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PFF ranks Browns’ offensive line 21st, running backs 20th, and receivers 30th in NFL

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A couple of weeks ago, we noted that Pro Football Focus did not rank the Cleveland Browns’ quarterback situation as the worst in the NFL. Since then, they have completed their rankings on the other offensive units, including the offensive line, running back, and receiver/tight end positions. How did Cleveland rank in each category compared to the rest of the AFC North?

Offensive Line Rankings

  • Cincinnati Bengals (4th)
  • Baltimore Ravens (13th)
  • Pittsburgh Steelers (14th)
  • Cleveland Browns (21st)

Despite losing Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz in free agency, the Browns still rank better than one third of the teams in the NFL. Improving upon that ranking will depend on how the big question mark at center, Cameron Erving, performs as a rookie.

The Browns used to have one of the best offensive line’s in football as recently as early 2015, but free agency has forced the unit to take a step back. Mitchell Schwartz signed with the Chiefs, and Alex Mack is now suiting up for the Falcons. Joel Bitonio had a great rookie year that he just couldn’t replicate in 2015, while John Greco also produced his worst season of the PFF era (since 2007). While both guards can rebound and Cameron Erving could have a strong sophomore season, at the very least, they still have Joe Thomas.

Running Back Rankings

  • Pittsburgh Steelers (1st)*
  • Cincinnati Bengals (12th)
  • Baltimore Ravens (19th)
  • Cleveland Browns (20th)

*Ranking was before Bell’s suspension news.

With all due respect to Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell, for Cleveland’s situation to be ranked as high as 20th shows just how bad the running back situation is around the NFL. PFF is very high on Johnson, noting that he broke 17 more tackles on 39 fewer touches last year than Crowell. Here is what else they had to say about Johnson:

Duke Johnson certainly impressed as a rookie with the highest receiving grade and sixth-highest rushing grade in the class. The question now becomes whether or not he can he do it in a full-time role. Johnson received 10+ carries in only two games last season, and never 15+ carries in a single outing. He still produced the highest elusive rating of any rookie back (60.9), and we like his chances of maintaining a high level of play with more touches.

Receiver Rankings

  • Pittsburgh Steelers (6th)
  • Cincinnati Bengals (10th)
  • Baltimore Ravens (12th)
  • Cleveland Browns (30th)

I can’t believe that the Ravens are ranked 12th in the NFL here. I’m sorry, but there is no way they should even be higher than 20th. PFF is basing a lot of their rankings for Baltimore on “ifs,” like “if Steve Smith and Breshard Perriman come back healthy” and “if their young tight ends improve with another year of experience.” If everything was based on ifs, then Cleveland should be a lot higher than 30th with the infusion of new talent they have at the position, plus the proven production of Gary Barnidge in 2015. For some reason, they have Marlon Moore as a projected starter for Cleveland too.

The Browns added PFF’s top receiver in this draft class in Baylor’s Corey Coleman. Coleman’s 3.97 yards per route run were second-best among wide receivers in this draft class, and they doubled up by adding Colorado State’s Rashard Higgins, who was third, at 3.45. There is a heavy reliance on rookies on the depth chart, but Andrew Hawkins’ 2014 season, in which he forced 11 missed tackles on 63 receptions, at least points to the potential that he can be a veteran who can make an impact. At tight end, the hope will be that Gary Barnidge can continue what he started last season. For his career, he has 1,646 receiving yards, but 1,043 came a year ago, along with nine of the 12 touchdowns he has scored to date.