The Comeback is previewing all 32 NFL teams from worst to first leading up to the start of the 2017 regular season on Sept. 7. Coming in at No. 28 on our rankings are the rapidly rebuilding Cleveland Browns, who suddenly no longer resemble a dumpster fire.
2016 in a nutshell: Deprived of talent at quarterback, along the offensive line and pretty much everywhere on defense, the Browns waited until Christmas Eve to win their first and only game. On the bright side, the 1-15 record landed them the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
What’s different: The Browns used said pick on defensive stud Myles Garrett, who is already working with the first-team defense. They also added freak athletes Jabrill Peppers at safety and David Njoku at tight end in the first round and raw-but-intriguing quarterback DeShone Kizer in Round 2.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) August 11, 2017
Why they could be awesome: Garrett, Peppers, Njoku and Kizer could flourish early, or new quarterback option Brock Osweiler could finally put it together after flaming out in Houston. The revamped offensive line could be one of the best in the league, and youngsters like Corey Coleman, Isaiah Crowell and Danny Shelton could come into their own. There’s no shortage of talent anymore.
Why they could suck: Cleveland lost 15 games last year and still don’t have a clear-cut answer at quarterback. They’re relying on a lot of unproven players to step up.
Major additions: Garrett, Peppers, Njoku, Kizer, Osweiler, veteran wide receiver Kenny Britt and new starting offensive linemen Kevin Zeitler and JC Tretter.
Major losses: Britt replaced the enticing Terrelle Pryor, who somehow got away from a cap-rich team and took a cheap one-year deal in Washington.
Breakout watch: Keep an eye on all of those first five players listed in the “major additions” category, as well as Coleman, Crowell and Shelton. Again, no shortage of talent — but a lot of it has yet to explode.
Position to watch: Quarterback, of course. Isn’t it always in Cleveland? The Browns have used a ridiculous 26 starting quarterbacks since 1999, and Osweiler and Kizer are competing for the right to be No. 27. If both fail, Cody Kessler — a third-round pick who posted a solid 92.3 passer rating despite losing all eight of his starts as a rookie in 2016 — might get another shot.
Prediction: The Browns will be a lot better, but there are too many questions on both sides of the ball. And they’ll inevitably experience growing pains. It’ll be a fun year in Cleveland, but this team is still at least a year away from contending.
6-10, last place in the AFC North