses. The Browns win six games. Not great, but after what the fan base had to watch under Mike Pettine, we can at least take solace knowing the team’s heading in the right direction. Of course, this all hinges on the team taking Goff. If they don’t, you can find me in a state of constant face palm for the entire season.