With their over-achieving season coming to a close, the Cleveland Browns have hope for once in their franchise’s life. That said, there is still room for growth at the “Dawg Pound”. The AFC is getting stronger by the year- Patrick Mahomes and the boys in KC are not getting any worse any time soon, Josh Allen and the Bills are blossoming, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens seem like they’re a reliable WR away from making a title run, and the Titans remain a tough out. What the Baker and Browns need is a little extra help.
Now, all joking aside, I am a diehard Cleveland sports fan. One of my most popular articles back when AniTAY had our old hosting site was Building LeBron James’ All Anime Super Team to Defeat the Warriors — which was my little NBA hypothetical back when the Cavs were going toe to toe with the Warriors for the last legs of their playoff run. An American Football team is much bigger, however, so I decided to modify my rules slightly. There are still some classic rules in here to make it fun, but I threw myself a bone in a few places. Building the NFL Dynasty for the Cleveland Browns using anime characters, I went by the following rules:
· Only one character per franchise
· No sports anime characters
· Five NFL players were kept (Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward, Joel Bitonio, Wyatt Teller)
· If the character has powers, they have to be used either as a sleight of logic or in a way that wouldn’t be overpowered (no guys flying around and teleporting across the field)
· Decent reasoning behind their schematic fit
· Player comparisons to real NFL players for every anime character picked
Don’t know positions? No worries! Rely on this handy image to visualize where these characters are going!
The Browns had the #1 ranked offensive line in 2020 by Pro Football Focus’s statistics, something that was missing from the franchise for nearly two full decades. A real football nerd guy pick for this make believe game would be to use up most of my “real players” slots on the O-Line, but I wanted to try to keep things interesting and relevant to our game here, so I only kept two. It is really hard to figure O-Line fits versus opponents, so forgive me for keeping to physical and character driven reasoning for my picks here.
Left Tackle (LT)- Takeo Gōda (My Love Story!!)
Takeo is a great pick for blocking the edge in more ways than one! His size is always going to be something that stands out to anyone who sees him, sure. Where Takeo really shines, however, come from the things you really would not expect from appearances. He is very fast, as My Love Story!! has shown as a running gag, meaning that his 40yd dash times would make scouts salivate. As the main kicker of the anime reveals, he has a heart of gold and is a genuinely nice guy. This means he will be able to be strong, durable, and quick when it comes to the gritty necessities of the season, but his personality will make him a great locker-room guy, too.
Player Comp: Andrew Whitworth, Los Angeles Rams
Left Guard (LG)- Joel Bitonio
Three-time Pro Bowler Joel Bitonio deserves to win more than anyone else in the Cleveland Browns organization. He is the longest tenured Browns player; Bitonio has been with the Browns since he was drafted in 2014. Before this season, he suffered through a 24–71 record in his six years before this winning seventh season at 11–5. He better be the first guy holding up the Lombardi trophy.
Center ©- Ira Gamagōri (Kill la Kill)
The center might be one of the most demanding positions in all of football because of how much goes into the responsibilities on one player. A center must have the same kind of wavelength with his quarterback that a catcher has with their pitcher. They have to take the full force of the biggest guy running at you from the other side like a basketball center is asked to do. They are essentially playing human goalkeeper, trying to stop someone from blasting through and destroying the quarterback. In many ways, this is a position that requires an extra bit of passion to continue to take on. Ira is, from a values perspective, the perfect pick for this position. He is fierce and adamant about upholding the honor that comes with his role. Plus, he has some of the broadest shoulder I have ever seen in anime.
Player comp: Erik McCoy, New Orleans Saints
Right Guard (RG)- Wyatt Teller
Sentiment for Bitonio aside, Teller is the MVP on offense that deserves a spot held for him more from talent alone. He missed a considerable chunk of the Browns feel-good season, and his absence was felt more than any other position. Pro Football Focus has Teller as the #1 guard in the NFL for a good reason- his run blocking is second to none. While his pass blocking was a little on the weaker side because of the inconsistency that being out so much brings, he got it together for the end of the season. Hard to believe this guy was a steal in the fifth round back in 2018.
