It’s been about a month since the NFL draft saw the latest crop of young talent begin their NFL careers.
And with Browns OTAs underway, fans are getting their first look at next season’s team.
And naturally, with the talent level on the practice field, fans might be cautiously optimistic about the Browns’ chances.
Though, in fairness, it’s hard to tell how competitive the Browns truly will be next season.
That’s because, in the modern game, a team’s fate rises and falls depending on who’s under center.
And the Browns have just a few question marks at the quarterback position.
For starters, there’s the ongoing Baker Mayfield drama.
Where Mayfield will play next season is one of sports radio’s favorite topics, because it’s seemingly never-ending.
But more important to the Browns is how the Deshaun Watson saga will play out.
Watson faces two-dozen civil suits for sexual misconduct, with more incoming.
And the league office has yet to weigh in with its own punishment.
Since Watson faces a (possibly) lengthy punishment from the NFL, figuring out what the team itself will do is a difficult task.
Nonetheless, we can still make some predictions likely to come true that are independent of Watson’s time on the field.
Here are three such predictions:
1. Hot Open
Prediction: The Browns will win not, one, not two, not three, but four games out of the gate.
Wait . . . I thought a team’s winning ability depended on who played under center?
That is unless, of course, a team plays the Panthers, Jets, and Falcons in three of its first four games to start the season.
In that case, a team’s collective talent should be enough to carry the day.
The Panthers are a complete mess, likely headed for an offseason blow-up at every level (including the head coach).
The Jets and Falcons will field improved lineups, but who knows what New York will get out of Zach Wilson.
Ditto for Atlanta, who will trot out either former top pick Marcus Mariota or 2022 draft pick Desmond Ridder.
The big kicker will be the Steelers game in Week Three.
Like the Panthers, Falcons, and Jets, though, the Steelers face their own questions under center.
Don’t expect either one to light things up by Week Three.
If the Browns can handle Pittsburgh’s ferocious defense, they might just have a shot at four wins in four games to start the season.
2. Ring the Bell
Prediction: David Bell solidifies his place as WR2, leapfrogging Donovan Peoples-Jones.
There’s been nothing but good news about rookie David Bell coming out of camp.
I'm not saying it hasn't happened and I was just focused elsewhere when it did, but through the five open #Browns practices I personally have not seen David Bell drop a single pass—not in position drills, not in 7 on 7s, not in full team drills. Not one. It's wild.
— Camryn Justice (@camijustice) June 14, 2022
If the Browns landed a future WR2, he’ll have been an absolute draft steal.
But that’s okay.
He wasn’t drafted to snag 1,000 yards out the gate.
Instead, the Browns should be patient with his development, not giving him too much too quickly.
Nonetheless, if he’s hungry and ready for the challenge of being a team’s second option at wideout, they should give it to him.
It’s hard to predict his specific stats given that we don’t know who will be throwing him the ball.
But that doesn’t mean he can’t take matters into his own hands and make the most of the chances thrown his way.
3. Sack Lunch
Prediction: The Browns’ defense finishes top-three in sacks this season.
In the 2021-22 season, the Browns finished ninth in the league in sacks with 43.
To be in the top three last year, they would have needed to add seven to their total.
And next season, they do just that.
— Down With The Browns Podcast (@DWTB_) May 10, 2022
Myles Garrett continues to play like a superstar, notching 20 sacks, up from 16 last season.
And Jadaveon Clowney benefits from another season in a familiar system, something he’s shied away from in the past.
Don’t expect draft pick Perrion Winfrey to sit quietly either; he should contribute to the total as well.