The Cleveland Browns are without a question one of the most intriguing teams heading into the 2021 NFL season. After making a run to the playoffs in 2020 and defeating the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card round, there are massive expectations for them heading into this season. Many believe that they could be a very serious contender in the AFC.
Baker Mayfield and the offense have the talent and star power to be among the league’s elite. With names like Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Austin Hooper, Odell Beckham Jr., and Jarvis Landry surrounding Mayfield, the sky is the limit. No one can say that the Browns have not put enough work in on the offensive side of the roster.
On the defensive side of the football, the Browns feel like they got a lot better this offseason. They brought in Jadeveon Clowney as one of their big offseason splashes and also added Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Anthony Walker, and John Johnson III. All of those additions should take their defense to the next level in 2021.
For the first time in a long time, the Browns are heading in the right direction and the front office is making consistently good decisions. If that continues, Cleveland could very well be back in the Super Bowl hunt before too long.
All of that being said, let’s dive in and take a look at three players who could have breakout seasons for the Browns this year.
3. Greedy Williams, Cornerback
Let’s start this off with a fan favorite on the defensive side of the football. When the Browns selected Greedy Williams with the No. 46 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, many thought they were getting a steal. Two years into his career, there are a lot of question marks surrounding the former LSU standout.
Williams has yet to carve out a big role for himself and there are a lot who believe he may never live up to the hype that he had in the draft. In 2020, Williams racked up 47 total tackles to go along with two defended passes. He did not end up with a single interception.
The Browns are going to see a much-improved version of Williams this season. With the team select Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, Williams will have to step up and prove himself to stay on the roster. He might very well be able to do just that.
2. Austin Hooper, Tight End
This is a bit of a strange one, as Austin Hooper has had a breakout season before with the Atlanta Falcons. However, he joined the Browns last offseason in free agency and his first year with the franchise did not go as planned. He simply didn’t get involved consistently in the offense and he did struggle with some nagging injury issues as well.
Hooper ended up catching 46 passes for 435 yards and four touchdowns in 2020 with the Browns. Those numbers were down quite a bit from the 75 receptions for 787 yards and six touchdowns that he recorded in 2019 with the Falcons.
Highest paid tight ends in the NFL …
1) George Kittle, 49ers $15.0M
2) Travis Kelce, Chiefs $14.3M
3) Hunter Henry, Patriots $12.5M
4) Jonnu Smith, Patriots $12.5M
5) Austin Hooper, Browns $10.5M
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 16, 2021
We are predicting a big-time season from Hooper in his second season with Cleveland. He is one of the most athletic tight ends in the league and Mayfield will target him quite a bit more than he did last year. Hooper should end up with around 65 receptions for 700 yards and six or seven touchdowns, although his production could be even higher.
1. Jadeveon Clowney, Defensive End
Finally, we have another veteran on the roster who we are predicting will have a breakout season to get his career back on track. Being able to land Jadeveon Clowney late in free agency was a big-time move for the Browns. They wanted to improve their pass-rush around superstar defensive end Myles Garrett and bringing in Clowney accomplished that goal in a big way.
Clowney is coming off of a season that ended early due to injury and a year where he only had 19 tackles, no sacks, and a forced fumble. In 2021, the Browns are going to get a highly motivated version of Clowney.
He signed a one-year deal with the Browns, which will give him a season to prove himself and earn a lot more money next offseason. That extra motivation will result in a huge breakout season for Clowney. We are expecting at least seven sacks and three forced fumbles, although he could have an even bigger season due to opposing offensive lines having to focus so much on stopping Garrett on the other side of the field.