Is Baker Mayfield really the face of the Browns franchise?

The case for Baker Mayfield and the case against the Browns starting QB

By: Michael Welsh

Quarterbacks are a touchy subject for Browns fans. After dozens and dozens of signal-callers since 1999, it seemed like Cleveland had finally found their franchise guy with Baker Mayfield in 2018. Truth be told, it has been an absolute roller coaster since Baker took over at quarterback. With a disappointing 2021 season, it may be time for the Browns, who have a Super Bowl contending roster, to look elsewhere for a quarterback. A lot of tough decisions are looming for General Manager Andrew Berry. So what should the Browns do about Baker Mayfield? There are many pros and cons to this situation and no easy answer.

Pros of Keeping Baker Mayfield

The most memorable thing Mayfield has done as the Browns QB takes them to the playoffs and gets their first playoff win since 1994. To make that even more satisfying for Cleveland fans, it was on the road against the hated Pittsburgh Steelers. Baker tossed three touchdowns in that game and continued his impressive stretch of playing like a top ten quarterback in the NFL. Baker also broke the rookie touchdown record in 2018, but that gets harder to talk about as an accomplishment since Justin Herbert broke it a few short years later. Either way, Baker has shown plenty of flashes of being a really good QB in this league. He makes top-tier throws and has a fire about him that draws players closer. The Browns had trouble winning any games before they drafted Baker. Since he has been drafted, they have won more and been relevant overall. That cannot be ignored, But is it enough? For many fans, it is not. At some point, another step has to be taken and many thought that would have happened this year. One pro of keeping Baker is that he is a cheaper option, with the Browns exercising his 5th-year option, and that he could return the best version of himself in 2022. He tore his labrum on his non-throwing shoulder in week two against the Texans and played extremely banged up all season. Many believe that his accuracy was off due to a harness that had to be worn during games. Andrew Berry may think that after Mayfield has surgery and gets back to 100%, then he will play at a higher level.

The cons of keeping Baker Mayfield

Unfortunately for Browns fans, Baker struggles with quite a bit and there are a decent amount of cons to keeping him. As mentioned earlier, he dealt with a torn labrum all season. That may have affected his accuracy, but there is no way to ignore that he made many awful decisions all season and was not fully seeing the field. This has been an issue for Baker since college. A few of his biggest critiques coming into the 2018 draft were field vision and happy feet in the pocket, which he still has in his fourth season. It is very alarming that he hasn’t progressed past those problems. In addition to those things, Baker (and the team as a whole) had an anti-clutch gene all of 2021. As a starter, Baker was 0-5 in potential game-winning drives in 2021. That is the difference between making the playoffs and missing them. Mayfield was also one of the worst QBs in the fourth quarter last season and overall only has 7 game-winning drives in his entire career. The biggest con to keeping Mayfield in 2022 is if this is who he is as a QB, then the Browns are potentially wasting another year of a great roster. This team is built to win now and they need a QB who elevates the play of those around him, not one who needs everything to be perfect for him to succeed. Baker has yet to be consistent in his career and with a record of 30-30 as a starter, the Browns would be committing to mediocrity at this point if they decided to keep him long term.

Where to go from here

There is no clear path on where to go from here. Andrew Berry has many tough decisions to make in the 2022 offseason, and what to do with Baker is at the top of the list. There are a few other QB options they could try to bring in, but they are limited overall. A trade for Derek Carr seems more likely than a trade for Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers. Jimmy Garoppolo is another name that has been mentioned, but he would not be a substantial upgrade. When you look at the potential options, it only makes the decision more difficult. Baker Mayfield will most likely be the starter in 2022, but it will without a doubt be his last chance to prove himself worthy of being a franchise QB. Part of the fanbase has lost patience with the inconsistencies and they understandably want to win now. We can all agree that the Cleveland Browns have endured enough losing in the last twenty years. 2022 will be the biggest year of Baker Mayfield’s career if he is the guy they chose to roll with. Get your popcorn ready.

Saints QBs options in 2022: 3 best fits

Who is the best Saints QB option in 2022?

The New Orleans Saints have had a whopping four different quarterbacks start for them this complex season. Here’s the list of the non-Hall of Fame QBs: 

Jameis Winston: 5-2 record

Taysom Hill: 2-1 record

Trevor Siemian: 0-5 record

Ian Book: 0-1 record

It’s very clear that it’s been like musical chairs at the QB position for Who Dat Nation. In 2022, the original starting QB Jameis Winston will test free agency. It’s not yet clear if the QB whisperer himself Sean Payton will ink Winston to a new contract or attempt to lure in a different QB via trade, free agency, or draft.

So, what will Payton most likely do at the QB position this offseason? Well, I’m going to untwine my three favorite scenarios for the Saints QB position. 

  1. Trade for Russell Wilson (I know right)

Sean Payton is a man of simple taste. He likes to kick onside kicks in field goals, challenge impossible plays, and pass the ball on 4th and one. A part of that is showcasing his aggression and the other half is myself getting frustration off all of our chests for the recent Dolphins game. Now, let’s cut to chase. Payton may likely have grey hair when imagining the QB situation after this 2021 season. I think Payton is pleased with what he saw from Winston, but I think he has red flags and a slightly less ceiling than Pro Bowl QBs. 

