The 2019 season was meant to be the year the Cleveland Browns finally put it all together. Baker Mayfield had just come off a rookie season, in which he had led the Browns to their best record in more than a decade. Odell Beckham would be added that offseason through a trade with the New York Giants. The hope with Beckham was that he would help put Mayfield over the top and get them into the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Instead, the Browns crashed and burned, finishing the year out with a 6-10 record, which was good for second to last in the AFC North division. Let’s take a look at the team’s award predictions.
Make sure to check out all of our other team award predictions here.
MVP: Nick Chubb
Regardless of the problems on the Browns offensive line in 2019, Chubb was still able to have a pretty strong season. Chubb was second in rushing yardage just behind Derrick Henry, with just under 1,500 yards on the ground. However, he would not be able to build upon his eight touchdowns from his rookie season, having ranked tied for ninth among league running backs.
Chubb would manage to survive the sophomore jinx, having played all 16 games. With that in mind, I do have full confidence in not only his skill set but also his ability to keep himself on the field. Question is though, can Chubb start hitting double-digit rushing touchdowns? With the solid new additions both at left and right tackle, I do believe the Browns have done enough, in which to give all of the leading offensive players a fair opportunity to properly succeed in the new season.
Offensive Player: Baker Mayfield
So much was expected of Mayfield, after having exploded on the scene in his debut season. It was a rookie season in which Mayfield finished with 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in just 13 games. With all of that in mind, it really wasn’t overly surprising to see so many people jump on the bandwagon. To be fair to him the offensive line certainly did not do their bit. After having allowed their quarterback to be sacked 25 times in his rookie campaign, they would follow that up the next year with 40 quarterback take downs.
In an attempt to rectify that problem and strengthen that offensive line, they would bring in offensive tackle Jack Conklin. The addition of Conklin would indeed come at a great cost, as the Browns would need to fork out 42 million dollars for three seasons. 30 million of that contract is guaranteed. With the additions of Conklin and Austin Hooper, the expectations for Mayfield this season are that much greater.
It was also decided in early January of this year, that Kevin Stefanski would take over the role of Browns head coach. An offensive-minded leader, Stefanski had spent 13 seasons with Minnesota Vikings in various offensive coaching roles. This included time as the tight ends and quarterbacks coach. With so much experience in those roles, Stefanski should have what it takes to bring out the best in Mayfield.
Defensive Player: Myles Garrett
Garrett season suspension after week 10’s brawl, was another gut punch in what was an already trying season for the Browns. Prior to the suspension, Garrett had already accumulated 10 sacks, 29 combine tackles, and two forced fumbles. Still only 24 years of age, he still has his whole career ahead of him.
With Garrett now officially reinstated for the upcoming season, their maybe questions on his playing fitness. However, In early June, Garrett posted a training video of himself in which he looked to be in tip-top shape. Having had so much spare time in which to contemplate his mistake, I expect Garrett to be fully focused coming into the season. He’ll be partnered opposite Olivier Vernon, which gives the Browns a formidable combo at the defensive end position. In his first season with Cleveland, Vernon would produce 3.5 sacks in 10 games played. With a brand new season and fresh mindset, Garrett should be able to get back to his dominating ways.
Offensive Rookie: Jedrick Wills
With the addition of Wills, the Browns have gone a long way towards solidifying their hole at the offensive tackle position. A right tackle during his time at Alabama, Wills will be moved over to the left side in order to make way for Conklin. Wills anchored a Crimson Tide offensive line that ranked third nationally last year, having allowed just twelve total sacks as well as .92 sacks per game. I look for Wills and Conklin to greatly help towards, keeping Mayfield much more secure this season, as he looks to capitalize on the abundance of weapons at his disposal.
Defensive Rookie: Grant Delpit
Considered by many to be one of the best safeties in the 2020 NFL draft. Some may argue the Browns were a bit fortunate, to have Delpit land in their laps with the 44th selection. At the NFL combine, Delpit would run a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash. Not only can he motor, Delpit is also a superb tackler. He produced just under 200 tackles during his three-year career at LSU. With the selection of Delpit, the hope is that they have ultimately secured the hole at free safety, for at least the next handful of seasons.
Biggest Surprise: Odell Beckham
As with Mayfield, Beckham came into the 2019 regular season with plenty of lofty expectations. Having moved on from a quarterback in Eli Manning that was on the verge of hanging it up to Mayfield, who had just had a great rookie breakout. Instead, Beckham would end up having his worst statistical season since 2017. It wasn’t all a complete let down for Beckham, as he would again manage to hit the 1,000 receiving mark. However, his four touchdowns were just one off his 2017 total, and considering he played just four games that season, it really does speak volumes.
The one question on Beckham was his health for 2020, he would have offseason surgery to repair core muscle damage. According to head coach Stefanski, Beckham will be fine. “Odell’s free and clear,” Stefanski said in a conference call with reporters. “He’s 100% and looking really good.” While I don’t see Beckham ever matching his previous lofty numbers of double-digit touchdowns, I can certainly see him having a strong year in the range of 1,200 yards and 7-8 touchdown snares.
Biggest Disappointment: David Njoku
With the big free agent acquisition of Hooper during the offseason, some might now be wondering where Njoku fits into the plans. It was only just three seasons ago he was selected as the next potential star tight end in Cleveland. After a relatively steady sophomore season, in which Njoku would produce 639 yards and four touchdowns on 55 receptions. 2019 was looking like his opportunity to take a big jump forward, however, an early season wrist injury would end up derailing those plans.
Perhaps the Browns were ready to move on, or maybe they did intend to sign Hooper with the intention of incorporating both players into the offensive plans. However, having made Hooper the highest-paid tight end in the NFL seems like a pretty definitive answer to me as far as where the direction has turned.
While the Browns have been saying all the right things as far as Njoku, and his future with the club. Njoku has formally requested a trade but the Browns may not grant his request. The team wants to use more two tight end sets this season and I don’t expect him to get moved. If he remains with the team, combined with the addition of Hooper, Njoku will put up even more underperforming numbers this season.
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