The Cleveland Browns did not become America’s darlings overnight.
Rather, the team has been built over the course of the past three drafts and now boasts the nucleus of a roster that should be a playoff contender for the next several years.
That work is reflected in Pro Football Focus’ annual listing of the best 25 players under the age of 25, which features four members of the Browns. Cleveland is just one of five teams to have multiple players featured, and the only team that has more than two players on the list.
First up is quarterback Baker Mayfield:
We’ve watched many memorable rookie seasons over the last 13 years, but few were as good as Baker Mayfield’s arrival to the big time. Mayfield managed a big-time throw rate of 7.3% that ranked third among his peers a season ago, and he finished the year with an overall grade of 84.5 – the second-best mark ever recorded by a rookie quarterback. The future is indeed bright in Cleveland.
Staying on the offensive side of the ball is running back Kareem Hunt:
When he’s on the field, there is arguably no better tackle-breaking back in the NFL than Kareem Hunt. He’s forced 104 missed tackles over the last two seasons, which is the most among backs in that span, and he’s averaged 0.22 missed tackles forced per rushing attempt which is tied for third among the backs with at least 100 attempts over the last two seasons.
Moving to the defense, PFF tapped Pro Bowl defensive end Myles Garrett:
Now heading into Year 3 of his career, Garrett has been as exactly as advertised since he was drafted with the first overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. His 86.2 pass-rushing grade in Year 2 of his career currently ranks eighth among the 80 edge defenders with 300 or more pass-rushing snaps in their second season in the league. The only men ahead of him on the list: Von Miller (93.1), Joey Bosa (91.3), Shawn Merriman (90.6), Yannick Ngakoue (90.5), Khalil Mack (90.5), Cameron Wake (90.1) and Elvis Dumervil (88.1). The odds are that he’ll continue to dominate from the edge for the foreseeable future.
Rounding out the list is cornerback Denzel Ward:
Injuries took their toll on Ward towards the end of his rookie season, but his early-season play is yet another great sign for the future of Cleveland. In his 13 games, Ward allowed a passer rating of just 70.7 on throws into his coverage, and he yielded an average of 0.88 yards per coverage snap – both of which ranked fourth among first-year cornerbacks.
They did not make the list this year, but tight end David Njoku (22), running back Nick Chubb (23) could be candidates down the road.
The Browns are young and talented. Now all they need to do is put that talent to good use come the fall.