I foresee Payton getting the best available QB on the market and acquiring a signal-caller that could bring back the similar success that Drew Brees held in NOLA. If Payton has to lose 3-5 players via contracts (or trade) when getting Wilson, the potential of the team would still be much higher than Winston with more money to keep a few other building blocks.

  1. Re-sign Jameis Winston 

If the Saints can’t get Wilson, I do believe Winston is the next best combination of talent + age. The Saints could pull a surprise by attempting to acquire A-Rod, but I think Payton will like the youth and contract of Winston more. I do believe that Winston has issues with accuracy and he’s had injury issues in the past, but he’s still a QB that can bring the Saints to a 10-6 record with ease. Plus, Winston has grown a lot in the past two seasons. He may have more eagerness and potential in his back pocket. 

  1. Trade for Baker Mayfield 

If Saints fans thought Payton improved Jameis Winston, just imagine what Payton could build with inconsistent, insanely talented Browns QB Baker Mayfield. Mayfield may immediately help the likes of speed demon Deonte Harris turn into a Pro Bowl-caliber WR. 

Baker has clearly had a rough outing in Cleveland in 2021. Still, the Browns have a plethora of talent surrounding the QB position and firepower on defense. If they opt to acquire a more conservative QB or rookie QB, they may push Mayfield out for a hefty load of talent. The aggressive head coach in the Big Easy could pull the trigger on a trade and he would also be able to give up less compensation for Baker than Wilson or Rodgers.

3 Reasons Why Baker Mayfield Isn’t The Browns Long-Term Answer

Baker Mayfield may be out of Cleveland

By Chris Moore (Twitter: @fantasy_moore)

Coming into the 2021 NFL season, Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns were considered Super Bowl contenders. But that quickly changed this season after a year filled with injuries, Covid, and poor quarterback play. Mayfield has been battling injuries this season. But he also hasn’t played like he did last year. At times in his career, Mayfield has shown he looks like the franchise quarterback for the Browns. But with his play this season in a contract year, it’s fair to say he doesn’t look the par. Mayfield is coming off an ugly performance in a crucial game against the Packers for the Browns to keep their playoff lives alive. Mayfield threw four interceptions and finished with a 35.2 QBR. Mayfield hasn’t looked like the Browns’ future QB and it’s fair to say he might not be.

Expensive Contract

Let’s say the Browns do intend to give Mayfield an extension. His contract would immediately move Mayfield into the top 15 for most expensive contracts for the quarterback position. The Browns giving Mayfield a contract extension at this point in his career would remind me of the Rams paying Jared Goff all the money they did. It would be even worse because it’s fair to say Goff accomplished more for the Rams than Mayfield has for the Browns at this point in his career. Due to his play and injuries paying Mayfield a new extension would be a huge mistake for the Browns right now.

Inconsistent Play  

One of the main reasons why I don’t believe Mayfield is the Browns’ long-term answer at quarterback is due to his inconsistent play. Mayfield has games like against the Steelers in the playoffs last season, where he looks like a star. Mayfield was 21/34 passing for 263 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Mayfield finished with a 90.6 QBR and outplayed a future Hall of Famer in Ben Roethlisberger that night. Then there are games like last week’s performance against the Packers where Mayfield looks like a backup. Mayfield’s inconsistent play has severely hurt the Browns and could potentially cause them to miss the playoffs because of it.

Expensive Contract

Let’s say the Browns do intend to give Mayfield an extension. His contract would immediately move Mayfield into the top 15 for most expensive contracts for the quarterback position. The Browns giving Mayfield a contract extension at this point in his career would remind me of the Rams paying Jared Goff all the money they did. It would be even worse because it’s fair to say Goff accomplished more for the Rams than Mayfield has for the Browns at this point in his career. Due to his play and injuries paying Mayfield a new extension would be a huge mistake for the Browns right now.

Looking at the Browns Inconsistent 2021 Season

What should the Dog Pound expect?

By: Andy Davies

Last season, the Cleveland Browns earned their first playoff appearance since the 2002 campaign and their first postseason win since New Year’s Day in 1995

As a result, they went into the 2021 season with plenty of hype. However, it hasn’t worked out like this. The team’s current record is 5-5 and they are in a division where every team has at least 5 wins. 

So, what has gone wrong for a team that many had down as AFC North division winners? Is there still a chance to win it?

Inconsistent Division

The short answer is yes, they can. The AFC North is fast becoming one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL, but no team has managed to get some sort of consistency. Baltimore Ravens fans will certainly tell you that. 

They had a 5-1 start, which included a 46-35 win over the reigning AFC Champions Kansas City Chiefs. The week after beating the Los Angeles Chargers 34-6, a team that many have as a Super Bowl dark horse, they lost 41-17 to division rivals the Cincinnati Bengals. On Thursday night, they lost 22-10 to the Miami Dolphins, who were 2-6 before the game. More worryingly for the Ravens, the Dolphins appeared to show the entire league the blueprint as to how to beat them. 

