The team will be looking for its first playoff season since 2002 and, if NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling is correct, a pair of players will also achieve a first in their playing careers.
Wesseling took a look the upcoming season and found seven players who have the potential to claim a spot on the Associated Press All-Pro first team and he likes what he sees from a pair of Cleveland players.
First up is wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., a three-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro second team selection:
After spending a half-decade concealing the blemishes of Eli Manning’s decline phase, Beckham landed in Cleveland with the quarterback of his dreams. Whereas Manning’s diminishing deep ball has too often limited the Giants’ aerial attack to a series of slants and screens over the past few years, Baker Mayfield broke the rookie record for touchdown passes by burning opposing secondaries with pinpoint downfield strikes.
From the time Freddie Kitchens took over play-calling duties in Week 9 through the end of the regular season, Mayfield led all NFL quarterbacks in completion rate (55.9), yards per attempt (19.3) and touchdowns (7) on deep passes (20-plus yards), according to Next Gen Stats. Meanwhile, Beckham’s average of 2.6 yards of separation from the nearest defender leads all receivers since 2016. In other words, this is a match made in heaven -- perhaps even of 2007 Tom Brady-Randy Moss proportions.
We have the most talented big-play receiver in football joining forces with an exceptionally accurate, strong-armed passer with the aggressiveness to carpet-bomb the furthest reaches of the field.
Turning to the defensive side of the ball, Wesseling taps defensive end Myles Garrett, who made his first Pro Bowl in 2018 while also being a second-team All-Pro selection:
The formerly downtrodden Browns are suddenly awash in blue-chip talent. A textbook havoc-wreaking 4-3 defensive end, Garrett won his play-to-play battles to the tune of 66 QB pressures, per Next Gen Stats, behind only Aaron Donald (73) and Dee Ford (69) last season.
Now that blockers have to contend with Olivier Vernon on the other end and Sheldon Richardson alongside earth-mover Larry Ogunjobi in the middle, Garrett figures to face fewer double-teams. From Garrett’s rookie year to his second go-around, his sacks-per-game percentage increased from 63.6 to 84.4. A similar spike this season could see him making a serious run at Aaron Donald’s sack crown.
The last Browns player to be selected first-team All-Pro was left tackle Joe Thomas in 2015, the sixth time in his 11-year career that he was honored.
But if the season goes as expected, Beckham and Garrett have a chance to add their names to that list.