Predicting Browns' Key Stat Leaders for 2021 NFL Season
There's really no mystery when it comes to who the Cleveland Browns are going to rely on in the 2021 season. Provided they stay healthy, the same core that took the Chiefs to the wire in the divisional round is coming back.
While most years since the Browns came back in 1999 have been about finding relevance, this year is about building on it.
The same is true for several of the players who should be leading the way. Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb and Myles Garrett all put together exceptional 2020 seasons. They will be called upon to do the same in 2021, and they won't be sneaking up on anyone.
The trio is just like the team itself: young, accomplished and ready to prove it belongs in elite company. Here's a quick look at what can be expected from each.
QB Baker Mayfield
Last year was a make-or-break one for Baker Mayfield.
A stellar rookie campaign gave way to a less-than-stellar season under Freddie Kitchens. Then Kevin Stefanski and the young passer connected, and the result was Mayfield's best statistical season to date.
What should be most encouraging for Browns fans, though, is the improvement the 26-year-old saw within the season. In Games 1-8, when he would have been just getting comfortable in Stefanski's offense, he threw 15 touchdowns to seven interceptions while completing 61.4 percent of his passes.
In Games 9-16, he connected for 11 touchdowns and only threw one interception.
This year will be the first one in which Mayfield has the same offense in his career. So while he proved he can be the long-term starting quarterback last season, this year he has the potential to take the next step.
The return of Odell Beckham Jr. adds an additional layer to Mayfield's 2021 season. Beckham is obviously a talented pass-catcher, but Mayfield's best games came in the second half of the season when OBJ was out of the lineup with a torn ACL.
Key Stats: 4,260 yards, 29 touchdowns, 10 interceptions
RB Nick Chubb
As good as Baker Mayfield was last season and as many weapons as the Browns have in the passing game, this is still an offense that is opened up by one of the best offensive lines and backfields in the game.
The tandem of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt is the best in the league. Both would probably get more credit as lead backs on their own teams, but they pose a major threat to defenses. The duo combined for 2,362 yards from scrimmage, anchored by Chubb's 1,067 yards on the ground and Hunt's 1,145 combined yards rushing and receiving.
Much attention will be paid to Mayfield, Beckham, Jarvis Landry and the Browns passing game. But Stefanski is certainly not going to forget about the man he considers one of the leaders on the team.
The 25-year-old has the personal motivation to put up a monster season, too. He's entering the final year of his four-year contract and could become a free agent in 2022. Running behind an offensive line that brings back all five starters in an ever-improving offense should help him to that end.
Key Stats: 1,318 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns, 30 catches, 215 yards, two touchdowns
Edge Myles Garrett
Myles Garrett finished sixth in the league in sacks despite missing two whole games. He's second all-time in career sacks per game, trailing Reggie White by .02 right now, according to CBS Sports. He's already wondering what he would need to do to pass the Minister of Defense.
The 25-year-old would have to get 16 sacks over the course of the 17-game season. Considering what he did last season, it's not out of the question. The former No. 1 pick has been the most consistent presence for Cleveland, and he repeated that with 12 sacks in 14 games last season.
That was with an aging Adrian Clayborn playing across the defensive line from him and on a unit that was 14th in passer rating allowed and 16th in sack percentage.
Now, Garrett will play with a vastly improved secondary behind him. John Johnson III, Troy Hill and Greg Newsome II figure to improve the coverage. He'll also have a pass-rusher on the other side who demands attention in Jadeveon Clowney.
Garrett should still be the best player on the Cleveland defense but the gap between him and the rest of the defense is shrinking.
Key Stats: 50 tackles, 12 TFL, 13.5 sacks, 30 QB hits