Right Tackle (RT)- Ozen (Made in Abyss)
When you’re called “Ozen the Immovable”, chances are you will have a solid future as a blocker. Ozen has both experience and grit- the two elements that would make Jon Gruden salivate like he was staring at a hot basket of honey barbeque wings at Hooters. Ozen will put defensive rushers on their backs with a sinister smile on her face. Don’t try to come after a small little human she’s protecting (Mayfield is basically the same size as her ward, right?)
This might be the decision that comes back to bite me the quickest out of the whole list. Cleveland has been noncommittal to Baker, but I really do not see a world where they do not at the very least pick up his fifth-year option. I will dive into the choice of him as well as a backup QB.
Quarterback (QB1)- Baker Mayfield
So, despite there being questions about Mayfield, I think he is the right choice at quarterback for Stefanski. Going into this past season, I put his ceiling at being a Kirk Cousins type of player- a fairly good, but not great, consistent option that can run a Stefanski offense. It took him a while to get it going, but I don’t think it can be overstated that he did not have any consistency from coaching to help him out. I often wonder if the growth of young QBs get smothered and permanently damaged from awful coaching/high coaching turnover. With that, you can never learn a playbook as thoroughly as you want no matter how experienced you are at the position. Lest us not forget Hue Jackson and Freddie Kithcens were his full time HCs. He will be fine with his all-anime team.
My main concerns with Mayfield- if I can interject a real concern in the middle of the fun here — is the question of “how much” the Browns are going to pay him after next year. Best case scenario? He develops further and shows us a next level. I genuinely think he is on the better side of the Kirk Cousins analogy, but you have to consider the floor of that one too. Cousins is an OK option, but he is not worth his price tag. Now, does Baker’s leadership and impact on the culture of the team warrant the pay more than Kirk Cousins? Debatable, but I’m leaning towards yes. It is safer to know you’re getting steady, solid play at worst than to be in QB purgatory like Pittsburgh is about to be.
Quarterback (QB2)- Kaburagi (Deca-Dence)
What are the hallmarks of a good back-up QB? Some swagger, war stories, a cool head, and just enough fire left in the tank to win a handful of games. Kaburagi fits all of these fields and likely counsels Baker throughout practices, film sessions, and games. I can see it already- it is a Week 10 matchup against a scrappy team just good enough that bad QB play could lead to the Browns being out of it (like this year’s Cardinals or Chargers) and Baker goes down early in the third quarter with a scary tumble. He tweaks his ankle and will likely miss a week on top of the rest of the game. Kaburagi probably takes off the cap he had on the sideline, brushes his hair back, and throws the helmet on. He is not afraid, but he is not trying to play like a young buck, either. They need get a score to put the game away mid-way through the fourth, so he scrambles on a run. Seeing two DBs, he lowers his shoulder and guns it in, going all out for a score. Next week, the Browns host a Jags team not ready for the moment, and Kaburagi helps the Browns take care of a low scoring affair in a smartly ran game by Stefanski. With the extra week to help, Baker returns and is ready to take the Browns on the playoff run.
Player Comp: Matt Moore, formerly Kansas City
It is hard to replace what the Browns had in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt- there is no denying that. Stefanski’s offense favors the run game about as much as it does playing around with an extra tight end or two (more on that later). My solution to this problem? Bring a whole new meaning to the “I-Formation” by making it the “Imouto Formation.” These little sisters are some of the strongest characters in anime and will open the field with both their explosiveness and versatility.
Running Back (HB1)- Karen Araragi (Monogatari)
This is the engine of your offense right here. Karen is unironically one of the strongest characters in Monogatari despite being one of the only humans without any powers (as we see when she absolutely demolishes her brother- a vampire). Her explosive speed and skills in martial arts make her reflexes perfect for some play-action (PA…hey, I had to introduce the acronym for some of our readers!) passes. Faking the hand-off to her does not end her threat- she can immediately pivot and become a dynamic, blazing receiver that, arguably, could punch it into the house. You don’t have to worry about her build either- she is 5’7”, despite misconceptions. Barry Sanders was 5’8” and Maurice Jones-Drew was 5’7”. Just saying.
Player Comp: Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns
Running Back (HB2)- Kureha Sakamachi (Mayo Chiki!)
