Browns' efforts to improve roster validated by Pro Football Focus ranking

The Cleveland Browns have improved their roster significantly from one year ago.

That's the verdict from ProFootballFocus.com, which for the second year has used its metrics and analytics to determine how the NFL rosters as a whole stack upInsider.

Its words and ratings of the Browns should provide both caution about the present and excitement about the future.

The Browns rank 14th in the NFL in rosters strength, according to PFF. One year ago, the analytics team had the Browns 24th.

The Browns rank just behind the Colts, a Super Bowl pick of many. Dallas and Pittsburgh rank 11 and 12, and those two teams are going to be picked by most to reach the playoffs.

According to the analytics, the Browns are positioned to have a good team.

The reason better is not expected? It's the same position that has been the media's offseason focus, and has bedeviled the Browns since 1999.

"The Browns have a good roster overall, but they are brought down in these rankings because they are in quarterback purgatory -- with no end in sight," PFF writes.

There is praise for the offensive and defensive lines, but concern about the playmaking ability at receiver with Josh Gordon suspended and Jordan Cameron gone via free agency.

The ranking basically validates the Browns' approach this season. The team decided to search for a quarterback, but while doing so to continue to build as strong a roster as possible around the quarterback. Efforts were made to see about Sam Bradford, Philip Rivers and Marcus Mariota.

Those didn't work out, so the team built its roster elsewhere. In the draft, Cleveland took two linemen who have the ability to step in immediately. It added a pass-rusher, and perhaps long-term help past 2015 at corner if Ifo Ekpre-Olomu's damaged knee heals this season.

It signed a cornerback, two receivers and a tight end in free agency.

And it decided Josh McCown was the best answer at quarterback given all the circumstances. The search won't stop.

But if a top quarterback were put on the Browns' roster -- say somehow Rivers or Aaron Rodgers suited up in the new matte helmet -- the outlook would be far different.

That's still a dream though.

At this point, the Browns -- at least initially this season -- will live with McCown, and try to build a team and system around him that will protect the ball, play defense, run the ball -- and hopefully win while facing a very difficult schedule.

PFF's top five Browns players are LT Joe Thomas, LG Joel Bitonio, center Alex Mack, safety Donte Whitner and LB Karlos Dansby.

Curiously missing -- as he was missing from the Top 100 of CBS Sports' Pete Prisco -- is CB Joe Haden.

The positions that need upgrading, according to PFF: Inside linebacker (PFF says an upgrade is needed from Craig Robertson, a rating I'm not sure I buy), tight end (Gary Barnidge, Rob Housler), quarterback (obvious) and running back (the bloom is off the Terrance West rose).

Even with the 14th-overall ranking, there is one word of caution for the Browns: The AFC North struggle is real. All three AFC North teams rank ahead of the Browns, with Baltimore and Cincinnati in the top 10.