The Cleveland Browns will hold their first full-squad session of training camp on Saturday, and that means it is time for me to unveil my first 53-man roster projection of the season. This pre-training camp edition is my current perception for how things will go, but it could change drastically over the next couple of weeks based on reports from training camp and performances in the preseason games.
The list above contains 53 players that I kept, and 35 players that I cut. For the purposes of this first list, I am acting as if wide receiver Josh Gordon will not be suspended. By the time I do my second projection, we should know Gordon's fate, and then I will adjust my list accordingly.
Every year, I fill in each player's name on either the "roster" side or the "cut" side, without tallying whether or not I have surpassed the 53-player limit. Then, I count up the left side, and if I am over 53 players, I weigh my options and decide who the "tough" cuts are. In 2009 and 2010, I had to cut two players I initially wanted. In 2011, I undershot my projection, and was able to add six other players. In 2012 and 2013, I had to cut one additional player. This year, my initial draft came in at two players over the limit.
General Roster Projection Notes
- In trying to get down to 53 players, I needed to cut two additional players who I originally wanted to keep. The positions I looked at trimming included wide receiver, offensive line, and linebacker. Ultimately, I chose WR Anthony Armstrong and ILB Tank Carder as the players to move over to the "cut" side. If Gordon is suspended, I would move Armstrong back over to the roster. With all of the veteran special teams linebackers the Browns added, I just get the suspicion that Carder's job is in jeopardy.
- At quarterback, I am rolling with Connor Shaw beating out Tyler Thigpen. I don't think a veteran is needed for the third-string role in Cleveland; it'd be better served for someone who can grow over the next couple of years, and I think the team really likes Shaw.
- Besides Ben Tate and Terrance West making the roster, the running back position is hard to figure out. Chris Ogbonnaya is a multi-talented back, and he's been able to win over two straight coaching staffs. Can he do it to a third-straight staff? I think Dion Lewis electrifies in camp again to the point where he's the No. 2 running back. If Isaiah Crowell slips through the cracks, he is an early favorite for the practice squad.
- I feel very bland for my selections at wide receiver. No Charles Johnson or Chandler Jones? Those guys would be the sexy picks, but I don't have anything to go on other than hype right now, and that's not enough. I'll be able to make a better judgement in my next roster projection.
- The backups for the offensive linemen could end up being dramatically different, depending on who best fits Kyle Shanahan's zone blocking scheme. I have a feeling that Jason Pinkston might be a goner, but I didn't want to pull the trigger on that in my first projection. I am, however, rolling the dice on Chris Faulk being healthy and going beast-mode.
Calvin Barnett is an intriguing defensive lineman, but the first seven on the depth chart are pretty much locked in already.
- The final linebacker spot was a tough one to decide, but I'm going with the just-signed Jamaal Westerman. The outside linebacker spent time in Mike Pettine's defense in Buffalo last year and has historically been a special teams contributor, a unit where teams typically go through some roster turnover.
- I hate not having S Josh Aubrey on my roster in the secondary, but I always feel like I can't justify having more than four safeties on the roster. Time will tell whether CB Leon McFadden has a spot on this roster, but I'm not ready to waive the third-round pick just yet.
- As of this post, the Browns only have 88 players on their roster instead of 90 players.
- The single asterisks on the cut side represent my projected practice squad, which includes RB Isaiah Crowell, WR Charles Johnson, WR Chandler Jones, TE James Oboh, OL Randall Harris, DL Calvin Barnett, OLB Justin Staples, and S Darwin Cook.
Feel free to share your roster projections here, or some changes you would make to mine.