The Cincinnati Bengals were briefly top of the division just a matter of weeks ago but now sits in 3rd place. We have seen the excitement of the Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase partnership but have equally seen the defense allow at least 34 points their last two games as they suffered defeats to the Browns and New York Jets.

There was a difficult start made by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite the surprise 23-16 win over the Buffalo Bills in Week One, they lost their next three games to go 1-3. However, they have not lost a game since and now sit 5-3-1. Head coach Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season, but they still have to face the Chargers, Ravens twice, the current AFC number one seed in the Tennessee Titans as well as Cleveland.

Cleveland themselves have to also play the Packers on Christmas Day and the rest of their AFC North rivals, but also get to play a 0-8-1 Detroit Lions and an inconsistent Las Vegas Raiders. Their schedule is fairly favourable, but they have to cut out their own erratic performances if they are to succeed.

Sorting Out Their Own Inconsistencies

The Browns have really struggled for consistency this season. They won three straight games after their opening day loss to the Chiefs but have failed to win consecutive games since. 

If a team is to win championships, then they have to win games consistently. Whilst is it more important how you play in January than how you play in October or November, but you have to make sure you play in January past the regular season.

What have the great New England Patriots sides done in the past? Gotten a consistent run of good form down the stretch. This is exactly what the Browns need to do as runs like this help build momentum and confidence in the crucial postseason games.

The Baker Conundrum

Quarterback Baker Mayfield is easily one of the more polarising players in his position. There are some that feel he is the guy. There are others that view him as nothing more than a ‘game manager’. 

So far in 2021, he has 1,990 yards, 9 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. This has him projected to finish the campaign with just under 3,980 yards but crucially just under 18 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. This would have him at around his career best in terms of yardage but his worst season when it comes to touchdown passes.

His career so far has defined patchy. He had amazing seasons in both the 2018 and 2020 campaigns but has been poor in 2019 and 2021. He will be expecting a good season in 2022 judging by how his time as a pro has gone, but there is no guarantee he will earn his new contract. This ends after the conclusion of the 2022 season, which may see him raise his game. He has to be careful that he doesn’t suffer a further dip in form. 

Quarterbacks such as Jimmy Garoppolo and Tua Tagovailoa may be available that would fit into the game manager role and allow the excellent run game to flourish. He will have plenty of suitors due to being the number one overall pick in 2018 and the two excellent seasons he has had but he will want to succeed in Cleveland. This is clear to see. One thing that hasn’t helped is the broken-down relationship with wide receiver OBJ.

The OBJ Dilemma

Say what you want about Odell Beckham Jr, the dynamic around him and Baker’s relationship cannot have helped things in Cleveland. Throughout Beckham’s time in Ohio, the talk of a lack of chemistry between the pair has been a constant talking point.

There is substance to this, with the fact that the Browns made the playoffs last season with Odell injured. 

The loss of running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to injury hasn’t helped, despite the best efforts of D’Ernest Johnson. The one-two punch of both backs reduced the need for Baker to throw to ball to. Instead, these injuries have meant Baker has had to throw to ball to. This can be seen by his stats, with Baker projected to throw for career highs in completed passes and his second highest total in attempted passes. 

OBJ’s dad has posted videos on social media of the amount of times Beckham has been open and not received the ball. There is clear frustration from the Odell camp. Now that he has gone, along with the return of Chubb and Hunt, will help ease the tension at the franchise. Should the struggles ease, with such a good plethora of offensive and defensive talent, this should see head coach Kevin Stefanski guide them to another playoff appearance (or two). Should things further unravel, then Baker will be vastly looking over his shoulder at Free Agency and the 2023 draft quarterback prospects.

The state of the Cleveland Browns and where to go from here

Are the Browns going to be okay?

By: Michael Welsh

The 2021 season has not gone as expected for the Cleveland Browns. The expectations coming into the season were division winners and Super Bowl Contenders. Despite the week one loss to the Chiefs, the Browns still appeared to be a team that would be reckoned with this season. That hasn’t been the case. They sit at 4-4 with a lot of questions moving forward. All hope isn’t lost, but adjustments must be made quickly. But before we dive into that, how did we get here?

From injuries to questionable play calling to not being able to close out games, there are multiple issues with the Browns at this point. It all began in week two against the Texans when Baker Mayfield made a tackle on defender Justin Reid after an interception. What appeared to be a dislocated shoulder turned into something much worse in the coming weeks. It was revealed that Mayfield has a completely torn labrum and an additional fracture in his non-throwing shoulder.

This isn’t an injury that will heal over time, Surgery is needed. Baker can play through the pain with a brace on, but as explained by analysts on several networks, it will affect how he plays this season because it is overall uncomfortable. Plus it clearly has messed with Baker’s mental state. There have been several injuries to the offensive line and it has made Baker appear jittery and bail out of clean pockets for fear of potentially taking a big hit. Because of this it is leading to even more issues, such as Baker not going through progressions, seeing the field, and missing open receivers. It is without a doubt costing the team points at times and possibly even wins. Despite all of this, Baker has done enough in certain games to come out with wins. But football is a team sport, and several key players are failing to do their jobs at critical moments. Plus the officiating has been atrocious, but that’s another story.

