CLEVELAND — Be it through draft picks, free-agent signings or trades, since John Dorsey took over as general manager of the Cleveland Browns in December of 2017, he has overhauled the roster and bolstered the skill positions, specifically quarterback, wide receiver and running back.
The national media has taken notice of Dorsey’s moves, so much so that in preseason rankings of the NFL’s best quarterback/running back/wide receiver combinations, CBSSports.com’s Jared Dubin had the Browns trio of quarterback Baker Mayfield, running back Nick Chubb and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. as No. 3 in the league, behind only the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs.
“The Browns, y’all!” Dubin wrote. “The Cleveland Browns. No. 3. I almost can’t believe it. It’s deserved, though. Mayfield was fantastic as a rookie despite working for half the season in Hue Jackson’s offense.
“Chubb was buried on the bench until the team traded Carlos Hyde, then promptly exploded. And then, Cleveland added possibly the NFL’s best receiver. Yeah. It’s go time.”
Not highly recruited out of high school, Mayfield went from a walk-on at both Texas Tech and Oklahoma to winning the 2017 Heisman Trophy and being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Unlike previous quarterbacks, Mayfield lived up to the hype in a record-setting way.
Mayfield broke the NFL rookie record with his 27th touchdown throw of the season with 3:24 remaining in the fourth quarter of a 26-24 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC North Division clash at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on December 30.
After taking over the first-team offense in the second quarter of a Week 3 win over the New York Jets, Mayfield completed 310 of his 486 attempts (63.8 percent) for 3,725 yards and 27 touchdowns against 14 interceptions.
Under the direction of new Browns coach Freddie Kitchens, the interim offensive coordinator for the second half of the 2018 season, Mayfield completed 180 of his 263 attempts (68.4 percent) for 2,254 yards and 19 touchdowns against eight interceptions.
No rookie running back in Browns history rushed for more yards than Chubb did in 2018, as he set the franchise single-season record in a 26-18 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 23.
Chubb rushed for a game-high 112 yards on 19 carries, which gave him 972 yards on the season.
Chubb broke the old mark for rushing yards by a rookie that was set by Trent Richardson during the 2012 season. Richardson rushed for those 950 yards on 267 carries, while Chubb eclipsed his yardage total on 84 less attempts.
Chubb finished the 2018 season, one in which he was seldom used in the first seven games, with 996 yards and eight touchdowns on 192 carries. Chubb had 11 20-yard runs, four 40-yard bursts and 47 first-down conversions.
Chubb attributed some of that success to first-year Browns coach Freddie Kitchens, who started the 2018 season as the team’s running backs coach and was elevated to interim offensive coordinator with eight games remaining on the schedule.
Acquired in a trade with the New York Giants back in March, Beckham Jr. brings to Cleveland an impressive resume of accomplishments and credentials.
Over 59 regular-season games, including 56 starts, in those five years with the Giants, Beckham Jr. turned 622 targets into 390 receptions for 5,476 yards and 44 touchdowns. Beckham Jr. averaged 92.8 yards per game, including a league-best 108.8 during the 2014 season.
Last season, Beckham Jr. turned in a 77-catch, 1,052-yard, six-touchdown effort for the Giants.