It is time for my final 53-man roster projection for the Cleveland Browns. Executive Vice President of Football Operations Sashi Brown will have to trim the roster from 75 players to 53 players by 4:00 PM ET on Saturday, September 3rd. This edition is based on the weeks of training camp reports, performances from the four preseason games, and my general instincts.
|Robert Griffin III
The list above contains 53 players that I kept, and 20 players that I cut. The following players are not included in the table above, because they are already either on an injury or suspension list to begin the year: RB Glenn Winston (IR), WR Josh Gordon (suspension), WR Rannell Hall (IR), WR Dennis Parks (IR), DE Desmond Bryant (NFI) DL Dylan Wynn (IR), DL Nile Lawrence-Stample (IR), and OLB Armonty Bryant (suspension).
General Roster Projection Notes
- UPDATE (11:10 AM): With the Browns having signed DL Stephen Paea before final cuts, I am making a late change to my projection. Paea is in, and I am keeping the defensive line count at six players. The most obvious player(s) to get the boot are either ILB Dominique Alexander or ILB Scooby Wright, but I couldn't pull the trigger on Wright after the initial plea I made for him. Therefore, I went with CB Eric Patterson, a move that would only work out if CB Justin Gilbert is able to return from his concussion for Week 1.
- Since the first edition of my list, I removed the following five players from my 53-man roster projection:
TE Connor Hamlett
OLB Paul Kruger
S Rahim Moore
CB Charles Gaines
P Andy Lee
- Since the first addition of my list, I added the following five players from my 53-man roster projection:
RB Raheem Mostert
ILB Scooby Wright
DB Pierre Desir
CB Eric Patterson
P Kasey Redford
I will explain each of the roster decisions in the positional bullet points below.
- Quarterback: If I was going purely based on performance in camp and during the preseason, then Cody Kessler should not be on this team. He looked out-of-his-element most weeks, and never even came close to pushing Josh McCown for the backup quarterback spot. That's one of the reasons the Browns won't part with McCown for cheap -- they know that if Robert Griffin III goes down, it'd be a mess if Kessler was thrown into the starting lineup. I think he was meant to be a developmental player all along, though, and with a third-round pick being used on him, he should stick on the roster.
- Running Back: It was good to see Terrell Watson with a few receptions, but his roster spot hasn't really been in jeopardy. The change I made at the position was flipping to add Raheem Mostert to the roster. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I think it speaks volumes at times when a bubble player has a short-term injury that would keep them out of the fourth preseason game, but was not cut in the cutdown to 75 players. Mostert can be an asset on special teams and is also one of the fastest players on the team if Hue Jackson were to try using him on offense.
- Wide Receiver: I honestly don't know what to expect at the receiver position now, and part of that has been because the offensive line and quarterback play after the first-teamers leave the game has been so horrid this preseason. Not including Josh Gordon, there are only two receivers who are wholeheartedly safe: Corey Coleman and Terrelle Pryor. I think the team likes all of the other seven receivers in different ways, but will only keep five from that group.
Even though good logic would say the club will only keep one player between Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel, I once again stuck with both players making the roster. Gabriel has turned in some nice punt returns, and with Coleman having some issues even as a receiver, I think they will take the "punt return" duties off the rookie's plate. Gabriel is a young-but-polished presence who can play some snaps early in the season while Gordon is out and the other rookie receivers aren't quite ready to play.
I think Marlon Moore still makes it as a special teams gunner. At one point this offseason, I thought Rashard Higgins was a lock to make the roster, but his playing time has taken a big hit over the past two games, putting him on more equal ground as the likes of Jordan Payton and Ricardo Louis. In the end, I stuck with my projection from the last time by making Payton the odd man out. I am still getting too much of a Brian Robiskie vibe from Payton, meaning he won't be able to get enough separation at the NFL level. Louis is still raw, but showed some good things on special teams earlier this camp and is a developmental project I don't think the club wants to risk losing (even if there isn't a big market for him).
- Tight End: Let's be honest: if Connor Hamlett had not had a good first week or so of training camp, we wouldn't even know his name right now, much less be considering him for the 53-man roster. I think Hue Jackson is comfortable with Gary Barnidge and Randall Telfer as his two primary tight ends. They've also been using Spencer Drango as an extra blocking tight end, which de-values Hamlett's role and makes that third tight end spot more suitable for a receiving project like Seth DeValve.
- Offensive Line: For the second week in a row, Dan France had a rough time at left tackle, so I'm sticking with my previous projection. Spencer Drango, Shon Coleman, and Alvin Bailey can all play tackle in a pinch, so France isn't needed on the 53-man roster. Bailey has been the best backup guard and will probably stick around for that reason; however, if the team adds a waiver claim from another team, Bailey will be the first lineman to go.
- Defensive Line: Probably the biggest "risk" I'm taking is in the front seven, starting with only keeping five defensive linemen. Just a week ago, though, I considered Emmanuel Ogbah a defensive end, and Armonty Bryant will be back in Week 5. When you consider those factors, and how much Ray Horton doesn't want to pigeon-hole himself into a particular defense, I think the group I picked will satisfactory from a depth chart perspective.
- Linebacker: When Scooby Wright was drafted, we heard that he wasn't going to flash much in camp, meaning he'd have to make an impact during the preseason games. This article just came out about Wright not being happy with his reduced reps the past few weeks, but his one-on-one goal line stuff on fourth down against the Bears could have been a defining moment for him. In a preseason where Ray Horton has been searching for a defensive presence, yet has seen so many missed assignments and tackles, that type of effort could carve out a niche for Wright in goal line packages. Five inside linebackers does seem like a stretch, but several of these guys will be core special teams members.
- Safety: The one thing I did not see coming heading into the final preseason game was Pierre Desir making a statement, but that's absolutely what he did. He finished the game with 4 tackles on defense, 1 pass defended, and 2 tackles on special teams. He was also active in help defense around the goal line. He also appeared to be playing cornerback for more than a handful of snaps, and he nearly had an interception on a play in which he had tight coverage.
I am predicting Justin Gilbert and Trey Caldwell will both make the roster, but Gilbert has a concussion and Caldwell didn't play all preseason. That could allow Desir to make the roster too for special teams and a healthy hybrid defensive back option. By him making the roster, I ended up cutting Rahim Moore. This past week, Hue Jackson cited the other three safeties as competing for playing time, and Moore has not had the best body of work this camp.
- Cornerback: This is the first projection in which I've had Charles Gaines removed from the roster. After a pretty solid third preseason game, he turned in a pretty bad performance against the Bears. Tramon Williams was back in action against Chicago and should have the starting nickelback role. I think Trey Caldwell, who is just returning from injury, can back Williams up. Tracy Howard would've been my first choice to replace Gaines deep on the depth chart, but he has a hamstring injury now too. The team will need another healthy body at cornerback to start the season, so the next-man-up opportunity goes to Eric Patterson.
- Special Teams: Between Kasey Redfern and Michael Palardy, I don't think either of them will be on the 53-man roster heading into Week 1. In the initial cutdown, though, I think Redfern will stay on the roster just in case they don't like whoever they bring in for tryouts during the week.
- The single asterisks on the cut side represent my projected practice squad, which includes WR Jordan Payton, TE Connor Hamlett, OL Dan France, C Mike Matthews, DL Chigbo Anunoby, DL Kenton Adeyemi, CB Charles Gaines, and CB Tracy Howard. Two spots are open.
Feel free to share your roster projections here, or some changes you would make to mine.