Coming off one of the only zero wins season in NFL history, Browns fans would not be wrong to feel like their future is bleak. DeShone Kizer’s struggles were a testament to the horrid season as he threw twice as many interceptions than touchdowns. The rushing game tried to hold the team up but as injuries mounted; particularly Joe Thomas, the team found itself struggling more than ever. Myles Garrett, a projected superstar taken at number one overall, missed time this season as well, delaying his eventual growth into the Jadeveon Clowney prospect many saw during last year’s draft.
So how can there be hope for this desolate franchise?
Consistency in coaching is a big deal in today’s NFL. Hue Jackson is not the failure the media portrays him to be. Look at his 1-31 record over his first two years and understand that it is a testament to how much the ownership believes in him. The consistency of coaching staff allows the team to get more and more comfortable and connect to their coach. This is the man who coached Chad Johnson into the Pro Bowl every year he coached in Cincinnati (the first time). Imagine what he can do with Josh Gordon for a full season.
That’s right. Josh Gordon is going to be the number one receiver. Looking at the Brown’s receiving core that might not sound like a bold prediction. However, this writer believes that he won’t only be the number one for his Browns. In one year, we will be talking about how Josh Gordon broke the game and pushed himself into the ranks of Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins. Looking at the defensive side of the ball, the Browns were very effective in stopping the run for the majority of the season and have ample opportunity in the upcoming free agency and draft to find a solid cornerback and safety to solve some of those defensive woes. Crazy? Probably. I dare you to watch Gordon’s highlight reel from 2013 season. And while it has been several years since then, if you put that film next to Gordon’s work this past season, there’s little to no difference. He became Kizer’s favorite target immediately due to his field stretching ability and his ability to dominate cornerbacks. He was such a dominating threat that he eclipsed forty targets in five games with 11 targets twice. To compare, Keenan Allen only had six such games this year in his sixteen games played. Gordon made it halfway there in a third of the time. With a new quarterback sure to come, more on that later, the constant misfires that even the superhuman Gordon could not make catchable should begin to dwindle. He should have more help this season.
With over 100 million in cap space, the Browns could very well convince one of the prizes of free agency in Allen Robinson to come on a prove-it deal after tearing his ACL last season. The Browns can afford to offer the 2015 breakout superstar a deal worthy of at least a year long move to Cleveland with the aforementioned WR guru that is Hue Jackson. In a potential world-shattering move, the Browns also have the money to rope in a top three running back in the NFL in LeVeon Bell which would significantly weaken the division figurehead Steelers.
Let’s talk about the draft. The Browns have two first round picks seemingly every year now and it’s typically because of misguided trading down to miss out on the Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson’s of the world. I am suggesting something revolutionary here for the Browns. They should trade down. The number one and two overall picks will be Darnold and Rosen in no particular order. Why? Because Lamar Jackson is the most electric playmaker in this year’s NFL draft and will be the far and away best quarterback out of this draft class. His accuracy and mobility create a threat that the Browns have not had since Otto Graham. (I had to go all the way back to Otto Graham to find a starting QB I didn’t feel ridiculous writing in this spot. Oh Cleveland.) Now, the Browns would need a hyper-aggressive franchise in win now mode to make this trade feasible. Enter Arizona. A team who needs to prepare as if they are walking into Larry Fitzgerald’s last season if things do not change soon. The loss of Carson Palmer makes the Cardinals a prime suspect to trade up and trade a lot to get their QB. This trade would move Cleveland from number one to fifteen but they would still be able to get an extra blue-chip prospect with the number four overall pick and pick up a first rounder for next year and potentially a treasure trove of picks for this year’s draft as well.
All of this cumulates in the Browns finding themselves with Lamar Jackson at 15 (before the Bills can swoop in at 20) and having their franchise quarterback combined with a player like Barkley, Chubb, or Fitzpatrick at number 4 overall.
The Future of the AFC North
The Steelers could lose LeVeon Bell this off-season and have Ben Roethlisberger’s regression slowly weakening them at the most important position. The Bengals have crashed and could find themselves looking at a top two pick in the next draft with how their team has imploded. The Ravens threaten but have consistently tripped over themselves since their trip to the Harbaugh Bowl in New Orleans.
Is it so crazy that the Browns could finally make the leap right when the entire world has given up on them?
Believe in Cleveland and if all else fails, they’ve still got LeBron!