The Cleveland Browns are one of the most hyped teams this offseason. No one probably ever thought they would hear the Browns and preseason hype posted together ever, but there is bigtime expectations right now in Cleveland. And after the acquisitions they made this offseason, including the big trade for Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the Browns are even being picked to win the AFC North by some people. One of the big questions with Cleveland is how Freddie Kitchens does in his first head-coaching position in the NFL. While that bears watching this season, ultimately the big key to this season will be their second-year quarterback.
Baker Mayfield was the guy Cleveland selected last season with the first overall pick. And while it took him a minute to take over the starting position, when he did he created some buzz in Cleveland that hadn't been there since the franchise returned to town. Lost in the hype though, was how he finished the season. While the Browns went 3-2 in the last five games of the season, Mayfield threw ten touchdowns to seven interceptions, including two games with three interceptions. Coming into this season, he hopefully has learned from those late-season mistakes. Mayfield does have upgraded weapons, but he also has to make sure and take what the defense gives him. Like any young quarterback, he had his issues with trying to force passes into spots they should not go and staring down his receivers. A good part of his success will depend on him maturing in these two critical categories.
Along with Mayfield maturing in his reads on the field, the leadership category will still need some work as well. He surely has all the tools to be a brash and great leader on the field, but at times he can go overboard, as seen in college and maybe a smidge in the pros. At times that sort of bravado is needed and can carry that team in spots where they need him to. In other moments, he could potentially hinder the team with his actions at the wrong time. The balance of his emotions will be key in him having emotional control of this offensive team, especially with the components they have. Along with balancing his own emotions, one thing he may want to stay out of is the contract dealings with his teammates. He will learn as he goes along that speaking on those things may not be in his best interest because he could eventually be in that same spot.
All in all, the Browns are in a position to make a run to the playoffs with the acquisitions they made and their drafts. In this league, however, it is mostly about the quarterback and how the quarterback can lead his team. Baker Mayfield has the pressure squarely on his shoulders this season and it will be worth watching to see how he handles the pressure.