Pro Football Focus ranks Browns roster 18th: They're probably right, but the Browns can still win the division
Pro Football Focus came out with a list ranking NFL teams by the strength of their overall roster and they had the Cleveland Browns 18th. I don't always agree with PFF, but I don't have a problem with this ranking. It's possible to acknowledge what PFF is saying and still believe the Browns are in a position to go out and win the AFC North this year. Maybe there's room to quibble a few spots, but there are a few reasons to give them credence here.
First, the Browns aren't proven. They're coming off of a 7-8-1 season. They enjoyed some success down the stretch and look poised to be much better this season, but to this point aren't a proven football team with a roster full of proven players. And until that happens, it won't be reflected in PFF's player grades.
The biggest reasons the Browns are expected to do well this year is they have stars at key positions. Myles Garrett, Odell Beckham and Baker Mayfield most notably. Take any one of them off the team and the complexion of the season is completely different. The difference from the Browns with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback to even a rookie Mayfield were night and day.
The Browns offensive line has Joel Bitonio and J.C. Tretter, which are proven players, but Greg Robinson, Chris Hubbard and whoever plays right guard aren't. And anyone honest about this team can be hopeful and a little nervous about the tackle position.
The strong safety position is terrible in their rankings. Hopefully Jermaine Whitehead can take a step forward and contribute, but Morgan Burnett isn't likely to get better. Chris Kirksey was terrible last year in PFF's grades and Greedy Williams hasn't played yet.
Meanwhile, players like David Njoku, who PFF praised for his improvement over the second half of last year, have to take another step forward and put together a complete year. Larry Ogunjobi is another example of a player who clearly has talent, but hasn't put together a great season yet.
The Browns roster has some genuine holes on it that they are hoping to get through this season before they can upgrade them. That's not news nor the end of the world.
None of this changes the fact the Browns could win the AFC North and do some damage in the playoffs. All this PFF ranking really illustrates is the Browns have stars in the right places and especially Baker Mayfield can take them further than their base talent suggests.
It also means the Browns have a lot of room to improve, which is what a lot of this year was going to be about before John Dorsey was able to add impact players Odell Beckham and Olivier Vernon. With those moves came increased expectations and moving up their schedule a year, whether the bulk of the roster was ready for it or not.