In Part 1 of our training camp preview on the Cleveland Browns' cornerbacks, we looked at the top five players on the depth chart. In Part 2 of our preview on cornerbacks, we look at other five cornerbacks on the roster.
6. CHARLES GAINES - ROOKIE CORNERBACK
Despite their depth in the top five at cornerback, the Browns spent two late draft picks on cornerbacks -- Charles Gaines in the 6th round and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu in the 7th round. Dane Bruglar of CBS Sports valued him as a 3rd or 4th round pick, and here's what he said in his pre-draft scouting report on him:
A former wideout, Gaines made the move to cornerback prior to the 2013 season as a sophomore, recording an interception in his first career game in the secondary. The move to defense also signaled growth off the field with the coaching staff calling him a "tremendous leader" after he took ownership for past mistakes. Gaines doesn’t play with wasted motion with the click-and-close burst to compete for the ball, not allowing targets to get comfortable in their routes. A key trait of a cornerback is the ability to do wide receiver things and as a former wideout, he has that covered with his balance and ballskills, although he needs time to fine tune his mechanics. Gaines plays with tremendous play speed and natural traits that are worth developing in the NFL – raw, but the starting potential is evident and he should be a reliable nickel defender as a rookie.
Gaines will have a role on special teams this year, and he's also going to be groomed as the backup nickelback to K'Waun Williams. You can expect the second-team defense to feature Justin Gilbert and Pierre Desir on the outside, with Gaines in the slot. Gaines will also contend for the kick returner role.
Final Roster Odds: 80%
7. ROBERT NELSON - COMPETING FOR SPECIAL TEAMS ROLE
K'Waun Williams wasn't the only undrafted player to make the roster in 2014. Although he was a much lesser-known player, Robert Nelson made the club and was on the roster for all 16 games last year. He played in 7 of them, almost exclusively on special teams.
Nelson has been working hard this offseason to improve his strength and endurance, including pushing and pulling a car. Last year, he was the sixth cornerback on the depth chart. While it is conceivable that the Browns could carry a seventh cornerback because of how deep the position is, Nelson would rather get off to a fast enough start in camp to show that he has a place on the defensive side of the ball.
I think the depth could force Nelson to being sent to the practice squad this year, but if he has a good camp and ends up being a tough cut, maybe another team will claim him off waivers at the end of camp.
Final Roster Odds: 25%
8. KENDALL JAMES - COMPETING FOR PRACTICE SQUAD ROLE
Kendall James was a 6th round pick by the Minnesota Vikings in 2014. He didn't make the team's 53-man roster out of camp, and only spent a couple of days on their practice squad before being released. He spent about two months on the practice squads of the Texans and Vikings before the Browns signed him to their practice squad heading into the final week of the season.
James will compete near the bottom of the depth chart for a spot on special teams, where he'll try to use his 4.3-4.4 speed as a gunner. That is too much of a niche role, though, and for the Vikings to not keep him after spending a 6th round pick, and for him to bounce around to several practice squads before being let go, seems like a sign that his talent on defense wasn't quite up to par. If the Browns need to clear space for a roster spot, James could be one of the first to go.
Final Roster Odds: ~1%
9. DE'ANTE SAUNDERS - UNDRAFTED FREE AGENT CORNERBACK
De'Ante Saunders is one of the Browns' undrafted free agents in this year's defensive backs group. Here is the scouting report provided by NFL.com on Saunders last July:
Saunders was a two-year starter at safety at Florida before he was kicked off the team late in the 2012 season. He had four interceptions, 39 tackles and nine pass breakups for Tennessee State last season as a cornerback, but his best pro position might be safety. Saunders -- who started as a true freshman at Florida -- lacks elite speed, but he has great instincts, is active in run support and can lay the lumber. Saunders has NFL talent, but red flags are flying with regard to his character.
We'll see early on in camp whether we'll need to revise Saunders' position from cornerback to safety.
Final Roster Odds: ~1%
10. IFO EKPRE-OLOMU - RECOVERING FROM INJURY / ROSTER STASH
Even though he was a 7th round pick, fans and coaches are very excited about the potential that Ifo Ekpre-Olomu has. Whether he's able to live up to his "first-round potential" remains to be seen, considering he's coming off of a torn ACL and a dislocated knee.
It is unclear how much, if anything, he'll be able to contribute in 2015. The Browns have already placed him on the active/non-football injury list, and it's almost a guarantee that he will remain there heading into the regular season. Because of how deep the cornerback position is, it's difficult to imagine Ekpre-Olomu recovering and getting enough work in with the defense to step on the field in 2015. Expect Ekpre-Olomu to be available for 2016, where things could get very interesting on the depth chart if he is able to return to form.
Final Roster Odds: N/A (will begin season on injury list)
Next up, we'll take a look at the safeties. Today's poll asks how many cornerbacks you think the Browns will keep on the roster this year.