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Browns rank 31st in ESPN’s Football Power Index for second year in a row

It’s hard to measure a team’s offseason improvements in a formula.

NFL: Cleveland Browns-OTA Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

In 2015, ESPN’s analytics department debuted the Football Power Index (FPI), which is a predictive rating composed of offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency.

ESPN unveiled their preseason index ratings today, and for the second year in a row, the Cleveland Browns were ranked 31st in the NFL. Why didn’t the Browns’ impressive offseason additions and draft assets improve their ranking? Per ESPN, the index looks at “each team’s win total at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, how that team performed on offense, defense and special teams last season, how many starters are returning, and who the starting and backup quarterbacks are.”

With the index factoring in last year’s data, it’s no wonder Cleveland remains low on the totem pole. They are one of two teams in the AFC North with a negative index rating. Here is what ESPN had to say about the Browns in general, and the win totals projected for each team:

  • Pittsburgh (10.0 wins, 6.0 losses)
  • Baltimore (8.4 wins, 7.6 losses)
  • Cincinnati (6.9 wins, 9.1 losses)
  • Cleveland (5.7 wins, 10.3 losses)

New quarterbacks, same results? After a winless 2017 campaign, the FPI has labeled the Browns as the most likely team to earn the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft, though frankly, a lot of the factors involved in that prediction can change substantially. Despite having Tyrod Taylor -- whom the model likes -- as their likely starter to begin the season, the Browns have a 14 percent chance to earn the top pick in the 2019 draft.

For Browns fans looking for some hope, there’s this: The FPI currently considers Baker Mayfield the backup and treats all rookie quarterbacks the same. That’s because there’s quite a bit of uncertainty about quarterbacks who have never taken a snap in the NFL, but it also means that if Mayfield plays and plays effectively, that projection can change in a hurry. Of course, there’s no guarantee that will happen.

There’s never a concrete way to model these things, but it can be fun to at least try. With Cleveland, a team that has had a lot of optimistic change, you can’t quite stick that in a formula just yet.