Both sides of the ball have lacked consistency this year. Joe Woods has been very puzzling on the defensive side of the ball, often failing to make any in game adjustments or dialing up any pressure. There is way too much talent on defense to be as inconsistent as they are. Reigning Coach of the Year Kevin Stefanski hasn’t been bad by any means, but he’s had several struggles that we didn’t see in 2020. He is far too conservative at times, far too aggressive at going for it on fourth down, and some believe the play calling has become stale and predictable. The Browns are a run heavy team, but in 2020 we saw a lot of play action bootleg plays where Mayfield through the ball down the field. This year that is all but gone and instead we get countless screen passes a game and overall a boring offense. So what changed? The obvious assumption is that Stefanski is protecting Baker and his injury by drawing up simple plays that take no time to develop. Be that as it may, eventually you have to take some shots down the field. Baker used to be a gunslinger, taking risks and pushing the ball down the field. For better or worse, it seems that this coaching staff has killed that part of him because he seems terrified to make any mistakes. Of course you wanna be mistake free, but it is okay to let the ball rip from time to time. Opposing defenses aren’t respecting Cleveland’s passing game at all and they won’t anytime soon if nothing the changes. The truth is, wide receivers have never flourished in a Stefanski offense. Catches per game drop substantially for them and number one receivers are often decoys so other players can get open. A Stefanski team can be good overall, but top wide receivers aren’t game changers in his system. You just have to wonder if he makes some changes in his thought process as the season goes on.

Speaking of receivers not being a huge factor in a Stefanski offense, things have become tense with superstar Odell Beckham Jr and the Browns. The narrative that Baker and OBJ do not have chemistry has been well documented since 2019. Fans and analysts alike were optimistic that they would finally figure it out this season, but that hasn’t been the case. Beckham leads the team in targets at 34, but only has 17 receptions for 232 yards and no touchdowns. He is coming off the worst game in his career against the Steelers where he only had 1 catch for 6 yards. There is no one person to blame for OBJ not putting up numbers. Some of it comes back on him with slipping on routes, running the wrong routes, and dropping key passes. Some of it comes back on Baker Mayfield for not throwing him the ball when he’s open and being inaccurate with it half the time when he does pull the trigger. There have been multiple times this year where OBJ is open down the field, but Baker doesn’t see him and instead throws underneath or bails out of the pocket. Lastly, some of it falls on Stefanski and Alex Van Pelt for not drawing up plays for Beckham and not getting him involved early in the game. They all need to be better, period.

OBJ’s dad took to YouTube Tuesday morning with an 11 minute video showing that Beckham is open very often, but Baker fails to get him the ball, and then proceeded to bash the quarterback in the comment section. It got even more hectic when LeBron James tweeted out #FreeOBJ with his thoughts on the situation, and other athletes followed. It is a terrible look for your dad to take to social media to complain about the quarterback, even if he does have a point. It only divide the locker room and causes a distraction that will be dissected on every talk show for the coming days. Nonetheless. the trade deadline came and went and OBJ is still a member of the Browns, so this will be something they will have to deal with for the remainder of the season.

So where do the Browns go from here? Is this all fixable? The good news is that most of it is. At 4-4, the season is far from over and they could easily turn it around to make a playoff push. But it will not be easy. Stefanski and the coaching staff need to sit down and hash out the problems and start fixing them ASAP. There is way too much talent on this roster to be underperforming this bad. Baker needs to see the field and start making better decisions, including getting OBJ more involved early in the game. Execution is crucial in the NFL and that is something this team has struggled with. The players have to do their jobs and the rest will fall into place.

No one is sure what it is, but this team has an anti-clutch gene and they cannot close out games or come back to win one. Stefanski needs to keep the foot on the gas and bury teams, instead of letting up. There have been a few games this year, most notably the Chargers game in week 5, where Stefanski coached scared, even saying in the press conference that he made decisions at the end of the game because he was nervous to make a mistake. Coaching scared will never get you far in a season. Trust the players and talent you have. If you want to be a Super Bowl contender, you have to beat good teams. Unfortunately, the Browns cannot do that right now. It will be interesting to see how Stefanski pulls together the locker room with the drama that unfolded on Tuesday. In the coming weeks, we will learn a lot about this team and see what they’re made of. Hopefully they can come together instead of fall apart.

Why the Browns May Not Take the Next Step

Are the Browns legit?

By Calvin K (Twitter: @Calvin_SGF)

On the surface, the Cleveland Browns appear to have a great opportunity to contend for the AFC title this year. The Browns retained most of their key players from 2020, and they had a very successful offseason, both in free agency and in the draft. This team certainly has an opportunity to make a playoff run, but in this article, I’ll play devil’s advocate and make the case against them. Here are three reasons why the Browns won’t take a step forward in 2021.

1. Quality of Victories

The Browns finished 11-5 in 2020, losing in the divisional round to the Kansas City Chiefs after defeating the Steelers in the Wild Card game. However, five of those victories came against teams with four or fewer wins, and they also had an embarrassing loss to the 2-14 New York Jets. Eight of their victories came by single-digits, and they had three double-digit losses, including two coming by over 30 points.

