Browns flip script, now among AFC’s title contenders
CLEVELAND BROWNS (12-6)
New faces: DE Jadeveon Clowney, LB Anthony Walker Jr., S John Johnson III, DE Takk McKinley, CB Troy Hill, DT Malik Jackson, DT Andrew Billings, rookie CB Greg Newsome II, rookie LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, K Chase McLaughlin.
Key losses: DT Sheldon Richardson, DT Larry Ogunjobi, K Cody Parkey, S Terrance Mitchell, DB Kevin Johnson, S Karl Joseph, DE Olivier Vernon, DE Adrian Clayborn, LB B.J. Goodson, T Kendall Lamm.
Strengths: AP Coach of the Year Kevin Stefanski has brought needed steadiness and stability. QB Baker Mayfield triggers Cleveland’s high-powered offense, which returns all 11 starters and is loaded with playmakers. Cleveland has arguably the league’s best offensive line opening holes for Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, a lethal 1-2 combination. Clowney’s arrival — as long as he stays healthy — will make it tougher for opponents to double-team All-Pro end Myles Garrett.
Weaknesses: The linebacking corps and secondary remain major concerns despite the additions of veterans Walker, Johnson and Hill, who also bring postseason experience. Safety Grant Delpit and CB Greedy Williams have both been slowed by injuries this summer, further weakening a group with questionable depth.
Camp Development: Parkey’s season-ending quadriceps injury means Chase McLaughlin will handle the kicking duties — for now. Last season, the Browns cut kicker Austin Seibert after he missed two kicks in the opener.
Fantasy Player To Watch: Chubb’s on the short list of best backs in the game (5.6 yards per carry). As long as he stays healthy, he’ll exceed 1,000 yards rushing, challenge for the rushing title and score double-digit TDs (12 in 2020). Something to keep in mind, though, is Stefanski often turns to Hunt for red-zone carries.
FanDuel Says: Win Super Bowl: 16-1. Over/under wins: 10.5.
Expectations: Over the moon. The Browns ended their long playoff and playoff-win droughts last season and were moments away from upsetting two-time defending AFC champion Kansas City. Cleveland could be on the verge of an extended run of success, something the franchise hasn’t had since the 1980s. Mayfield’s eligible for a massive contract extension and a big season will give him even more leverage.