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ESPN: The Missing Pieces

ESPN made an interesting infographic based on Pro Football Focus grades about how close teams are from being Super Bowl contenders.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Here is a link to the article: The Missing Pieces - Super Bowl XLIX

The tagline that they use to explain the article's intent and methods is as follows:

"What makes a Super Bowl contender? When Pro Football Focus analyzed the 28 teams that played in the conference championship games for the 2007 to 2013 seasons, it found that, on average, 40 percent of those rosters were composed of good/elite players (you had to play 250-plus snaps to qualify). Using that methodology, PFF determined how many above-average players stood between your team and contending for this year's Super Bowl."

Follow the above link to check it out. If you scroll down the list, you'll see the Browns at #7, listed as being 5 above average players away from being title contenders. If you click on the Browns at that #7 spot, you can see a detailed breakdown of how close they consider the Browns to being Super Bowl contenders.

Interestingly, the Browns are said to be 5 players away but this did not take into account Joe Haden (due to a rough start to the season) or Alex Mack (due to injury). Does that mean that this article is saying that the Browns are really only 3 above-average players away?

To a large extent, that depends on if you think each of the players that scored above-average grades will do so again next year:

  • OT Joe Thomas
  • G Joel Bitonio
  • WR Andrew Hawkins
  • CB K'Waun Williams
  • S Tashaun Gipson
  • ILB Karlos Dansby
  • S Donte Whitner
  • G John Greco
  • WR Taylor Gabriel

Of that list, I think Gabriel is the most questionable, as he benefited a lot from the offensive scheme and his role may change in a new offense. Other than that, I expect these guys to repeat their high level of play.

It's also interesting to note that none of these players are free agents.

Mack and Haden were not included on this list, is there anyone else on the team you expect to take a step forward and fill one of the 3 spots that would take the Browns to Super Bowl contender status?

  • When Alex Mack returns from injury will Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West see greater success?
  • If the team adds a capable run-stopping nose tackle could that elevate the play of Paul Kruger, Desmond Bryant, Chris Kirksey, and/or Barkevious Mingo?
  • Pierre Desir played well but didn't have enough reps to qualify, can he be as effective in a starting role?
  • Can the Browns get good first-year returns from any free agent signings or draft picks?
What do you think about this? Do you agree with this method of evaluating a team's chances? Does it leave out something important? Is it hopelessly off base?

How close are the Browns to being Super Bowl contenders?