Granted, the Browns did get some big wins throughout the year, with a win over Indianapolis and narrow victories over Tennessee and Pittsburgh. They also rebounded from their earlier 32-point loss to Baltimore, losing by just five, and they also came within one score of the Chiefs in their divisional-round game. However, most of their wins were extremely close games, and they were in one-possession games against Houston, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, and Cincinnati (twice). They managed to get the job done in those, winning all five, but a little bit of variance in just two of those could’ve completely changed the landscape of last season. A 9-7 (or even 10-6) Browns team would’ve missed the playoffs last season, which leads nicely into my next point: the tough competition in the AFC.

2. Competition

Even if the Browns have a great year, it could still be difficult to take a step forward and reach the championship game in 2021. The AFC had seven teams with records of 11-5 or better last year, which caused the 10-6 Dolphins to miss out on the playoffs despite the postseason expanding to seven teams per conference.

The Browns themselves had to deal with this tough competition last year, playing a grueling game against the Steelers in the Wild Card matchup before facing the juggernaut Kansas City Chiefs. Patrick Mahomes was injured for nearly half of that game, but Kansas City’s supporting cast was still good enough to hold off the Browns, exemplifying how elite they really are. The Bills, Ravens, Titans, and Colts are also teams that range from very good to dominant, and we can’t forget about the threats posed by the Patriots, Chargers, Dolphins, and Broncos, who will all have a chance to take a major step up this year. It just doesn’t seem feasible that the Browns would be able to defeat a healthy Chiefs team, and even if they could, the Bills’ high-powered offense and improved defense is in a much better position to do so anyway. The tough AFC competition will make a playoff run difficult for Cleveland, and while they could contend with most NFC teams, it isn’t smart to bet on the Browns as anything more than a Super Bowl long shot.

3. Quarterback Play

Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield is hardly a bad QB, but it is possible that he won’t be consistent enough to take this team to the top. The Browns have very few weaknesses on their overall roster, but quarterback is such an important position that even a slight disadvantage can derail a Super Bowl chance.

Mayfield certainly displayed plenty of brilliant flashes last season, but his overall body of work was mediocre, at least statistically. His worst stat last year was completion percentage, where he actually finished 30th among qualifying passers. He was also just 18th in passing yards and 15th in passing touchdowns, although those totals can be partially attributed to the run-heavy nature of the Browns’ offense. Mayfield was also 10th in ESPN’s QBR (Total Quarterback Rating), so he’s certainly not a bad player by any means, but he has struggled with decision-making at times. It’s certainly possible Mayfield is able to be a great QB, but his statistics don’t match up with elite passers in the NFL, and that could potentially become a hindrance for Cleveland’s Super Bowl hopes.

Conclusion

All of the reasons given paint an unfavorable picture for the Browns, but we shouldn’t forget the many positives that this team has as well. The Browns made many depth signings to improve their defense, and they added an edge-rushing playmaker in Jadeveon Clowney, who has the physical traits needed to wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines. The NFL draft additions of CB Greg Newsome and LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah will also be vital for this defense, and those two players could both make immediate impacts for the team.

Overall, Cleveland will enter the 2021 season with a very strong roster, and there’s no arguing against the talent that the team possesses. On paper, this team looks like a borderline Super Bowl contender. However, due to the reasons stated above, there are major obstacles standing in the way of a big next step. These obstacles are ones that can be overcome, but even so, the end of the 2021 season may not come with as rosy of a picture as Browns fans hope.

Projecting winners in each AFC division

Will the Browns win the North?

By: Jeremy Trottier

The NFL Preseason is nearing its final week of play, and then we have a week off before the NFL season starts.  This time of year is always particularly interesting, as many people are attempting to predict the division winners of each conference, and trying to make predictions as to which teams will make deep playoff runs, and which will fizzle out.  With that said, in this article, I will be predicting the winner of each AFC division, as well as why I believe this is the case.

AFC North – Cleveland Browns

Starting off in the north, we have the Cleveland Browns, who made it the furthest of any team from this division in the playoffs last year and have been able to improve their team significantly since then.  Additions like Troy Hill, Jadeveon Clowney, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, and Greg Newsome will really take this team and move it up the ranks. 

The return of Odell Beckham Jr. as well as last year’s second-round pick Grant Delpit making his debut should improve the team even further than last year significantly.  If the backfield duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt can continue the tear they were going on last season, this team could be near unstoppable in the regular season.

AFC East – Buffalo Bills

As much as I have liked the New England Patriots off-season moves, I still think they are not yet there in terms of being division winners again.  Buffalo filled their one biggest need in the offseason, that being edge rushing, with one of the best DEs in the class in Gregory Rousseau, as well as picking up Carlos “Boogie” Basham Jr. in the second round of the draft.  The offense was not the issue with this team, it was extremely explosive last year.

The defense on the other hand was somewhat tamed compared to years past, these two additions should hugely impact their success along the defensive line and should allow them to make critical stops where they could not last season.

AFC South – Tennessee Titans

This one is all but solidified after the injuries sustained to Carson Wentz and Quenton Nelson of the Indianapolis Colts, which may leave them out for the early half of the season.  The Jaguars improved, for sure, but not to a point where they are considered for contention, and the Houston Texans are basically fighting for last in the league more than likely.  The Titans on the other hand added one of the most star-studded receivers in the league, Julio Jones.