Maybe a more divisive pick, I think of having Kureha as one of your running backs allows for some more physical plays. What is that you say? She’s smaller than Karen and everyone else? Oh, you sweet innocent soul. This girl has outswam a shark attack with joy in her face and went toe to toe with a brown bear. You know what is scarier than all 6’3”, 269 pounds of the Chicago Bears star defensive back Khalil Mack? A 10’+ , 1,200 pound brown bear. She only broke her arm after that fight, and was out of the cast by the next episode (less than a month later). She can ball.
Player Comp: Mark Ingram Jr, Baltimore Ravens
Okay, so these are going to turn some heads. I wanted to get creative with the wideout group that Baker was throwing to. I considered Stefanski’s preferences and Mayfield’s tendencies when deciding on the following three receivers.
Wide receiver (WR1)- Eustiana “Pecorine” von Astraea (Princess Connect Re:Dive)
Pecorine gives a whole new definition to the classic football phrase “feed me” with her hunger. Her strength and abilities as a tank will overpower any defensive threat handily. I actually considered putting her in at tight end, but I think her power and trucking ability makes her a viable star WR because you almost have to double her on every coverage just to have any hopes of stopping her progress. Her biggest drawback, undoubtedly, will be that she requires food at an alarming rate. I can see Stefanski and the Browns organization taking advantage of the downs she is not in on to stuff her face with snacks the same way you see players get a quick spray of water. Her personality and cheerful attitude will make her an instant winner in the locker room and an instant fan favorite. I can just see her stiff arming a cornerback out of the way for her to score just so she can hurry up and eat.
Player comp: Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Wide receiver (WR2)- Crusch Karsten (Re:Zero- Starting Life in Another World)
The opposite of Pecorine from a cheerfulness perspective, the serious Crusch is a natural leader and someone whose blazing speed, work ethic and intelligence will compliment her superior athleticism well throughout a season. I will come back to this belief later, but a common belief in game-planning is that your most productive wide receiver is often the one that is the second option because of the demand the first option takes away from a defense. If Crusch is the second option on the Browns, things are pretty good for them. Assuming that most defenses will either double or try to split their help between these two, coupled with the exhaustion that a solid run game will give the defensive line, it is only a matter of time before the defense gives up a huge play to the Browns receiving corps. I would be willing to put my money on Crusch being the one who pegs them for leaving her open on a 40-yard bomb from Baker.
Player comp: Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
Wide receiver (WR3)- Yomikawa Aiho (A Certain Magical/Scientific Franchise)
Someone in the middle of the two personalities and, furthermore, someone who has taken on inhuman threats in her career, Aiho is a great choice to round out the wide receivers. Her skills as an educator also means she can help her group read defenses quicker and, likely, find new and creative ways to simplify this data for Pecorine’s small brain. Her evasive skills with firefights leads me to believe that she is a dead ringer for a slot receiver option.
Player comp: Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
I think that the tight end position is one that Stefanski really loves in his offenses- the “grit and grind” potential having multiple big guys out there to push defensive backs around and keep the other team honest with covering them allows the head coach to chip away more at the defense. I picked big, athletic guys who are sure to put up a fight for the whole game and reach up there for some special, athletic plays.
Tight end (TE1)- Jotaro Kujo (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure)
Baker loves his tight ends (hard to find a steady PA heavy QB who does not), and I think Jotaro has “safety blanket” written all over him. Keep in mind that Pecorine will not always be able to be out there demanding doubles, so having Jotaro running down field presents a problem for the defense. If they over-commit to Crusch, he will nail them for it. Jotaro does not even need his Star Platinum- The World ability thanks to his raw talents. I would be lying to say part of me didn’t consider him for this team specifically for him to cheese the “no obvious powers rule” a tiny bit on a 50/50 jump ball in the end zone. You never know when altering time just a bit can help grab those messy deep shots.
Player comp: 2016 Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
Tight end (TE2)- Akihiro Altland (Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans)
Akihiro gives something similar to what David Njoku brought to the Browns this past season- a raw TE2 that can overpower an opponent. I would hope he is a bit more consistent than Njoku, but he is just the guy you would want out there for a 2 TE set- Stefanski loves to overwhelm defenses with two big targets, a spicy receiver, and someone to run the under-route. Using who we have so far, Jotaro and Akihiro could run a cross-route, with Pecorine blasting down the sideline as the monster vertical threat she always is. Meanwhile, the Browns could make this all happen with a savvy PA pass, were Karen fakes the take and just hits under everything going on for an easy 8–12 yards in open field. Knowing her, she could even take that further. Truly a buzzing offense that makes me excited just thinking about it.
