Feb. 22, 2019
Absolutely Way-Too-Early 2019 NFL Predictions: AFC North
They were a different team with Freddie Kitchens as their interim head coach, and now that he is their full-time coach their fans can be hopeful. As I am writing this, Cleveland just signed RB Kareem Hunt, which can be a huge game-changer for the Browns. RB Nick Chubb had a great rookie season, and know bringing in Hunt can let both backs have breaks when needed. Whenever you add a player like Hunt to your team, the potential quality rises significantly. They need to make sure that they keep the key players that helped them rebound from a shaky start last season. They have the #17 overall pick in the first round, and may draft a receiver like N'Keal Harry from Arizona State or Marquise Brown from Oklahoma.
The possibility of a sophomore season slump. I know most analysts say this about rookie players entering their second season, but the Browns haven't had this kind of success since 2014 (7-9). Their younger players just cannot get too into the moment of actually winning and keep their eye on the prize. Also, managing Kareem Hunt and making sure he doesn't do anything stupid may be an important project for their front office.
QB Lamar Jackson. He adds a new dynamic to the Baltimore offense that couldn't exist with Captain Checkdown Joe Flacco. Flacco could not run and maneuver in the pocket as well as Jackson can. Jackson may not get as many passing yards per game, but he allows the offense to be three-dimensional with a great running and play-action attack. Their defense has been great over the years due to great coaching from DC Don Martindale and his staff. They have the #22 overall pick in the first round, and are interested in the same players as Cleveland, but also WR D.K. Metcalf from Ole Miss.
The chance that defenses may start to figure out their fast-paced offense. Due to Lamar Jackson coming into the starting role midway through the season, opposing defenses didn't have the amount of the time that they have now. Perhaps for a later-round draft pick, pick a RB because during the AFC Wild Card Round that they lost to LA in it seemed that Jackson was the only successful runner.
Still having QB Ben Roethlisberger. He may have a negative effect in the locker room with some players, but one of those players may be on his way out. Roethlisberger is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and still has weapons like WR JuJu Smith-Schuster and RB James Conner.
Losing WR Antonio Brown and RB Le'veon Bell. The impact of both of these players missing may still be unknown, but I fear for the worst. They will not be the same team as previous years and it will show greatly. Maybe most importantly, there is still mayhem in the locker room which never helps a team. This may be going a little far, but it might be time to let HC Mike Tomlin go.
Having the #11 overall draft pick and a young coaching staff. With the middle draft pick, they have the ability to strengthen their offensive line with a player like OT Jonah Williams from Alabama or OG Cody Ford from Oklahoma. They have the youngest HC-OC combo in the NFL which may bring a fresh breath of air to Ohio.
Way too many things to list. Honestly, I am not sure what to think of this team. QB Andy Dalton is not what this team needs for their future, so maybe a sixth or seventh round pick for a quarterback may not be a horrible idea. They need to do a full and thorough cleaning of their roster.
1. Baltimore Ravens
2. Cleveland Browns
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Cincinnati Bengals
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