There’s Actually Light at the End of the Tunnel for the Cleveland Browns

If you read the headline, you probably think I need to be drug tested. Yes, I do realize the Browns did something that the Detroit Lions accomplished back in 2008, finishing a season 0-16. Moreover, the year before, the Browns went 1-15. In the last two seasons during the Hue Jackson era, the Browns have a record of 1-31, which is the worst stretch in NFL history. To put that into perspective, there have more Star Wars Movies made the last two years than Browns’ victories. The Kansas Jayhawks football team has won the same amount of conference games as the Browns have total. And, to top it off, the Alabama Crimson Tide has made more national championship games the past two years than the Browns have won. This situation is something we haven’t seen in quite some time, however, there are several bright spots for Cleveland. Let me explain why I find this to be the case.

Cleveland Has 12 Draft Picks Total in the 2018 NFL Draft

For going 0-16, the Browns will own the first pick of this year’s draft. That’s pretty obvious. However, what is not that cut-and-dry is the abundance of drafts picks Cleveland will own in its entirety for 2018. In total, the Browns have 12 picks to use at their convenience. Cleveland’s second pick in the first round is from the Houston Texans, who gave them the fourth overall pick thanks to a trade the Texans made last year to draft quarterback Deshaun Watson. In the second round, the Browns have three draft picks; one is their own, and the two others are from the Eagles (which was used by Philadelphia to draft quarterback Carson Wentz), and from the Texans (to help them get rid of Brock Osweiler). In the fourth round, Cleveland receives an additional pick from Carolina. Lastly, they will have two final picks in the fifth round because of their trade with Kansas City, giving up offensive guard Cam Erving. With all these draft picks, the Browns should be able to get players to fit holes on the roster as well as acquire assets if they want to trade to get veteran talent.

Sam Darnold Is Worth It

USC quarterback Sam Darnold has been projected by most NFL draft experts to be the first overall pick in this year’s draft. Now, if we look into the history of the Browns since their return in 1999, drafting a quarterback has not been this organization’s strong point. Starting with Tim Couch, the Browns have used a total of 30 different quarterbacks in the last 18 seasons. While past history has shown otherwise for Cleveland, Darnold is the type of player that the Browns can feel good about. His awareness and understanding of the game are not often seen at the college level. He has great size, at 6’4”, that draws comparisons to Jim Kelly, Ben Roethlisberger, and Teddy Bridgewater – a set of quarterbacks with strong measurables that have translated very well in cold weather climate. Darnold also displays heady anticipation and ball-placement on his throws, reads the full-field, and maneuvers in the pocket without dropping his eyes. Despite a lack of experience and a disappointing sophomore campaign, Darnold will be able to form into a solid quarterback at the next level.

Defense Is Showing Progress

Despite going 0-16, the Browns defense played very well (by their fans’ standards) throughout the season, finishing 14th in total defense, giving up only an average of 328.1 yards per game. Impressively, the Browns gave up less than 100 yards rushing at 97.9 yards per game, which ranks 7th in the NFL. Cleveland’s pass defense will need to improve, however, giving up 230.2 passing yards per game, but they are in the top 20 in that category. Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers showed glimpses of what the Browns’ defense could look like in a few years. With those draft picks, more help on the defensive end could spark change and maybe become one of the elite defenses in the league.

The John Dorsey Effect

The biggest issue with the Browns has been the front office, hiring and firing general managers like family members hand out Christmas presents. However, new general manager John Dorsey appears to be just what the doctor ordered to cure Cleveland’s abhorrent play on the field. During his time with the Green Bay Packers, he helped build a Super Bowl champion in 2011, drafting stars in quarterback Aaron Rodgers, linebacker Clay Matthews, and wide receiver Greg Jennings. Then, after inheriting a 2-14 Kansas City Chiefs team in 2012, Dorsey turned around and went 11-5 in his first season in 2013, finishing with a 43-21 record in his four seasons in Kansas City. Dorsey has proven to be one of the best general managers in the NFL, especially one that can stabilize a suffering franchise.

A Full Season With Josh Gordon?

Throughout his NFL career, Josh Gordon has shown that he can be one of the best at his position. Gordon enjoyed stretches where he had over 150 yards receiving for four straight games. Unfortunately, he has struggled personally with substance abuse problems in his life, causing him to stay off the field for two seasons. However, in an interview on Uninterrupted, Gordon admitted that he is turning his life around and is becoming drug-free. His production will be huge for the Browns’ offense and can help be part of the development of Sam Darnold if the Browns end up drafting him. Personally, I hope he plays a full season, not just because of his talent, but to see him better his life.

Only time will tell how quickly the Browns will be able to become a respectable franchise like they were before the move to Baltimore in 1995. Despite having LeBron James and the Cleveland Indians, the city of Cleveland eat, sleeps, and breathes football. No fanbase should have to go through what the Browns fanbase has gone through since the return in 1999. The Browns winning again would be great for football. It would make rivalries with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals more meaningful, not to mention a great rivalry with the team that stole the Browns from Cleveland… the Baltimore Ravens. If the Browns make use of their draft picks and get the pick right, then the Browns will be back into playoff contention for years to come.

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