The 2-10 Cleveland Browns are the heavy favorite to land the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft.
According to Kevin Seifert of ESPN, the Football Power Index (FPI) gives the Browns a 58.6 percent chance of finishing with the NFL’s worst record. The Tennessee Titans are second, at 31.3 percent. Cleveland is almost guaranteed of a top-5 selection, with the FPI giving the Browns a 94.2 percent chance of finishing in the league’s bottom five.
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A high pick in next year’s draft would be nothing more than a consolation prize for a long-suffering franchise enduring another terrible season.
Early on, the Browns lost by 21 in the season opener, threw away a game in San Diego with a late penalty and gave up another win in Denver in overtime. It’s been more of the same lately, including one of the more wacky finishes (Baltimore’s touchdown return of a blocked field goal as time expired in Week 12) and a blowout home loss to Cincinnati this past Sunday.
The Browns have started three different quarterbacks, giving the franchise 24 since its rebirth in 1999. Cleveland hasn’t won since Week 5. The offense ranks 30th in points scored, while the defense is 31st in points allowed. Mike Pettine’s club is currently riding a seven-game losing streak.
A matchup with the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14 might be the Browns’ last chance at a third win. From there, Cleveland goes on the road to Seattle and Kansas City before coming home to host the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 17. All three teams are in the postseason hunt.
If there’s anything to look forward to over the final four games, it’s the possibility of an extended look at polarizing quarterback Johnny Manziel. But that’s about it for a franchise unraveling at the seams.
“I can’t sit here and say absolutely we’re all on board 100 percent,” Pettine said, via ESPN. “No, that’s not reality because when things don’t go well, everybody has their opinions and their reasons why. It’s going to come down to a brutal self-assessment and to be able to have the strength to make tough decisions and trust them and move forward.”
The Browns may clean house again after the 2015 season. If so, the next regime would likely inherit the top pick in the 2016 draft.