As the Cleveland Browns prepare for their upcoming game against the spunky 2-10 Buffalo Bills for what will most likely be near whiteout conditions, the Browns are coming down the home stretch with a realistic chance to at least exceed their win total of five games from a year ago.
As the Browns have ascended from perennial bottom feeders to potential AFC playoff qualifiers, this current Cleveland team is beginning to take on a mind of its own.
And there are players on both sides of this overachieving team who have been responsible for the Browns' current two-game win streak and gradual rise into playoff contenders or at least, spoilers for other teams.
The Top 10 Cleveland Browns will be featured in this slide-show and will be graded based on Team Value and Body of Work.
And these ten Cleveland Browns have more than met both of these criteria.
Without further adieu, here are the Top 10 Cleveland Browns Quarter Report Card.
Brutal, devastating, strong, powerful and totally blue collar, the Cleveland Browns and former Denver Broncos third-string running back Peyton Hillis are a perfect match.
Since being acquired in one of the biggest sports swindles since Babe Ruth, Peyton Hillis has given the Browns the better end of what is now widely considered one the most lopsided NFL trades in recent memory.
Since coming over in exchange for former civic idol Brady Quinn, Peyton Hillis has simply demolished opposing defenders on his way to a Pro Bowl year.
Team Value - (+10.0) Invaluable, indispensable and irreplaceable are not strong enough to describe how much Hillis means to the Browns offense.
You want more proof?
Hillis is not only the Browns' leading rusher with 962 yards rushing, but is also the team's second leading receiver with 436 yards. Hillis also leads the team in total touchdowns with 13 (11 rushing and two receiving).
Body of Work - (+10.0) Currently the seventh leading rusher in the NFL with 962 yards, his 4.4 yards per carry and 231 carries are a testament to how undervalued the former Razorback and Bronco was.
Maybe Hillis should send his former coach, the now unemployed Josh McDaniels, a postcard from Hawaii.
Peyton Hillis is the undisputed MVP of the 2010-2011 Cleveland Browns.
Physical, fast, fearless and quickly making a name for himself as one of the true up-and-coming strong safeties in the NFL, Cleveland Browns strong safety T.J. Ward is truly a big hit, especially against opposing wide receivers—just ask Bengals rookie wideout Jordan Shipley.
The former Oregon Duck leads the Cleveland Browns defense in total tackles with 92 and has also caused one forced fumble and has two interceptions.
Ward is quickly becoming a fan favorite in Cleveland for his jaw-dropping tackles, timely plays in the secondary and his tackles for loss.
Team Value - (+9.8) A real second round steal, Ward's play is garnering serious discussion for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Body of Work - (+9.8) Needs a bit more refinement in pass coverage as he tends to go for the big hit instead of the tackle sometimes; regardless of that, he is beginning to remind older Browns fans of another former Pac-10 hard-hitting safety, Eric Turner.
T.J. Ward barely edges out Joe Haden as the 2010-2011 Cleveland Browns Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Grade : A+
Consistent, efficient and steady, Cleveland Browns tight end Benjamin Watson has been the most reliable offensive target in an otherwise anemic passing game.
A former New England Patriot, Watson leads the Browns in receiving yards with 574 and in receiving touchdowns with three, but is second behind halfback Peyton Hillis in receptions with 50, as compared to Hillis' 53.
Watson has proven to be one of the best pick-ups in free agency, as he has provided the passing attack with a legitimate and reliable threat on third downs, in the red zone and in the intermediate parts of the field.
Team Value - (+9.6) As stated above, Watson is the Browns' only legitimate threat in the passing game, which clearly shows what direction the Browns must go in the off-season and the 2011 NFL Draft.
And while this is no slight towards Watson, Cleveland having no real threats on the outside to stretch the field will limit Watson's effectiveness.
Body of Work - (+9.5) Solid and dependable, Watson will continue to get plenty of touches with Delhomme back under center again
Grade : A
Athletic, fast and talented, the Cleveland Browns' first round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, Joe Haden out of Florida, is turning into a real playmaker for the Browns secondary.
Haden seems to have a natural nose for the ball as he leads the Browns in interceptions with five and is also second in the league among rookies, as he trails only New England Patriots CB Devin McCourty, who has six.
The former Gator has really come on the last few weeks and has basically taken over former second-round pick Eric Wright's starting spot in the Browns defense.
Haden has been a pleasant surprise, as his speed, athleticism and ability to time himself when the ball is in the air has been catching the attention of fellow players, who see him as a potential shut-down corner.
Team Value - (+9.5) Haden's five interceptions lead the Browns defense and have provided a real playmaker in the making, as he has demonstrated that the Browns made the right choice back in April with his ball-hawking skills.
Body of Work - (+9.4) Haden is growing into a solid shut-down cornerback with speed, good hands and a knack for creating turnovers.
Grade : A
Some Browns fans have compared Colt McCoy to Bernie Kosar with wheels; others have compared the rookie QB sensation to former 1980 MVP and "Kardiac Kids" legend, Brain Sipe.
But all Colt McCoy wants to do is be Colt McCoy.
The rookie QB from Texas has galvanized and excited Browns fans like no other player since Kosar and Sipe; McCoy's impressive five-game stretch has given Browns fans hope that they have finally found their QB of the future.
Body of Work - (+9.4) 2-3 in first five NFL starts, McCoy debuted with an impressive 281 yard, one touchdown performance on the road in Pittsburgh, and led back-to-back wins over defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans and AFC leading New England, highlighted by a 20-yard touchdown run.