Easily the Browns’ biggest area for growth, there are needs everywhere on defense. While not the worst, the Browns ranked 18th in the league last season in Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA- it is a statistic that calculates a team’s success on defense based on how they play relative to down-and-distance versus the league average statistics) according to Football Outsiders. Despite being just below average, anyone with eyes could see that the Browns were hurting all season on defense. Stars Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward are the only two to survive my purging here.
If you are not familiar with the defensive side of the ball, I do not really blame you. It is far less sexy than the skill positions that the other side of the ball loves to highlight. Basically, this first group we are looking at are the big guys who are going to bring the heat and try to suffocate a play before it happens. Naturally, I went some guys with decent size and power to punish the other team’s offensive line.
Outside linebacker (OLB)- Saichi Sugimoto (Golden Kamuy)
A case could be made that Sugimoto has the tenacity to hold down in the trenches as an offensive lineman, but I think of that pure rushing ability with how he charged through battle. Even if he does not want to kill anymore, you cannot kill anyone in football anyways. I love the idea of putting him up next to Myles Garrett because this makes life hell for the left guard and tackle, trying to hold off three tenacious attackers. Even if the tackle manages to cover well enough to stop the rush from Garrett, Sugimoto could blitz the QB…hard. His strength also means he can likely overpower a receiving option and force a turnover.
Player comp: Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts
Defensive end (DE)- Myles Garrett
What do you say about the man who does not need anything more said? Garrett is one of the greatest players I have ever seen play the sport. I feel like he was a bout with COVID away from winning this season’s defensive player of the year award. With all this help on defense (and hopefully the same IRL), he will become a 1B to the 1A that is usually the Los Angeles Rams’ Aaron Donald.
Defensive tackle (DT)- Major Alex Louis Armstrong (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)
Remember how I mentioned that Sugimoto could help Garrett on one side? Well, the enthusiastic Major Armstrong will cover the other side. Clearing a bit of room, he could shift a guard or even get him tied up with the left tackle while Garrett’s overwhelming athleticism lets him get past and destroy the QB. Major Armstrong is what you want from a character perspective- he will always be there to encourage the defense and get everyone fired up.
Player comp: Grady Jarrett, Atlanta Falcons
Middle linebacker (MLB)- Hercules (Fate/stay night)
Ultimately, Hercules is a no-brainer based off of his massive 8’3” stature alone, and even with his superhuman strength removed from the equation, he is a guaranteed blocked FG/PAT every time. The biggest, and only question, becomes what do you do about his murderous rage? Well, if you promise Illya that she can play with Swagger Jr., the Browns live mascot (a dog), she can use a command seal. Although, it might be wise to keep an eye on her too- do not want her using magic on that dog. We all know how weird that can get.
Player comp: Richard Sligh, Oakland Raiders
Defensive tackle (DT)- Klaus von Reinherz (Blood Blockade Battlefront)
Opposite of Armstrong is a man who is steely and reserved- Klaus is a solid steel support beam that can hold this D-line together. Consider him a guaranteed plus on every play, as he shouts something in German and destroys the G position. His leadership is something this line will likely need from him- given that Major Armstrong, Sugimoto, and Hercules are pretty hot headed. Garrett might be alright, but we can never forget the fated night with a certain helmet and a certain backup QB who has the most annoying demeanor in the league.
Player comp: Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles
Defensive end (DE)- Shizuo Heiwajima (Durarara!!)
Speaking of raw energy that needs contained, Shizuo is a force to be reckoned with. The Russian mob, supernatural beings, and construction equipment couldn’t stop this guy. When I thought of rushers, he was the first person who came to mind from anime. I imagine the headache having Garrett and Shizuo just eating up QBs must bring offenses.
