This year's Browns are better than last year's, but their passing game may not improve much, and in today's NFL, that's enough to keep a team in the gutter. Obviously much hinges on second-round rookie DESHONE KIZER, who is likely their starting quarterback. He flashed athleticism and throwing prowess at Notre Dame, but he can be inconsistent with his accuracy—which could be a problem as he adjusts to the pro game.
• Another passing-game problem: Cleveland has no proven targets. Last year's top pick, COREY COLEMAN, had to learn the position from the ground up after coming from the spread offense at Baylor, where receivers don't develop in that unconventional scheme. Starting opposite Coleman is free agent KENNY BRITT, 28, whose drops and route-running glitches have kept him from becoming a consistent threat. And coach HUE JACKSON'S system asks much of its tight ends, which means he'll be leaning heavily on a first-round rookie, DAVID NJOKU from Miami.
• Drafting Texas A&M defensive end MYLES GARRETT with the No. 1 pick was a no-brainer. Cleveland's biggest deficiency on D last season was its pass rush. Every other passing-down lineman on the roster is better equipped to rush the quarterback from inside, rather than off the edge, where Garrett can excel. But if the rookie doesn't produce right away, this defense is in trouble.
• The Browns' second-biggest issue on D in 2016 was their safeties, who were out of position against the run and often missed tackles, especially out of looks such as Cover 2, where they began the play back deep. So it was no surprise that Cleveland selected hybrid thumper JABRILL PEPPERS out of Michigan with the 25th pick, then acquired '14 first-round safety CALVIN PRYOR from the Jets. Once new coordinator GREGG WILLIAMS is able to trust his safeties, his play-calling will be more aggressive.
• If Williams feels his corners can match up, expect the Browns to blitz often. With athletes such as Peppers and former Patriots linebacker JAMIE COLLINS in the middle of the field and a weak pass rush (except, potentially, from Garrett), manufacturing more pressure makes sense.
"DRAFTING GARRETT WAS A NO-BRAINER; THEIR BIGGEST DEFECT ON D WAS THEIR PASS RUSH."
SI'S 2017 PREDICTION
ANDY BENOIT'S 400 MMQB ON.SI.COM/400
38 JOE THOMAS T
113 JOE HADEN CB
137 JAMIE COLLINS LB
187 KEVIN ZEITLER G
227 JOEL BITONIO G
239 DANNY SHELTON NT
293 DUKE JOHNSON RB
328 ISAIAH CROWELL RB
376 CARL NASSIB DE