In Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column today, he included power rankings for the 17-32 teams in the NFL. His rankings for the 1-16 teams will be unveiled on Tuesday. As I eagerly descended down the list, I became less and less pleased with every team name that wasn’t the Browns. That’s what this optimistic offseason has done to me — heck, we’ve got guys listing our front office as the 4th best in the league, so can you blame me?
It wasn’t until I got to No. 31 that the Browns appeared, though. At least Cleveland wasn’t last (that spot belongs to the New York Jets).
After listing the Browns' additions, subtractions, and coaching changes, King explained why he has Cleveland at No. 31:
In 14 draft rounds over the past two years, the Browns have made a league-high 24 picks, and so it’s impossible to judge how those players, particularly with a new defensive look and a unsettled quarterback depth chart, will play. Progress for the Browns would be 5-11, and exiting this season having some idea if Kizer or Cody Kessler (who will get the long first shot to play quarterback) is good enough to prevent GM Sashi Brown from re-entering the quarterback market next year. Two things I see as reasons Cleveland will be at least slightly improved from the team with 18 double-digit losses in the past two years: The Zeitler-infused offensive line is improved—thank God the Browns haven’t traded franchise left tackle Joe Thomas—and Williams will help make the defense a difficult Sunday for foes all season. Progress is what this franchise needs.
King also calls the team's first three games (home against Pittsburgh, on the road against Baltimore, and then in Indianapolis) their most decisive stretch of the season, saying that if the Browns go 0-3, then it's "time to play for Sam Darnold." I don’t know about that early, but I assume the point is that it’d signal a lack of contention for Cleveland and they might as well tank again for draft position. Sorry, I went through that once and accepted it, but I never want to go through that again.