Cleveland Browns 2020 Team Preview

Cleveland Browns 2020 Team Preview

by August 31, 2020 0 comments

Entering the 2019 season, the Cleveland Browns had high hopes and playoff expectations. Some betting spots had the Browns with the fifth-best odds to win the Super Bowl entering the season. However, the team showed to be the same old Browns. Baker Mayfield regressed in year two despite the addition of Odell Beckham Jr. Myles Garrett was suspended for the final six games of the season after hitting Mason Rudolph in the head with his helmet. As the team entered the offseason, they hope to turn the page and become a playoff team in 2020.

Make sure to check out all of our other NFL team previews.

Offseason Recap

The offseason got started when the Browns fired Freddie Kitchens after just one season at the helm. To replace him, they hired former Minnesota Vikings’ offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski. Ironically, the Browns passed over Stefanski the year before for Kitchens. In their next move, the team hired former Philadelphia Eagles’ vice president of football operations, Andrew Berry, as their new general manager. After overhauling the front office and coaching staff, the team made several splashy moves in free agency.

The first move they made was placing a second-round tender on running back Kareem Hunt. After a solid showing in the eight games he played in 2019, the Browns brought him back to pair with Nick Chubb. They then signed former Falcons’ tight end Austin Hooper and former Tennessee Titans’ offensive tackle Jack Conklin. They also signed several veteran players, including backup quarterback Case Keenum, defensive tackle Andrew Billings, and safety Andrew Sendejo.

Offense

Recently, Stefanski stated how he wants to use both running backs and could see both getting 1,000 rushing yards. Despite signing Hooper to, at the time, the biggest contract for a tight end in league history, the Browns refused to trade David Njoku when he requested a trade. After signing Conklin in free agency, the Browns were rumored to be the front runner to trade for former Washington offensive tackle Trent Williams. Instead, the Browns used their first-round pick on former Alabama offensive tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. Given Stefanski’s success using two tight ends and running the ball last season in Minnesota, Brown fans should expect the team to be a run first offense this season.

Defense

The Browns recently signed Garrett to a five-year deal worth 125 million dollars. While Garrett is the best player on the Browns, the defense has several star players. Despite being a fifth-round pick, Mack Wilson had a strong rookie season with 82 tackles. Denzel Ward dealt with injuries last season, but the team hopeful he can return to his rookie form this season. The Browns had high hopes for second-round rookie safety Grant Delpit; however, he tore his Achilles during practice and will miss the season. With limited depth at safety, the team could explore signing the recently released Earl Thomas. After signing with the team in the offseason, Billings was one of five Brown players to opt-out this season because of Covid-19.

Predicting the 53 Man Roster

QB (2) – Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum

Mayfield is clearly the team’s starter, but the team spent top dollar to sign Keenum as the backup. Despite only entering year three, Mayfield might be in a now or never season as neither Stefanski nor Berry drafted him. Garrett Gilbert will likely be signed to the practice squad as the third quarterback.

RB (5) – Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Dontrell Hilliard, D’Ernest Johnson, Andy Janovich (FB)

Chubb and Hunt make up the best running back duo in the league. Hilliard and Johnson provide depth and have roles on special teams. The Browns traded a seventh-round pick early in the offseason for Janovich as Stefanski wants an experienced full back, like he had in Minnesota.

WR (6) – Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Taywan Taylor, Damion Ratley, Donovan Peoples-Jones

The duo of OBJ and Landry is easily the best in the AFC North and arguably in the league. However, the depth behind them is thin. Higgins and Taylor are solid rotational veterans while the team has high hopes for rookie sixth-round pick Peoples-Jones.

TE (3) – Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Harrison Bryant

With Stefanski leading the team, fans can expect a lot of two tight end sets this season. Hooper has built a connection with Mayfield in training camp and should be targeted often on third down and in the red zone. Despite spending big money on Hooper, the Browns picked up the fifth-year option on Njoku’s contract. Bryant was a fourth-round selection that the team has high hopes for in the future.

