Well, folks, it’s over. It’s finally over. The 2016 Cleveland Browns have finished their abysmal 1-15 season, and in doing so, have achieved the top draft pick for the 2017 NFL Draft. But before fans get too far ahead of themselves, let’s take a look at the Browns season in retrospect. Hindsight is 20/20, after all. And as for a season review, there’s good news and bad news.
2017’s Top Draft Pick: Browns End of Season Review
The Good News
Contrary to popular belief, Cleveland actually did have some bright spots this season. Receiver Terrelle Pryor eclipsed 1,000 yards on the season in the last game, and the midseason trade for linebacker Jamie Collins was an absolute blockbuster. These players are great pieces to build around on either side of the ball, and absolutely must be re-signed in the offseason. And after all, a 1-15 record in 2016 means that 2017’s top draft pick is in Cleveland’s hands.
Left tackle Joe Thomas still hasn’t missed a single snap in his career, and made his tenth consecutive Pro Bowl in 2016. Linebacker Christian Kirksey came in fifth in the entire NFL in tackles. Fifth in the league. With Kirksey at 24, and Collins at 27, they could become a downright scary linebacker duo in their primes. And while the defensive line was definitely nothing to write home about, nose tackle Danny Shelton developed a lot in 2016. Look for him to make another jump next year.
The Bad News
The AFC North as a whole had a bit of a down year, really. The division champion Steelers finished at 11-5, but after that, the top record was the Baltimore Ravens, standing at 8-8. The Cincinnati Bengals were a very surprising 6-9-1. But even in a down year for the division, the Browns could not muster a single victory over an AFC North opponent. The season’s only win was on Christmas Eve against the 5-11 Chargers. Cleveland allowed a 30th-ranked 28.2 points per game, while only scoring 16.5 themselves. The defense was definitely the biggest problem of the year. Even when the offense was clicking, the defense seemed too helpless to allow the Browns to take advantage.
Cornerback Joe Haden was plagued with injury for a good part of the year, as some fans have come to expect. Giving up a 21st-ranked 249.8 pass yards per game, the secondary was well below average. Haden is pretty good on the off-chance that he’s actually healthy, but without him, Cleveland’s secondary is mostly clueless. The Browns also had an awful offensive line, giving up a league-worst 66 sacks on the season. That is simply unacceptable,
So What Now?
It’s easy for one to think that Cleveland had a “wasted” season this year, but that really could not be further from the truth. By achieving the top draft pick in 2017, the Browns have yet another opportunity to turn their franchise around. But for all intents and purposes, this year, the Browns draft should be incredibly boring. The Browns have 14 picks in this upcoming draft. Just about half of that has got to revolve around building up the lines, and everything else becomes second priority.
With the top draft pick, the Browns need a defensive playmaker. Say hello to Texas A&M’s athletic freak and defensive lineman, Myles Garrett. Garrett, playing alongside the developing Danny Shelton and Emmanuel Ogbah, could make a terrifying trio for offenses in the coming years. From there, the Browns have a lot of options with the twelfth pick that they acquired from the Eagles last year. Only time can tell what route they’ll end up going, but they absolutely have to hit on these high picks this year. They just have to. And if they don’t, it might end up being the “same old Browns.” And Browns fans just can’t take much more of the “same old Browns”, nor do they deserve that.