The 1-2 punch of Julio Jones and A.J. Brown is one that should be feared immensely.  The additions of Caleb Farley and Monty Rice should help them out significantly on the defensive side, and Dillon Radunz should be able to protect Ryan Tannehill long enough to get the ball out.

AFC West – Kansas City Chiefs

This division could be getting closer than in years past with the Chargers and Justin Herbert seemingly on the horizon as the next big team.  With that said, that time is not yet here.  Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce still remain the focal points of this offense, and the return of Clyde Edwards-Helaire will help them get some productivity in the run game.  

In terms of additions, the Chiefs brought in OT Orlando Brown Jr., who should help protect Mahomes from the outside and help out in the run protection as well.  To lock up the interior they got C Creed Humphrey, one of my personal favorite IOLs entering this draft class.  Overall, the rich have gotten richer, and should be poised for another playoff run.

Fantasy Football: 3 Quarterbacks to avoid in 2021

Do not draft Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes

Daniel Racz @Danny___Dimes 

Introduction

Despite the quarterback position making a minimal impact in most fantasy football leagues, taking a quarterback at any point does not have to be a fruitless endeavor. Navigating the position correctly can give you an edge that few other league-mates possess. Last year, targeting players in the middle rounds like Josh Allen (and fading players like Drew Brees) gave you a leg up on your competition. 

This year, there are a few tight ends that you should not be drafting at their current average draft positions, including some familiar faces from prior years. If you can properly fade the quarterbacks that will disappoint, you are in a good place.

Patrick Mahomes

Patrick Mahomes stands the best chance to finish as the top quarterback in fantasy football in 2021. However, he is currently drafted over one round ahead of any other quarterback. Drafting Mahomes is a significant, and unnecessary investment. When you draft anyone as the top player at their position, the only way they can meet expectations is by finishing as such. Taking a gamble on Mahomes as the QB1 instead of a better wide receiver or running back will likely set your team(s) back. 

The Chiefs rebuilt their offensive line, which should help the overall dynamism of the offense. Mahomes will have more time to throw to his elite weapons Tyreek Hill and Clyde Edwards-Helaire. However, the better offensive line could shift red-zone play-calling to favor giving goal-line carries to running backs as opposed to opportunities for Mahomes.

Joe Burrow

Joe Burrow is the easiest fade at the quarterback position right now. Burrow is drafted ahead of Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, and Ryan Tannehill. The addition of college teammate Ja’Marr Chase is keeping Burrow’s ADP high. Burrow has perhaps the best wide receiver trio in the national football league, but he also plays behind a poor offensive line and is coming off a torn ACL injury.

As a rookie, Joe Burrow met expectations. He did not do anything extraordinary like Justin Herbert, but he proved that he was fit to lead Cincinnati for the next decade. Then, all of the sudden, Burrow lost the second half of the year to a torn ACL. Burrow’s injury will likely make him less mobile. The consequences of Burrow’s reduced movement will be fewer rushing yards, a major disappointment to fantasy owners. Though Burrow offers a tad more rushing upside than Stafford and Brady, he is on an inferior offense and should be faded at his current cost.  

Baker Mayfield

Baker Mayfield is not going as a top 16 QB, but an average draft position of QB19 still feels rich. Given the rushing upside that Carson Wentz and Daniel Jones offer, it seems foolish to take Baker ahead of those two dual threats. If Baker Mayfield plays the entire season, he will almost certainly finish as a QB2 in terms of total points and likely points per game. That said, the QB19 is not winning you any titles.

Baker is still on a run-first team due to the Browns’ elite offensive line and stud running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, hurting his upside. If Baker does end up slightly outproducing his ADP, will you be happy with him as your backup quarterback? Unless the answer is a resounding yes, stay away from Mayfield.

Why Baker Mayfield will fully breakout In 2021

Browns QB Baker Mayfield will shine in 2021

By: Michael Welsh

The NFL career for Baker Mayfield has been somewhat of a rollercoaster. In his 2018 rookie year, he set the rookie record for passing touchdowns with 27 (which has since been broken by Justin Herbert in 2020), and lead the previous winless browns to a 7-8-1 record. Baker made countless impressive throws and looked like anything but a rookie almost all season. After that electric rookie season, the future looked bright for Mayfield.

Expectations skyrocketed in the 2019 off-season when the Browns traded for superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Fan favorite Freddie Kitchens was named the head coach and suddenly, the Browns were being talked about as legitimate Super Bowl Contenders. Hype surrounded Baker Mayfield as he appeared near the top in MVP odds, as many expected him to throw for 40 touchdowns and 4,500 yards. Unfortunately, Cleveland fell well short of expectations and finished 6-10 in 2019. Baker Mayfield was quickly painted as a “one read QB” and became known as a guy who was snarky with reporters and added to the many distractions from the team that year. Baker finished with 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.

