Just two weeks into its re-launch, the Browns mailbag has gone international.
You'll see why if you hang around all the way to the end of this week's edition.
I really like this year's rookie draft class. I see at least seven of the 12 picks contributing to the team. Do you agree? Mainly Orchard, Cooper, Shelton, Duke, and sixth-round steal at fullback Malcolm Johnson. -- Anthony B., Hampton, Ga.
This isn't emphasized enough, but we'll do it now before diving deep into this question. Though the Browns drafted double the players they did last year, it doesn't necessarily mean the team will be relying on more rookies than ever in 2015. This group joins a roster that is, top to bottom, deeper than it was at this time last year and filled with more players whom Mike Pettine and his coaches know and understand. Outside of Johnson, all of these players will have to beat out capable, proven starters to take on that kind of major role. Nothing's being handed to any of them -- not even No. 12 pick Danny Shelton, who plays at a position that includes proven veterans Phil Taylor and Ishmaa'ily Kitchen.
Another thing that needs to be noted: Two of the Browns' draft picks, sixth-round tight end Randall Telfer and seventh-round defensive back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, are recovering from serious injuries and carry uncertain statuses heading into training camp.
Shelton and fellow first-round pick Cameron Erving are givens. Even if Erving can't win a starting job, he'll be the offensive line's versatile sixth man as a rookie. Second-rounder Nate Orchard will be learning a new position, but he's going to be valuable in setting the edge. Third-round running back Duke Johnson provides a change of pace out of the backfield and could be a valuable player on special teams while there's been no shortage of rave reviews about third-round defensive lineman Xavier Cooper. So, that's five.
The next five – safety Ibraheim Campbell, wide receiver Vince Mayle, defensive back Charles Gaines, Johnson and linebacker Hayes Pullard – are tougher to analyze, but it's safe to predict at least three of the five make an impact on this year's team, even if it's only on special teams. Johnson's an intriguing player who is at a position that wasn't even used in the Browns' season finale at Baltimore. The Mississippi State product could very well fit the kind of role Pro Bowler Marcel Reece had last season with the Oakland Raiders, Browns offensive coordinator John DeFilippo's former employer.
The Browns made headlines for how they got older in free agency, but there will certainly be a youthful flavor yet again on this year's roster.
Which undrafted rookie seems to have the best chance to make the team and contribute? I know it is just OTAs but someone has to stand out a little? -- Phil S., Columbus
Shortly after the 2015 NFL Draft came to an official close, Oregon State University football's official Twitter account announced defensive lineman Dylan Wynn had agreed to terms on a deal with the Browns. That it happened so quickly is a strong indication of a team's interest/desire in a player. There's also something to the fact that Wynn was one of just four players who signed as undrafted free agents before rookie mini-camp. This wasn't a cattle call group of signees. These were picked with precision, and Wynn has looked the part of a player who wants to stick around when the roster is whittled down to 53. In a March interview with OregonLive.com, Wynn said he would make an NFL roster by "outworking everybody." He was even willing to switch to fullback.
Though the Browns' defensive line room is as crowded as any on the roster, Wynn has a legitimate chance because he plays with a relentless motor and is capable of playing multiple spots. That versatility will be key on a defensive line that is at its best when the players comprising it are staying fresh with fewer snaps.
How well will the Browns hold up this year with nine out of the 16 teams that went to the playoffs last regular season? -- Brandon F., Mansfield
What was that line LeBron had? Something along the lines of "everything in Cleveland is earned, nothing is given?" Well, that applies to more than just the Cavs, as the Browns will have to navigate an arduous path, particularly during the second half of the season, if they want to achieve their goal of making the playoffs.
Just don't expect Browns players to bring it up or use it as an excuse. One of the biggest reasons why the schedule is so challenging is because of the combined six games against the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals, and, well, there's no changing that arrangement.
It's the offseason, and optimism is booming at every mini-camp across the league. It's hard to find any team that doesn't view its schedule as tough because the belief, at the moment, is every opponent will be a better version of its 2014 self. That's not possible, and there will be some teams on the Browns' schedule that won't be as good as we, at this moment, think they'll be. Only one Browns' opponent, San Francisco, is facing significantly lowered expectations in 2015 than it has in recent years. Baltimore lost a lot in free agency, but it's a team that has enough respect league-wide to garner Peter King's No. 1 ranking in his latest power rankings. Pittsburgh is likely to be a popular Super Bowl prediction by many, Denver knows it has a shrinking window to get Peyton Manning a second Super Bowl title and the Seahawks are the Seahawks.
So, yeah, it's tough. The Browns will have to be better, and they know that. They also know they won't receive any sympathy for their draw. It's what they make of it that will define how 2015 is viewed when it's over.
Most likely the Browns have to win their division to make playoffs. What have you seen from the team/coaching to address winning the division? -- Steve S., Tyler, Texas
This sort of falls in line with the previous question, but it provides an opportunity to take you behind the curtain a little bit. When the schedule was unveiled, I asked Browns coach Mike Pettine a few questions about it for our story. One of the first things Pettine addressed was the pivotal stretch of four consecutive games in late November and early December against AFC North foes.
"We look at the division as being the gateway to the playoffs," Pettine said, "the gateway to our goal."
I followed later in the interview with a question about the Browns drawing the NFC West, which was one of the NFL's toughest divisions last season. Pettine's answer went right back to the Browns' own division.
There's no easy path to the playoffs, but taking care of business within the division makes for significantly less scoreboard watching when the temperatures drop. And if the season goes as hoped, the team's Jan. 3 matchup with Pittsburgh at FirstEnergy Stadium will be a game with plenty on the line. Do you believe the Cavs can win it all? Just a big Browns fan in Sweden. -- Jyrki S, Sweden
Cavs i fem.
(Cavs in five)
Translation courtesy of Google Translations.