Over at ESPN, two writers from Football Outsiders ranked all 32 teams in the league based on the level of talent each team had under the age of 25. After the jump is the criteria they used to rank each team, and their explanation as to why the Cleveland Browns dropped from No. 6 on this list in 2011 to No. 18 in 2012.
First, here is the criteria used for each team:
• The number of games in 2011 started by players under the age of 25
• Whether or not a team's young starters last season were simply injury replacements
• The number of 25-or-younger first-team All-Pros a team has on its roster
• The extent to which a team's 25-and-under talent plays impact positions in the passing game
• Whether or not a team has a talented, young quarterback
• The amount of value a team added in the 2012 draft
• A team's recent track record of developing and retaining young talent
Here is what they had to say about the Browns:
18. Cleveland Browns - Last year, we had the Browns ranked sixth mostly on the strength of CB Joe Haden, QB Colt McCoy, RB Peyton Hillis and C Alex Mack. Haden (23) appeared to have a down year in 2011 by shutdown-cornerback standards, but his 18 passes defensed alongside zero interceptions was a massive statistical anomaly. Mack also did his part, giving up only .5 blown blocks sacks on the year. Unfortunately, at 26 years old, he no longer qualifies for our rankings.
McCoy (25) and Hillis (26), however, regressed considerably, so the team drafted Brandon Weeden to unseat McCoy and Trent Richardson to replace Hillis, who signed with Kansas City. Our Lewin Career Forecast projects Weeden as the fifth-best quarterback prospect in this year's draft, but his age (28) and slow release are concerns. However, the 2012 draft also produced RT Mitchell Schwartz, who will step into the starting lineup immediately.
Even though the Browns fell in the rankings, it's not hard to understand why. Cleveland has a unique situation where they are basically losing a young quarterback (McCoy) in favor for an older one (Weeden), even though Weeden is young in terms of years of service. The fact that Trent Richardson isn't mentioned seems a little odd. The Ravens (No. 19) and Steelers (No. 26) were both ranked behind Cleveland, but the Bengals, thanks to Andy Dalton and A.J. Green stepping up last season, were ranked No. 3 overall. The top two teams were New England and Detroit.