Player comp: Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints
Outside linebacker (OLB)- Sword (GARO: Vanishing Line)
Sword brings a veteran presence that compliments the raw, young talent that Sugimoto has on the opposite side of the line. He has been there before, so to speak, and will be able to stay steady in the big moments. While we did not really get to see him fight without his GARO armor, I would wager the ripped dude who eats a steak that big can handle himself on a defensive play or two.
Player comp: Deion Jones, Atlanta Falcons
Here is where things get fun and creative on this side of the ball. Denzel Ward is a mainstay to this defense, and the rest of the group gets a blank check to fill out needs. The secondary for the Browns ranked 26th last season according to Pro Football Focus- something that undeniably needs cleaned up.
Cornerback (CB)- Denzel Ward
Maybe the most obvious choice for someone on this team besides Myles Garrett, Ward is a star CB and well worth keeping. His health was an issue this past season (as you tend to see with the corner position), but I think he will be much healthier with a squad he does not have to carry on his back through a full season.
Cornerback (CB)- Ryu Lion (Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?/DanMachi)
This is another choice where I was really excited to consider where Ryu might fit in the game of football. She has all of the markings of a great WR, sure, but I feel like she can bring something to the CB position that not everyone on this list can. I consider how in DanMachi III, she held her ground for a decent amount of time with the powerhouse that is Ais Wallenstein. Let us just say Ais is a star WR for a minute- the fact that Ryu could hold her own says a lot about her as a CB1. Naturally, Ward is going to be the star, but she gives some insurance in case Ward misses a few games. Remember the analogy about the second-best receiver being the biggest threat? Ryu also helps ensure that the #2 does not break out for a huge play. Her speed and hawking abilities make her a razor-sharp choice.
Player comp: Casey Hayward, Los Angeles Chargers
Cornerback (CB): Shiki Ryougi (The Garden of Sinners)
You might be asking “Dil, I thought you can only have two corners out there!” and you would be absolutely right. I love the idea of drafting a third, reliable corner because of the volatility of the position. If Ward or Ryu go down, you do not want some random replacement there. A man I really trust with his opinions of football defenses once told me you want to have three-to-four reliable cornerbacks for this case. At worst, you get to have someone reliable to hop in there for a minute and give your featured CBs a break. Shiki has a lot of the same pluses as Ryu (almost alarmingly), and her ability to sense incoming attacks gives her an advantage without tipping her hand as to that being a power. You might be saying “Dil, you have put a lot of anime girls on this list” but I can reply with “Shiki tackled a man off a massive building and stabbed him to death on the way down” as my justification as to why she can handle a WR. Oh, and she would be pretty neat as a nickelback, too.
Player comp: Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals
Strong Safety (SS)- Fudou Nomura (Armed Girl’s Machiavellianism)
Nomura is yet another pick that I feel absolute confidence in thanks to his defensive abilities. The best part of his fighting style is that it likely translates to the gridiron in a fun way: he can counter anything the offense throws his way. Radiating with charisma and platonic friendliness, he will fit along nicely with otherwise icy anime women in the secondary. Look at him to handle your Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Mark Andrews (more relevant to the division) type of receiving threat.
Player comp: Anthony Harris, Minnesota Vikings
Free Safety (FS)- Tomoyo Sakagami (Clannad)
My favorite of the batch for more reason than one, Tomoyo gives the defense an embarrassment of riches with how versatile she is. I have shied away from justifying my player comps, but I really do feel that she has the same benefits that a Jamal Adams brings to the table. She is likely best at the free safety position, but she could even play a role as a slot cornerback if need be. She is tough and punishes those who underestimate her. The cliché “a Swiss Army knife of a player” is overused, but it fits Tomoyo well.
Player comp: Jamal Adams, Seattle Seahawks
These two are more fun, gee-whiz kind of choices since special teams does not have a lot of love in football. I would say the best punt-return option out of everyone so far would be Ryu Lion, since I mentioned her ability as a WR despite her CB designation being undeniable.
Punter (P)- Chie Satonaka (Persona 4)
When I think of a good punter, I think of a reliable boot. Watch this punt and tell me it is not the strongest anime punt around.
Kicker (K)- Yuiko Kurugaya (Little Busters!)
Likewise, I think of a good kicker as someone with leg strength and precision. Watch how calculated and straight this roundhouse by Kurugaya is.