Currently, McCoy is third among rookies in passing with 975 yards, behind the St. Louis Rams' Sam Bradford and the Carolina Panthers' Jimmy Clausen.
McCoy does lead all rookie QB's in completion percentage at 63.8% and QB rating with 85.3.
Team Value - (+9.7) McCoy is the Browns' future QB, and if they are wise, they will try to surround him with a true #1 wide receiver either in the 2011 NFL Draft or in free-agency, if not both.
Grade : A -
Tough, experienced and physical, Cleveland Browns free safety Abram Elam has emerged alongside rookie strong safety T.J. Ward and cornerback Joe Haden to form one of the most promising up-and-coming secondaries in the NFL.
Elam was traded from the Jets to the Browns as part of the draft day deal that sent the fifth overall selection to the Jets, who used it to draft USC quarterback Mark Sanchez. He has teamed with rookie T.J. Ward to become one of the rising safety tandems in the league.
Elam currently has two interceptions and two forced fumbles to go along with his 62 total tackles, which are second on the team only behind T.J. Ward, Elam has also recorded two sacks on the season.
Team Value - (+9.3) A much needed veteran to help mentor the young Browns secondary, Elam's leadership and experience have paid big dividends for Cleveland this season.
Body of Work - (+9.2) An unsung hero in the Browns defense, Elam's solid play in recent weeks has helped transform the Browns secondary into one of the best in creating turnovers.
Grade : B+
Relentless, fierce and persistent, Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Matt Roth has really given the Browns defense a toughness and pass-rushing ability that it has sorely lacked in years past.
Even though he has registered only 3.5 sacks this year, Roth has always been around the ball or made a crucial play in tight games. He ranks third on the Browns in total tackles with 57.
Roth, along with leading sack master Marcus Benard, give the Browns the ability to get some much needed pressure on opposing QB's.
Team Value - (+8.9) A persistent player with a high motor, Roth is a perfect fit in the Browns' "Amoeba" defense, as he can either rush the passer, drop into coverage or provide run support.
Body of Work - (+8.8) A solid all-around tackler with the ability to rush the passer, Roth is an integral ingredient for the Browns defense.
Grade : B
Very reliable and possessing good hands and great height, Browns tight end Evan Moore has become a solid second receiving threat in the Browns passing game.
The former practice squad walk-on from Green Bay, Moore burst onto the scene last year with 12 catches for 158 yards, including an impressive six-catch, 80 yard debut against San Diego last year. Fans have been screaming for more of Evan Moore to help fix the Browns' horrific passing game.
At 6'6", he would make an excellent wide receiver/tight end hybrid who can create mismatches for the QB to exploit. Look for Moore to be called upon, along with Benjamin Watson, to lead the Cleveland offense down the stretch.
Team value - (+8.3) Tall, and with good hands, he is like former Browns wide receiver Joe Jurevicius in a tight end's body, as he always seems to make a big catch in critical moments.
Body of Work - (+8.2) He still needs a little bit of refining, but Moore has the potential to split out to wide receiver and really give Delhomme a big target to throw to for third downs or in the red zone.
Grade : B
Very underrated and a solidifying force on the defensive line, Cleveland Browns nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin has become the new anchor for the Browns defense.
Originally a fill-in for Shaun Rogers, Rubin has since assumed the starting spot at the nose and has even helped out Rogers, who has been moved over to defensive end and really blossomed.
The 6'2", 330 lb. Rubin is fourth on the Browns with 55 total tackles and has even recorded one interception.
Team value - (+8.0) Rubin has really solidified the defensive line since taking over the starting nose tackle spot for Cleveland and he is only 24, as opposed to Shaun Rogers' age of 31. Rubin looks to be the nose tackle of the future for the Browns.
Body of Work - (+7.6) Still young and developing into the position, Rubin has shown real promise, as he can move an opposing offensive line back and collapse it. Rubin looks like a real steal for the Browns.
Grade : B -
Originally panned and heavily criticized as the Browns' first round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, center Alex Mack is beginning to make those critics eat their words with his solid play.
The second year center from Cal has played every game since being drafted by Cleveland and along with Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas and left guard Eric Steinbach, Mack has helped in forming one of the best blind sides in the whole NFL.
Team value - (+7.6) Solid, durable and tough, Mack has proven to be the perfect pick for the Browns, as he must face off against the likes of Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata and the Pittsburgh Steelers' Casey Hampton twice a year in the rugged and physical AFC North
Body of Work - (+7.3) Like Rubin, Mack is still learning and growing into the position, but he has shown glimpses of the powerful run blocking, mashing center that made the Browns trade down three times to get him.
Grade : B -
To conclude this slideshow column, the above-mentioned players are the emerging nucleus and future of the Cleveland Browns franchise going forward, and along with savvy and tough veterans such as Benjamin Watson, Abram Elam and Matt Roth, the Browns are not only in great position to push for a .500 season, but they should also challenge in the AFC North for many years to come.
It appears that Cleveland has finally learned to draft well, considering the successes of T.J. Ward, Colt McCoy, Alex Mack and Joe Haden.
Cleveland has also finally put together a strong front office that engineered near-genius off-season acquisitions such as Sheldon Brown from Philadelphia, Benjamin Watson from New England and of course, Peyton Hillis from Denver, who is the Browns' MVP.
For the first time in many years, Browns fans can now look forward to free agency and the NFL Draft with a sense of confidence and the hope of adding more pieces instead of reaching for over-the-hill busts past their prime.
Browns football is on its way back!