Every year, Football Outsiders ranks all 32 teams in the NFL based on their under-25 talent. Last year, the Browns were ranked first in the NFL in those rankings. In this year’s rankings (subscription required), the Browns came in at 8th in the NFL, with our division-rival Baltimore Ravens replacing us in 1st place.
A drop in rankings isn’t always a bad thing. For example: Baker Mayfield is only entering his third season, but he turned 25 this offseason. Therefore, he wasn’t factored into the rankings any more despite being a great young talent. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is still just 23 years of age.
Here is what Football Outsiders said about the Browns’ under-25 talent this year:
With an older sophomore quarterback who turned 25 in April, the Browns were poised to fall from their perch of the top spot in last year’s under-25 rankings even if the team had matched their lofty expectations in 2019. They didn’t do that, and so this year, they fell to eighth.
Even without Baker Mayfield, the Browns have enviable top-end talent. Defensive end Myles Garrett reached 20 hurries and 10 sacks for the second straight season even though his fight with Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph earned him a suspension for the Browns’ final six games. Cornerback Denzel Ward provided a top-10 63% coverage success rate after he returned from a hamstring injury that cost him most of October. And running back Nick Chubb broke 74 tackles, the second most in football. But that trio couldn’t keep the Browns in the top five because of their proximity to expensive second contracts. Garrett already signed his this offseason. Ward and Chubb become unrestricted free agents in 2023 and 2022, respectively.
So far, the Browns have not replenished their young asset coffers, but several players offer that potential. 2019 second-rounder Greedy Williams had less success in dealing with his hamstring injury than his teammate Ward, but a poor 46% coverage success rate as a rookie hardly erases his potential. 2020 second-rounder Grant Delpit could round out a young and talented secondary as a Day 1 free safety starter. And with a 22.6% broken tackle rate as a rookie, linebacker Mack Wilson came close to veteran Joe Schobert (17.5%) and might provide a more seamless transition as the new 2020 starter than many would expect of a fifth-round sophomore. Meanwhile, the Browns had three draft picks in the value sweet-spot range between 88th and 115th overall in 2020. Linebacker Jacob Phillips looks like the only immediate starter of that group — which also includes defensive tackle Jordan Elliott and tight end Harrison Bryant — but all three could find significant roles within a year.
The Browns’ blue-chip players under the age of 25 are listed as RB Nick Chubb, OT Jedrick Willis, DE Myles Garrett, and CB Denzel Ward. 2020 will be the final year that Chubb and Garrett qualify for the list, so expect a significant dip in next year’s ranking.
Players who “graduated” from age 24 to age 25 since last year’s list include QB Baker Mayfield, RB Kareem Hunt, WR Rashard Higgins, OG Wyatt Teller, and LB Sione Takitaki.