PFT preseason power rankings No. 31: Cleveland Browns
The Browns have taken the bottom rung in plenty of preseason, in-season and postseason power rankings in recent years, but that’s not where they find themselves in PFT’s rankings this summer.
They are No. 31, which isn’t where you’d want to be but it’s still a nice change for the Browns to have someone to look down on. Their chances of shooting higher up in the rankings will hinge on finally answering their eternal quarterback question.
Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler and second-round pick DeShone Kizer are this year’s options under center, which offers some intriguing possibilities but little certainty that the search is ending this year. The good news for the Browns is that their stockpiling of draft picks, including three first-round selections this year, has led to more talent around the quarterbacks.
Biggest positive change: That increase in talent should be noticeable on both the offensive and defensive lines this year. First overall pick Myles Garrett gives the Browns a major piece to build around at defensive end and the team drafted two other defensive linemen to go with four others drafted in 2015 and 2016. On the other side of the ball, adding right guard Kevin Zeitler and center JC Tretter in free agency and extending left guard Joel Bitonio gives the Browns a stronger group to go with left tackle Joe Thomas.
Biggest negative change: It’s fair to wonder how much negative change a 1-15 team can experience, but Cleveland spent a lot of time working with Terrelle Pryor as he transitioned to wide receiver over the last two years and his 77 catches for 1,007 yards were a bright spot last season. They won’t reap any other rewards, however, as Pryor jumped to Washington as a free agent and the Browns will lean on Corey Coleman and Kenny Britt at wideout instead.
Coaching thermometer: The Browns have not shown much patience with their coaches of late, but Hue Jackson starts his second year without much heat under his seat. That won’t remain the case if the team’s search for a long-term answer at quarterback continues to be a fruitless one, but the Browns have embraced a longer view than they have in some time and Jackson is central to it.
We’d like to crack a beer with … Joe Thomas. Thomas has been through 10 seasons of losing with the Browns while playing for six head coaches and blocking for myriad quarterbacks. That’s a lot of fodder for stories and Thomas has the kind of personality that suggests they’d be good ones.
How they can prove us wrong: If the offensive line gels as hoped, the Browns should be able to run the ball and take some pressure off that quarterback group. Put that with a defense that follows new coordinator Gregg Williams’ history by improving in his first season with a team and the Browns could be playing a lot of close games in 2017. Get a few to break their way and the Browns will be looking a lot better in the final set of power rankings.