It may not feel as good as a winning record, but the numbers are saying the Cleveland Browns may be onto something when it comes to their roster. For the year to date, Pro Football Focus has ranked five Browns players in the top 10 at their respective position, based upon their data collection methods and analytical formula. The three-game grades for these five for 2017 are also impressive.
The five players are tight end Seth DeValve (sixth, with a 79.6 grade), guard Joel Bitonio (ninth, with an 83.0 grade, but eighth with an 83.8 grade for this season), left tackle Joe Thomas (first, with a 89.8 grade), cornerback Jason McCourty (previously fourth, now third, at 86.7) and safety Derrick Kindred (10th, at 85.3).
#Browns top 10 grades YTD:— PFF CLV Browns (@PFF_Cleveland) September 26, 2017
DeValve’s biggest strength is in the passing game, with a PFF grade of 81.1; he has caught eight passes on 14 targets so far this season, for 132 yards, averaging 44 yards per game and second on the roster to Duke Johnson in receiving yards. The passing game—pass-blocking in particular—is where Bitonio has earned his highest marks, with only three other guards grading out better.
McCourty has grades of 85.8 and 86.3 in pass coverage and run defense, respectively, and its reflected in the stat sheet, with 11 tackles, an interception, three pass breakups and a forced fumble so far this season. Kindred, meanwhile, has been a run defense standout, with a 92.8 grade that is tops in the league for safeties; he leads the Browns in tackles for a loss with four. Thomas has allowed only two quarterback pressures through three games.
That the Browns not only have five top-10 players is impressive enough, but that they are spread between both the offense and the defense shows signs that the roster, as a whole, is robust and improving. Though it is not reflected in the Browns’ record at present, this is a further indication that the team is trending upward. In-house talent, veteran signings and young players alike are all making homes for themselves among the NFL’s best.