OL (9) – Jedrick Wills Jr., Joel Bitonio, J.C. Tretter, Wyatt Teller, Jack Conklin, Chris Hubbard, Nick Harris, Willie Wright, Alex Taylor

Conklin and Wills were the two headline moves the team made this offseason. Bitonio and Tretter are one of the most underrated interior offensive linemen duos in the league. Hubbard was the starting right tackle last season but should be better in a swing tackle role. Harris was a fifth-round pick and will provide depth along the interior.

DL (4) – Sheldon Richardson, Larry Ogunjobi, Jordan Elliott, Daniel Ekuale

With Billings opting out for the season, third-round rookie Jordan Elliott will need to play a bigger role behind starters Richardson and Ogunjobi. Coming off his second straight season with 5.5 sacks, Ogunjobi should have a breakout season as he is in a contract year.

EDGE (4) – Myles Garrett, Olivier Vernon, Adrian Clayborn, Chad Thomas

Garrett and Vernon are the starters, while the team signed Clayborn to provide experienced depth behind them. Thomas is a former third-round pick, who has been solid as a rotational player. The Browns claimed Curtis Weavers off waivers from the Miami Dolphins and placed him on injured reserve.

LB (7) – Mack Wilson, Jacob Phillips, Sione Takitaki, Malcolm Smith, B.J. Goodson, Solomon Ajayi, Tae Davis

Last season’s third-round pick, Takitaki, and this year’s third-round pick, Phillips, will need to lead this linebacker group while Wilson is out. Recently, Wilson hyperextended his knee and expected to miss several weeks. The Browns could decide to play him on injured reserve and bring him back later in the season. To help replace him, the Browns signed former Super Bowl MVP, Malcolm Smith.

CB (6) – Denzel Ward, Greedy Williams, Terrance Mitchell, Donnie Lewis Jr., Kevin Johnson, M.J. Stewart Jr.

Ward is the leader of the group and the team’s shutdown cornerback when healthy. Williams had an up and down rookie season in 2019 as he dealt with injuries, but the team expects him to be a solid cornerback opposite of Ward. Mitchell, Johnson, and Stewart provide experience depth while 2019 seventh-round pick, Lewis will have to beat out undrafted free agent rookie A.J. Green for the final roster spot. Whichever cornerback loses the battle will likely end up on the practice squad.

SAF (4) – Karl Joseph, Andrew Sendejo, Sheldrick Redwine, Elijah Benton

The safety unit lacked depth before Delpit tore his Achilles. Now that he is out for the season, the team could consider adding a veteran in free agency. Joseph and Sendejo are penciled in as the starters, but Redwine could easily change that if he continues to shine during training camp.

ST (3) – Jamie Gillan, Austin Seibert, Charley Hughlett

Punter Gillan and kicker Seibert enter their second year in the league while long snapper Hughlett enters his sixth year in the league. Gillan averaged 46.2 yards per punt last season while Seibert made 86.2 percent of his field goals.

COVID (5) – Colby Gossett, Malcolm Pridgeon, Drew Forbes, Drake Dorbeck, Andrew Billings

2020 Outlook

The Browns enter the 2020 season with fewer expectations than they did last season. However, this team has too much talent to return to their history of a bottom 10 finish in the league. The offensive will be the key to this team’s success this season. If Mayfield returns to his rookie season form and builds a strong chemistry with OBJ, the Browns have the potential to get in the playoffs as a Wild Card team. However, the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers should be considered the favorites to win the division, forcing the Browns to make the playoffs as a Wild Card team. Given the number of potential playoff teams in the AFC, the Browns have an up high fight ahead of them.

Season Prediction: 8-8 and just miss the playoffs.

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Mike Fanelli is the Editor in Chief and fantasy football expert for Prime Time Sports Talk since 2018. He is a featured writer for FantasyPros. Follow him on Twitter @Mike_NFL2 and reach out anytime with any fantasy football questions.

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