Despite the reputation that the Cleveland Browns have for losing football games and frustrating fans worldwide, they are extremely talented. The team has a ton of players who are among the top at their positions, and the squad is only a few skill players away from competing in the AFC North. With that being said, here’s my best attempt at isolating the five best players on the current team (assuming that Alex Mack does in fact remain with the team).
1. Joe Thomas (LT) – Thomas has been the rock of a highly underrated Browns offensive line ever since he was brought in via the 2007 NFL Draft. He’s hands-down the best player at his position in the entire NFL, and he’s been consistently excellent since his rookie year. Thomas also holds one of the most important spots on the offensive line, because he is almost solely in charge of protecting the quarterback’s blind side. With how much the quarterback options have struggled in Cleveland, they need all of the help that they can get, and Thomas is a huge help. He’s been a Pro Bowler in each of his seven seasons, and has been a first team All-Pro four times as well. Thomas is without a doubt the best player that the Browns have to offer and it’s not even close. Now while this is all very impressive, what I love most about Thomas is his overall consistency. The offensive line is one of the most physical positions in all of football, and yet Thomas hasn’t missed a game in his entire career, which has been key in his becoming a staple of the Browns’ offensive scheme. He’s the definition of a franchise player and the squad needs to keep him throughout his entire career.
2. Josh Gordon (WR) – On a team where the offensive skill positions are the areas of the biggest weakness, Gordon has refused to blend in. The Browns took a risk by taking him in the second round of the 2012 Supplementary Draft. He has made the front office look absolutely genius for trusting him, and he has developed into a top-5 receiver in the league. Last year, Gordon had a breakout season that most players can only dream of. After missing the first two games of last season due to a suspension, Gordon went off, as he finished the year with the most receiving yards in the entire NFL – 1,646. This all comes with a mediocre quarterback duo of Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell throwing him the ball for the majority of the season. Gordon made major strides last season in his route running and field vision, which was one of the major reasons for his explosion offensively. If he can get a halfway decent quarterback to distribute the ball to him, and if he can stay out of trouble, he can evolve into possibly one of the top three receivers in all of football before you know it.
3. Alex Mack (C) – He has been an absolute stud on the Browns offensive line ever since he was drafted back in 2009. He’s a two-time Pro Bowler and was named to the NFL All-Rookie Team as well. He’s also been able to stay extremely healthy, not missing a single snap in his 79 starts as a pro. He has transformed into a go-to player at a position as critical as center, which occurs very seldom in the league. Pro Football Focus recently ranked him as the top center in the league this past season, so his worth to the team cannot be understated. He’s one of the most valuable players on the entire squad, because if he were to leave or get injured, John Grevo (who’s not a natural center) would have to step in and fill the role. If the team ends up bringing in a young quarterback, having a top center would definitely ease his adjustment period to NFL play.