Frank Ammirante | May 17th, 2020
Entering the 2019 season, the Cleveland Browns were one of the most hyped teams in football. The acquisition of star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and the continued development of promising quarterback Baker Mayfield created high expectations for the team. The Browns finished the season as the biggest disappointment in the league – poor coaching, porous offensive line play, and regression from Mayfield resulted in a 6-10 record. Fresh off a strong offseason, the Browns look poised to deliver on last year’s expectations in 2020. Here are five bold, but attainable predictions for the Cleveland Browns.
Make sure to check out all of our other team bold predictions here.
The Browns win the AFC North
The Browns made significant upgrades to their offensive line, signing veteran right tackle Jack Conklin and drafting promising left tackle Jedrick Wills in the first round. The replacement of head coach Freddie Kitchens with Kevin Stefanski will also improve the offense, particularly with the running game – Stefanski helped the Minnesota Vikings have a Top-5 running game as offensive coordinator. This will help ease the pressure on Baker Mayfield, resulting in fewer interceptions and improved efficiency. The signing of tight end Austin Hooper to go along with Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, and Kareem Hunt give Mayfield an impressive arsenal. The defense is stocked with playmakers such as defensive end Myles Garrett, defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, and cornerback Denzel Ward. While the AFC North is one of the toughest divisions in the NFL, the Browns have the talent to dethrone the Baltimore Ravens in 2020.
Baker Mayfield throws fewer than ten interceptions
The Browns ranked 22nd in the NFL with 24.6 rush attempts per game in 2019, while Stepanski’s former team in Minnesota placed 5th with 29.2 per game. Expect Stefanski to make the Browns’ offense more balanced, leaning on Chubb and Hunt to help ease the pressure on Mayfield. The addition of Hooper gives Mayfield another option in the intermediate passing game. Wills and Conklin combine with center J.C. Tretter to give the team a formidable trio up front, so Mayfield likely won’t be pressured as often. All of these factors should allow Mayfield to do a better job at protecting the football. This interception total may seem low given his 21 INTs in 2019, but when you look at his rookie total of 14 and consider the overall improvements, you come to realize that this is easily attainable. Expect a resurgence for Mayfield in his third year as a pro.
Kareem Hunt catches more than seventy receptions
Hunt’s career-high in receptions is 53, but he caught 37 balls in only eight games in his first season with the Browns. I expect the team to try to feature Hunt alongside Chubb as much as possible in an effort to keep their best players on the field. We might also see Hunt line up in the slot, which will result in more opportunities for targets. Expect Chubb to take a backseat to Hunt on passing downs, so we could see the latter take up significant target share among the team’s running backs. Don’t sweat the presence of Chubb, Hunt is going to be a valuable fantasy back, particularly in PPR leagues. Seventy receptions would have ranked 7th in the NFL last season, but Hunt has the talent and opportunity to exceed this number in 2020.
Odell Beckham Jr. posts fewer than 1,200 receiving yards
Beckham was a major disappointment in 2019, posting 74 receptions for 1,035 yards and four touchdowns. Many will expect a major bounce-back and return to New York Giants form, but I don’t see that happening in 2020. There are simply too many great options on this offense that will eat into OBJ’s target share. The days of being peppered with over 150 targets per season are gone for the foreseeable future. The increased emphasis on the running game also puts Beckham’s receiving production at risk. I would expect similar numbers to last season for OBJ, with approximately 1,100 yards. However, with improvements on offense, you can rest assured that Beckham will improve on his touchdown total – double-digit trips to the end-zone are not out of the realm of possibility.
Myles Garrett posts 20 sacks en route to winning Defensive Player of the Year
Garrett enters the 2020 season with a major chip on his shoulder after his shameful antics against quarterback Mason Rudolph and the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’ll be highly motivated to put this incident past him and let his play overshadow his behavior. Since the Browns will be an improved team, they will be leading in games more often. This will put Garrett in favorable pass-rushing situations since opponents will need to pass to play catch-up. It should allow the former first-overall pick to wreak havoc on opposing passers. Garrett’s career-high in sacks is 13.5 and he posted 10 sacks in only 10 games last year, so joining the 20-sack club is definitely attainable. Still only 24 years old, Garrett looks ready to take off in his fourth season in the NFL.
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