2. Deshaun Watson
Deshaun Watson is incredibly hard to rank on a list like this.
For players who are no longer starting for the Browns, we can base the ranking entirely on what they did when they had the chance. Their potential and upside they may have showed doesn't mean anything, because we know the full results of how that potential turned out.
But we don't know that for Watson yet.
If he were finished his Browns career, he'd grade out terribly on this list. His numbers were worse than Brissett's last year. But for Watson we're also still trying to project the future. And I'm happy to bet on that potential.
Trying to work your way into an offense midway through the season on a new team when you are almost two full years removed from your last live NFL snap is a total nightmare. Watson not only had plenty of rust to shake off, but he needed to build chemistry with his teammates.
Now he's had a full offseason to do that, and I'm a full believer of what he'll achieve in 2023 and beyond.
Of course, if he opens 2023 playing like he did last year,
1. Baker Mayfield
I know this sucks for a lot of Browns fans. I know a lot of you want to hate him. I know a lot of you are upset he didn't carry the Browns further. But if you read through the previous 33 entries, I really don't know how you can deny Baker Mayfield's ranking as the best Browns quarterback since 1999.
He may not have eclipsed 20,000 passing yards in Cleveland like Brian Sipe and Bernie Kosar did in the 70's, 80's and 90's, but his 14,125 rank No. 3 in franchise history and No. 1 since 1999. Only Tim Couch (11,131) comes even close, and Mayfield has Couch beat by 2,994 yards in two fewer games.
Different eras, sure, but Mayfield ranked 17th, 14th and 17th in the NFL in passing over his first three seasons. Couch’s best ever ranking was 18th.
Baker led the Browns to our first 11-win season since 1994 and first playoff appearance since 2002. And that 48-37 Wild Card win over the Pittsburgh Steelers is probably the greatest moment in Browns history to any fans who weren't watching before The Move. Baker was instrumental in that win too, throwing for 263 yards with 3 touchdowns and no picks.
There are a lot of ways to measure the best starting quarterback. You can do it on stats, which Baker wins. You can do it on team success, which Baker wins. And you can do it on that intangible "it."
Baker ultimately proved that he didn't have "it" for the long term, and he fizzled out. That's true. But for those first few years of his career, Mayfield gave the Browns fans the most hope they've had since the '90s, and just as importantly he helped elevate the Browns to be an organization that started to be taken seriously on the national stage.
I'm just as happy to laugh at his post-Browns misfortune as anyone, but I'm also going to give full respect to what he did in Cleveland.