Anyone who watched every Browns game knew that Baker wasn’t the real problem in 2019. It was the coaching, scheme, lack of preparation, and the offensive line. Some of the blame can be put on Baker, who admitted after the season that some of the players, himself included, thought it would come together a lot easier and they assumed they would be great. You still have to put the work in, and Baker learned that the hard way. Shortly after the season ended, Freddie Kitchens and General Manager John Dorsey were fired, and Cleveland began doing something that they know all too well: looking for a coach.

What looked like a bright future quickly saw the lights go out, and people began to speculate if Baker was the guy to lead the Browns to success. A lot of that was warranted, but some of it became too harsh of a narrative for someone who had a great rookie season not long ago. Plenty of quarterbacks have sophomore slumps, so why immediately write Baker off? The answer is simple… He plays in Cleveland, and with how bad they have been for so long, getting respect from the league and media is very challenging.

In 2020 the Browns hired Kevin Stefanski as the head coach and Andrew Berry as the General Manager. The hires of them were liked around the league, but per usual we just needed to see it to truly know. With the COVID-19 pandemic in full force, Stefanski had his work cut out for him with an unprecedented off-season. One of his biggest tasks was fixing Baker Mayfield. Stefanski and new offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt found numerous ways to help Baker, such as changing his footwork and throwing motion. The most promising part of it all is the offense Stefanski wanted to run played to Baker’s strengths so well.

Doubters of Mayfield were silenced after he finished the 2020 season with 26 touchdowns, only 8 interceptions, and a top-10 Pro Football Focus 81.6 grade. He also leads the Browns to their first playoff victory since 1994 and looked impressive in the postseason overall, even in their loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round. He looked comfortable in the offense, especially on the back half of the season when he finished with 20 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions from week 7 on. He was playing as well as Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes in the second half of the year and that isn’t a fluke. Baker has had the traits of a great QB for years, he just needed the right coach to unlock them.

So now all of this brings us to 2021. Coming off an 11-5 record and bolstering the defense all off-season, the Super Bowl expectations are real this time around, unlike 2019, and Baker is poised to full break out. What makes it different this time? There are a few things that factor into it.

The most important factor is there isn’t a coaching change. Baker will have the same head coach in back to back years since 2015-2016. Think about that… Baker has faced adversity a lot in his career, but now he finally has stability and an evolving playbook to learn, instead of a completely new one. In addition to that, there was no turnover on any of the coaching staff or the starting offense. They are completely running it back, which is rare in this league. Baker will be very comfortable in 2021.

One of the weaknesses of the Browns offense, particularly in the playoff game against the Chiefs, is that they had little speed and couldn’t stretch the field. This held them back a lot and made it tough to move the ball at times. The good news is, that should be completely different in 2021. Odell Beckham Jr is returning from an ACL tear, and is reportedly looking amazing in his rehab. He is already making cuts and catches that most couldn’t do at this point in his recovery. Comeback Player of the Year is realistic for OBJ and he should thrive now that Mayfield is comfortable and familiar with the offense. In addition to Beckham, the Browns drafted Anthony Schwartz in the 2021 draft. He ran the fastest 40 yard dash time with a 4.25, and is expected to factor in to help stretch the field.

As mentioned earlier, Andrew Berry and company completely overhauled their defense this off-season and are now expected to be in the top 10 of the entire NFL. If they perform as expected, that will help Mayfield with his mindset during games knowing if they can get a big lead, the defense can do their part and hold it. In 2020, that was not the case. The offense would get a big lead and oftentimes let teams catch back up and make it closer than it should have been. 2021 should be much different. Expect the Browns to blow out a few teams.

One of the final factors is that there is an actual off-season instead of just zoom meetings and limited training camp. The COVID-19 pandemic was devastating and challenging in general, and it made it difficult for Baker to learn another new offense mostly virtually without a pre-season. In 2021, there is a normal off-season routine, minicamps, training camp, and pre-season games. This will be huge for Mayfield and the team in general to get all of that work in person.

A stable environment is key for any quarterback to survive in the NFL, and it is honestly not talked about enough how Baker Mayfield has survived multiple head coaches, offensive coordinators, and offensive schemes in his young career. 2020 Coach of the Year Kevin Stefanski is the perfect coach for Baker and if things go well, it could be a duo that remains a contender for many years to come. It is very possible for Mayfield to earn a trip to the Pro Bowl with a 35+ touchdown season. He recently appeared as the most popular 2021 MVP bet in the William Hill US sports book, so apparently many people think he will break out as well and it is real, unlike in 2019. In due time, we’ll all know.

What did we learn at the Browns training camp?

OBJ healthy at Browns training camp

By: Pat Pitts

Mini camps breathe life back into football fans. It gave us a sample of what to expect in 2021. Teams watched their rookies take the field for the first time. Sadly, it has come to a close. 

Kevin Stefanski and his staff watched their team take the field for the first time last week. Cleveland has not been talked about as much when it comes to their mini-camp. It seems like the spotlight has been taken from them, but it’s time to shine. 

After their first playoff appearance since 2007, the Browns found themselves nothcing a win against division rival, the Ravens. The new coaching and front office changes have turned the organization around 180 degrees. 

Mini-camp just gave the Dawg Pound a lot of excitement heading into training camp. Here is what they should be excited about. 

