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Have the Cleveland Browns done enough to surpass the Cincinnati Bengals?

The Browns made a ton of offseason acquisitions and trades. Was it enough to step out of their long-held role as the AFC North’s doormat?

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Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

Over the past few weeks, the Cleveland Browns have tried to undo two decades of bad drafting by engaging in a flurry of trades and free agent signings. Their new general manager has attempted to dump dead weight and replace it with living weight, hoping to fill numerous holes on their 0-16 roster.

While the player personnel changes have been high in quantity, have they been high in quality? Have the Browns done enough to surpass the Bengals in the AFC North standings - something they have only accomplished three times in the 17 year history of the AFC North (2002, 2007, 2010)?

Looking at the Bengals and Browns pre-draft rosters for 2018 we ponder if the Browns have upgraded their roster enough to pass up the Bengals. The Bengals have made relatively few additions compared to their northern Ohio counterparts, so have they maintained their roster superiority? To make the comparisons easier to read, I’ve relied on Pro Football Focus rankings to give the players a numerical values.


The Bengals head into the 2018 season with the adequate, game managing Andy Dalton, while the Browns have added an effective runner, in Tyrod Taylor. Taylor represents a step up from DeShone Kizer (not to mention Johnny Manziel and a litany of other failed Browns signal callers), but despite entering the NFL the same year that Dalton did, only has a sole 300 yard passing game to his credit (Dalton has 22).

Dalton 79.4

Taylor 83.0

The addition of Taylor puts the Browns quarterback situation at the same level of the Bengals but not enough to push them over the top.

Advantage - EVEN

Running Back

The Browns added Carlos Hyde to replace Isaiah Crowell as their feature back, with Duke Johnson Jr. as their change of pace and third down back if they can re-sign him. This is a similar role that the Bengals will likely roll out with Joe Mixon as their feature back, and Giovani Bernard spelling him throughout the game.

Mixon 82.4, Bernard 73.2

Hyde 51.6, Johnson 81.7

Johnson is a bit under-rated as a running back, and he has an edge over Bernard, although Mixon has a huge edge over Hyde. Since Mixon and Hyde will see the most touches for their teams, and Mixon has a bigger edge, the Bengals still have a better running back situation.

Advantage - Bengals

Wide Receiver

The biggest change here (other than Josh Gordon not being suspended) is the Browns trade for Jarvis Landry . Landry has cranked out a ton of short-yardage receptions, setting the record with 401 receptions in his first four seasons.

A.J. Green (83.5), Brandon LaFell (45.7), Tyler Boyd (62.4)

Landry (82.0), Gordon (82.1), Corey Coleman (45.9)

It’s hard to say that a receiving corps with Green isn’t the clear leader in this category, but the Bengals receivers are Green plus a bunch of meh receivers. The Browns have a pair of good receivers with Landry and Gordon. We will have to see if Taylor is able to get the most out of this duo.

Advantage - EVEN

Tight End

The Browns have second year starter David Njoku returning, and the Bengals have elite-when-healthy Tyler Eifert re-signed for one more season.

Eifert 75.7

Njoku 69.2

There is a reason Eifert rhymes with “I hurt.” If healthy, Eifert tops Njoku. When Eifert is on Injured Reserve, Njoku has an advantage over Tyler Kroft . The edge goes to the Bengals, at least until Eifert gets hurt again.

Advantage - Bengals?

Green Bay Packers v Oakland Raiders

Offensive Line

The Bengals traded for a much-needed left tackle and got Cordy Glenn, who is pretty good when he is healthy. They also let Russell Bodine walk, so that is pretty much addition by subtraction. The Browns added J.C. Tretter, Chris Hubbard and Donald Stephenson. The Biggest change to the Browns offensive line will be the loss of Joe Thomas to retirement.

Glenn (68.1), Clint Boling (75.5), T.J. Johnson (45.4), Trey Hopkins (48.3), Cedric Ogbuehi (41.0)

Shon Coleman (53.0), Joel Bitonio (85.2), JC Tretter (70.5), Kevin Zeitler (81.1), Chris Hubbard (69.6)

This one is pretty much a no-brainer without getting too much in depth or comparing the average PFF rankings of 55.7 for the Bengals compared to 71.9 for the Browns. The Browns have one of the league’s top guard tandems with Bitonio and Zeitler, while the Bengals still have massive holes at center and right tackle.

Advantage - Browns

Defensive Line

The Browns signed backup defensive end Chris Smith away from the Bengals. The Bengals, meanwhile, added a Chris of their own in signing defensive tackle Chris Baker.

Geno Atkins (91.5), Baker (71.2), Ryan Glasgow (71.2), Carlos Dunlap (84.3), Carl Lawson (80.6), Michael Johnson (75.9) = 78.7 average

Larry Gounjobi (82.0), Trevon Coley (68.9), Jamie Meder (74.8), Myles Garrett (88.4), Emmanuel Ogbah (72.6), Chris Smith (67.1) = 75.6 average

The Bengals have an elite interior defender with Atkins. The Browns simply don’t have anybody to compare to him. On the edge, the tandem of Dunlap and Lawson is arguably as good as Garrett and Ogbah for the Browns, and is even better than the Browns tandem by their PFF scores for 2017.

Advantage - Bengals


Perhaps one of the few spots where the Browns relatively stayed put with their roster from last season was linebacker. The Bengals added Preston Brown to be their starting middle linebacker, hoping to finally find a solid starter in that role.

Vontaze Burfict (84.7), Preston Brown (71.6), Vincent Rey (45.7), Nick Vigil (35.1) = 59.3 average

Josh Schobert (77.4), Christian Kirksey (59.6), Jamie Collins (35.9), James Burgess (43.9) = 54.2 average

While linebacker may be a weakness on the Bengals roster, the pairing of Burfict and Brown easily outscored any pairing the Browns can currently offer.

Advantage - Bengals

Oakland Raiders v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Defensive Back

The Browns secondary has undergone a significant overhaul as the Browns spent $31 million to sign free agent T.J. Carrie, spent another $12 million on adding Terrance Mitchell, $4 million on E.J. Gaines, and traded away their starting quarterback for Damarious Randall. The Bengals biggest move in the defensive secondary was not picking up the option for cornerback Adam Jones .

William Jackson (89.2), Dre Kirkpatrick (56.4), Darqueze Dennard (82.8), George Iloka (77.7), Shawn Williams (79.1) = 77.0 average

Carrie (84.3), Briean Boddy-Calhoun (84.1), Jamar Taylor (74.0), Derrick Kindred (82.1), Damarious Randall (70.9) = 79.1 average

After adding a handful of potential starters to their secondary the Browns don’t have any defensive backs rated as high as the Bengals’ Jackson, but have three players rated 80 or higher. Their secondary is improved, but not clearly ahead of the Bengals.

Advantage - EVEN


The Browns have a huge advantage on the offensive line, and they have improved enough to be even with the Bengals in other areas. But overall, the Bengals still have the edge with their overall roster for now.

Advantage - Bengals