For the past decade, the Cleveland Browns were considered to be the laughingstock of the NFL. From 2016 - 2017 the Cleveland Browns held a total record of 1 - 31, posting a winless season in 2017. Coming off the winless season, expectations for the 2018 Cleveland Browns were very low. Although the season was to show little promise, the 2018 NFL Draft showed a sign of hope.
With the first pick of the draft, the Browns made headlines drafting former heisman winning quarterback Baker Mayfield. With Mayfield drafted first, many people had things to say. A lot of people drew comparisons to 2014 Browns draft bust Johnny Manziel. These comparisons were not for the better, people talked about his short stature in the pocket on the field and party attitude off the field. Overall, the Browns had a successful draft in 2018. Along with Mayfield at quarterback, the Browns drafted Ohio State Cornerback Denzel Ward, Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway, and Georgia running back Nick Chubb. Little did many doubters know, these four rookies would play a major impact towards the 2018 Browns season.
The Browns opened their season with free agent signee Tyrod Taylor starting at quarterback while Baker Mayfield started off on the bench. In the first game of the season, the Browns played divisional rival Pittsburgh Steelers. The Browns were able to manage a 21-21 tie. This was looked greatly as a building block for the young team that hadn’t won at all the whole season before. Two weeks later, the Browns’ hope continued. When Tyrod Taylor went down with an injury, Baker Mayfield stepped in under center to lead the Browns to a comeback win. This would be their first win in nearly two years of play. As the season continued and came to an end, Cleveland held a record of 7-8-1. Although they didn’t make the playoffs, the Browns finished with their best record since 2007. To consider a season a success without making the playoffs would be unique, but that is exactly what this Browns’ team is made of, unique players who came together to take the next step towards a hopeful future for this Cleveland Organization.
Coming off a season of improvement, the Browns’ rise did not stop. With firing their head coach Hue Jackson in the middle of the 2018 season, the Browns completed the year with an interim head coach in Gregg Williams. The Browns hired Freddie Kitchens to be their next head coach. Along with management moves, Cleveland also made moves to improve their roster. The Browns have released and acquired many players so far through the free agency period. Out of the released, notable players include linebacker Jamie Collins, and tight end Darren Fells. The Browns also acquired players like controversial running back Kareem Hunt, defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson and most notably wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in a trade with the New York Giants.
Going into the NFL draft and 2019 season the Cleveland Browns look poised for a playoff push. The Browns are bound to put up numbers with a young offense that has the firepower of quarterback Baker Mayfield, wide receivers Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr, Antonio Callaway, and tight end David Njoku. The Browns will also gain running back Kareem Hunt who will be eligible to play after serving an eight game suspension for a domestic dispute with a woman in late 2018. The Browns will also be able to hold teams to a small amount of points with defensive stars like defensive end Myles Garrett, cornerback Denzel Ward, and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. Overall, with a division in turmoil as the Steelers have lost their two best offensive weapons in Le'veon Bell and Antonio Brown to other teams, the Ravens look to be their only competition as the Bengals have decided to take the rebuild route. Expect the Cleveland Browns to be making headlines this season for the better. Going into the 2019 season, this will be the first time ever that the Cleveland Browns will be odds on favorites to win the AFC North.