As one of the biggest names at Fox Sports 1, Shannon Sharpe’s commentary has made him one of the channel’s most recognizable figures alongside his famously opinionated co-host, Skip Bayless. One of the more successful stories of a player turned pundit, Sharpe consistently goes viral thanks to his passionate takes, quick-witted rebuttals, and insight into the mind of the professional athletes. As a former player, Sharpe dives into the NFL in ways that most other pundits cannot do, and is given a daily platform to do so. He recently raised eyebrows when he predicted the young Cleveland Browns will win the AFC North this coming season, and these were the reasons.
“The subtractions that the Steelers had…”
With Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell packing their bags after a dramatic offseason in Pittsburgh, the Steelers appear to be headed for a downswing. Because of that, and combined with aging quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers are more beatable than ever.
For the Cleveland Browns to capitalize, however, they still need to improve. Banking on the failures of another team can lead to tragic results for the team’s final record. If the Steelers do fall off the way that Sharpe predicts they will, the Browns will still need to earn the better record.
Preparing for the Ravens
The Ravens surprised teams all last year with Lamar Jackson’s play at quarterback. This year, Sharpe sees the Ravens as a different story—a team who does not have the element of surprise in their favor. That makes them an easier hurdle for not only the Browns but the rest of the NFL, which now has a better idea of what kind of offense that the Ravens will throw out there every game.
“The step that Baker Mayfield will make in year two will be significant.”
Baker Mayfield had an impressive rookie season, and he should get better if he puts in the work. Some of it is natural to the position, but the young quarterback cannot assume that a solid rookie campaign means that continued success is a given.
Up until now, Mayfield has shown a great work ethic, so Cleveland Browns fans should be confident in their up-and-coming star. In a world where many former college superstars disappoint in the NFL, Mayfield appears to be on track for success for many years to come.
“The upgrades that they got…”
The first two points that Sharpe made with regards to the Browns’ improvement could theoretically be accomplished without much change to their roster. However, Sharpe believes the roster itself is an improvement over the previous years already. From adding Odell Beckham Jr. to Kareem Hunt, the moves that the Browns made to build off of the previous season and make the team a true contender in the AFC North.
“They should be the favorite.”
Pittsburgh shedding talent. Baltimore not having the element of surprise this season. Baker Mayfield’s progression. Upgrades on offense. All of those things work in favor of the Cleveland Browns as teams prepare for the 2019 NFL season. However, the offseason is still relatively young, and the draft and further trades and free agency could still change the landscape of the AFC North and beyond.
The Browns have lots of things going for them, however, and Sharpe is not just saying things with hopes that they stick. They have a young core, a promising roster, and a better team on paper than the one who lingered in the middle last season.
Overall, only time will tell if Shannon Sharpe is right. His experience as a player gives him insight that the average fan doesn’t have, but lots of things can change during both the offseason and the regular season before we know if Sharpe will be right after all.