Baker stays in the moment; focused on the present.

The offseason has brought an excessive amount of drama to the league. Star players refusing to show up because of contract issues. Former players trash-talking their former team and head coach on social media. Even worse, the league’s MVP might walk away from football to replace another MVP in the world of game shows..  

Cleveland has been blessed with their franchise quarterback telling the media that he is not worried about a contract extension; he has his focus on winning a Super Bowl. Mayfield told reporters, “Everything happens for a reason. So I am just focused on winning,” according to USA Today. 

Mayfield has had a rollercoaster of a career, so far. He ranked as PFF’s 8th rated QB, finally cracking inside the top ten. OBJ returns to the field, giving Mayfield an elite target to throw to. His presence causes defenses to panic over which player to cover, eventually leaving someone open. The Browns offense looks loaded heading into training camp. 

OBJ returns at 100%

Odell Beckham Jr. suffered a season-ending ACL tear during a Week 7 matchup against the Bengals. It put a bow on the disappointing 2020 campaign OBJ was on. However, it is a new season. 

When healthy, OBJ ranks as one of the league’s top pass catchers. There is not a pass he cannot catch. According to Browns.com, OBJ returned to the field at nearly 100% on the first day of mini-camp, eventually ending the day by attempting his signature one-handed catches. 

Since 2014, Beckham has the best stats against the AFC North, averaging 128.8 YPG, and the only trails Julio Jones in total yards during the span, as well. It is not a question of if he will perform; it is a matter of when it will start. 

Rookies making an instant impact

The Cleveland Browns offense ranked 14th in 2020, according to PFF. However, their defense ranked 20th. They addressed the issue by drafting two players to upgrade the bottom-tier defense. The Browns selected Greg Newsome II with the 26th pick and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah with the 56th pick. Two players who can make an immediate impact. 

The duo showed up to mini-camp, impressing everyone on the coaching staff. Newsome caught the media’s attention after intercepting a pass while in the red zone during the 7v7 drills. He ran it back while the entire defense followed in celebration; the chemistry has begun to build. 

Koramoah impressed the coaching staff with his quickness during pass coverage. He ran alongside some of the fastest receivers in the offense. The former defensive back turned linebacker has the edge over some of the linebackers. Joe Woods, the defensive coordinator, spoke to the media after camp about other facets of the rookies’ game that isn’t externally shown. 

“Those guys are both very smart players,” Woods said. “They’re very competitive players; they just bring a different element to the team.”

The rookies are not the only upgrades to the underwhelming defense. The Browns attacked free agency methodically. They prioritized enhancing their biggest weakness. 

Playmakers added to the defense

The draft is not the only route to acquire new players. NFL free agency kicked off a month before the draft, but the Browns patiently waited to strike. The signed DB John Johnson and EDGE Jadaveon Clowney; two signings that give them the much-needed boost on defense. 

Greedy Williams has not played an entire season over the past two years. However, it is a new season with new opportunities. Williams spoke after camp about how he feels heading into the new season.

“It is a great feeling. I was just happy to be reunited with my team just going through drills with them,” Williams said. “It gives you the most happy moments.”

Williams returns to the defense lining up alongside Denzel Ward and John Johnson, giving the Browns top-tier talent to defend the pass. All three players are 25 years old or younger. 

Jadeveon Clowney made his first appearance in a Browns uniform at camp. Stefanski plans to utilize Clowney on the EDGE with Garrett on the other side. Clowney talked with the media after camp, expressing how he has enjoyed playing alongside another number one overall pick. 

“This is a good team,” Clowney told reporters. “They’re having a good time. They’re fun to be around. It’s a young team, so you all kind of get the idea of what I mean by everybody having a good time.” 

Football is fun; So is the Browns’ defense. 

Battle of the Backfield

Two running back systems do not have the most success over the years, but the Browns figured it out. The tandem of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt gives opposing defenses nightmares. At mini-camp, the backfield grew in numbers

The Browns added two new ball carriers to the mix, drafting Demetric Felton with the 211th pick, then signing undrafted free agent Tre Harbinson. The backfield may be too crowded for all four players. 

Felton has been rumored to be in contention for a punt returner role, which would fit his skill set best. Felton could even become a full-time pass catcher too. Felton ran routes during camp, which gives him an opportunity to see the field sooner rather than later. Stefanski sees Felton’s potential and believes he could handle multiple roles on the offense. 

“It depends on the player, (but) if a guy can handle it, the more jobs you can teach him, the better chance they have to help your football team early.”

Stefanski continued to comment on how well Felton has adapted as a ball carrier, but also as a pass-catcher. 

It will be an interesting battle to watch at training camp. There is a possibility that Felton has the ability to handle both extremely well. He provides the offense with a safety net when it comes to depth. He should be a player on everyone’s watchlist heading into training camp. 

The Cleveland Browns have assembled a superstar-filled roster heading into the new season. Kevin Stefanski and Baker Mayfield have brought a new attitude and culture to a once lifeless franchise. Not only Mayfield but Chubb and Ward have spoken out about how they are not interested in talking contract extensions. 

Teams with that attitude, tend to be successful. The Browns are off to a great start. 

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