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The Cleveland Browns endured the worst season in the history of the franchise, ending the campaign with a 1-15 record.
Hue Jackson inherited a poor situation following the club’s poor performance in the 2015 term, but he was unable to reverse the fortunes of the team, losing 14 matches on the spin.
The Browns brought in a new front-office staff last year, including Paul DePodesta of ‘Moneyball’ fame to provide a different approach to the selection of players.
The first season failed to bear fruit, putting them under immense pressure to deliver an improvement of the 2017 campaign.
We’ll now take a look back at the last season to see what went wrong for Cleveland and what they will need to do to compete for a place in the playoffs.
The Browns were maligned for their decision not to select a highly-touted quarterback in the 2016 Draft.
The club opted to drop back and acquire picks from the Philadelphia Eagles, allowing the NFC East side to select Carson Wentz second overall.
Cleveland did get a signal-caller later in the selection process, taking Cody Kessler out of the USC Trojans in the third round.
However, Jackson made the decision to sign Robert Griffin III – former second overall pick in the 2012 Draft – to start for the Browns.
Griffin enjoyed an outstanding rookie campaign for the Washington Redskins, but injuries derailed his career before he was allowed to leave the club.
Unfortunately for the Browns their decision not to select Wentz looked a poor one from the off as the Eagles quarterback guided his side to a 29-10 win in their opener, while Griffin sustained an injury that would sideline him for the majority of the term.
Josh McCown replaced him in the line-up and led Cleveland to a two-score lead against the Baltimore Ravens, only for John Harbaugh’s men to rally and win the contest.
McCown suffered a concussion in the defeat, which pressed Kessler into the starting role for the clash with the Miami Dolphins.
The Browns almost secured their first win of the term, only for Cody Parkey to miss a late kick in regulation, allowing the AFC East side to snatch the victory.
Sadly for the Browns that would be the story of their season as injuries and a lack of quality on both sides of the ball almost produced a winless campaign.
The Browns were unable to provide resistance against quality offenses as they found to their cost against the Washington Redskins.
Kirk Cousins was able to take control to guide his team to an 11-point victory, but matters only got worse against the New England Patriots when Kessler was knocked out of the game in the first quarter.
Tom Brady returned from his deflategate suspension and with the aid of Martellus Bennett guided Bill Belichick’s men to a comfortable win.
Kessler returned to action against the Tennessee Titans and almost delivered a late comeback, but the Browns suffered another close loss. Jackson’s men looked to have turned the corner against the Jets taking a 20-7 lead into half-time, but a second-half collapse culminated in a 31-28 defeat.
The Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants and Ravens would outclass Cleveland in their next four matches – with the club becoming the first team to start 0-12 since the 2011 Indianapolis Colts.
After their bye week, the Buffalo Bills and the Bengals overcame them with relative ease, leaving Jackson and his team staring down the barrel of a winless season.
Salvation would come against the San Diego Chargers, who were struggling for form themselves. With the Steelers on the horizon in the final week, the clash against the Chargers presented the final chance for Jackson’s men to clinch a victory.
Jamie Melder produced an incredible play to block a field goal to deny San Diego a game-tying field goal, but the AFC West side had another opportunity for Josh Lambo to send the match into overtime.
However, the kicker sent his effort wide, handing the Browns their first win.
Although Kessler showed promise during his rookie season, he still may not be the answer for the long term for the Browns.
The club have been strongly linked with a trade move for Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo, who looked the part while filling in for Brady during his suspension.
With competition for his signature set to be rife from the Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland may have to part with one of their first-round picks in the 2017 Draft.
Giving up the first overall would be madness as they would miss out on a chance to select Myles Garrett to add to their defensive line.
However, the 12th selection would be ideal and give the Browns a quality starter to plug immediately into their line-up.
Picking Garrett would be huge for the club’s pass-rush as the defensive end out of Texas A&M has been likened to Von Miller.
Should he develop into a superstar then the Browns could have the emergence of a strong unit after securing the long-term future of Jamie Collins.
Bolstering their secondary and receiving corps is also a must. Terrelle Pryor proved to be a solid option for the club alongside Corey Coleman – who will only improve following his fine rookie term.
Signing Pryor to a long-term should be a priority, while the club could target Alshon Jeffery or Michael Floyd to pair with the two wideouts.
In the secondary, the Browns should be looking at players like Prince Amukamara and Logan Ryan to put alongside Joe Haden.
Should AJ Bouye fail to sign a contract at the Houston Texans then the Browns should definitely eye him up or make a priority to take a cornerback with one of their high selections in the Draft.
Don’t expect the Browns to turn their fortunes around in the 2017 season. It will be a long road ahead for their rebuilding project – with their last playoff appearance coming back in 2002.
It would be good value to take them to win the AFC Conference at 150/1 151.00 +15000 150.00 150.00 -0.01 with BetOnline sportsbook as stranger things have happened in the world of sport.
If they do reach the Super Bowl, one of the reasons could have been a move for Garoppolo. The 25-year-old is backed at 2/1 3.00 +200 2.00 2.00 -0.50 to make his first appearance of the 2017 term in a Browns uniform.
All eyes will be on Cleveland for the first selection in the 2017 Draft. The wise money says they will take Garrett, although the Browns are anything but predictable.
Backing the club to take a defensive player with the first-overall selection at 19/50 1.38 -260 0.38 -2.60 0.38 would be the smart option, although they could still trade the pick to a team wanting DeShaun Watson.
Cleveland Browns To Win AFC Championship 2017
Odds: 150/1 151.00 +15000 150.00 150.00 -0.01
Jimmy Garoppolo On Cleveland Browns To Start 2017 Season
Odds: 2/1 3.00 +200 2.00 2.00 -0.50
Defensive Player First To Be Selected In 2017 Draft
Odds: 19/50 1.38 -260 0.38 -2.60 0.38