With the Cleveland Browns having drafted 14 rookies and parted ways with a lot of veteran starters this offseason, the number of rookie starters in Week 1 could be rather unprecedented. At certain positions, it's hard to qualify what a "starter" is. For example, last year, RB Duke Johnson technically got the start in Week 1, but the team really just deployed a two back system and RB Isaiah Crowell had more carries in Week 1. Besides Johnson, NT Danny Shelton was the only other rookie to start right off the bat in 2015.
Pro Football Focus is speculating that a whopping seven players from the 2016 draft class could start for the Browns in Week 1. When they say "starters," they are referring to starters in either the base or sub-packages. The players they think could start include:
- WR Corey Coleman
- WR Rashard Higgins
- OT Shon Coleman
- OLB Emmanuel Ogbah
- DE Carl Nassib
- ILB Scooby Wright
- ED Joe Schobert
Since teams typically go with two wide receivers in the "starting" lineup and WR Andrew Hawkins should be in the slot, it seems inevitable that two of the team's four drafted rookies will be in the starting lineup.
Coleman and OT Spencer Drango will have a shot to start at right tackle, unless veteran OT Alvin Bailey can hold them off. Ogbah should definitely have a role right away, as the team's pass rush was a disappointment a year ago and we know how high they are on Ogbah by virtue of them now dealing out of No. 32 overall on draft day.
Besides Desmond Bryant, the Browns' returning group of defensive ends doesn't light the world on fire. PFF says "Nassib should start in sub-packages based on his pass-rushing, and will see some time in base-packages because the Browns’ incumbents are shaky."
Scooby Wright might not start in front of Demario Davis or Christian Kirksey, but based on how often Ray Horton likes to blitz middle linebackers, PFF thinks he'll have a starting role in a sub-package:
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton likes to blitz his inside linebackers. In Arizona, he rushed his ILBs at almost 30 percent, while he was around 22 percent as defensive coordinator in Tennessee. If he continues to bring the heat up the middle, no ILB was better in college in 2014 than the former Arizona Wildcat nicknamed "Two-Star Scoob" with 14 sacks, seven hits, and 27 hurries.
The further down the list we go, the harder it is to label these guys as "starters," starting with Wright. Their final one, Joe Schobert, is about on the same level of a stretch as Wright. While he should see a role, now you're starting to think of these guys as more of a "regular contributor" as opposed to a "starter."
With all of that said, how many rookies do you think will be true "starters" in Week 1? I'd go with four -- two receivers, Ogbah, and Nassib.