UPDATE: The Browns have claimed five players off waivers. Click here to learn all about them. My reaction to the Browns’ initial 53-man roster, prior to the waiver claims, remains below.
The Cleveland Browns named their initial 53-man roster on Saturday. Because I had to get to the Indians downtown, I didn’t have time to analyze the team’s initial 53-man roster, so let me do so before waiver claims and practice squads are processed here in a little bit.
Here are 8 quick hitters about the initial roster:
1. Comparing to Final Projection: I correctly predicted 49/53 (92.45%) of the roster spots in my final roster projection. I am stunned that I did as well as I did, given the question about veterans and the amount of youth on the roster. Note: I gave myself credit for getting the punter position correctly, because I felt the club would find somebody else besides the two youngsters who went against Chicago, and they did.
2. Who I Missed Out On: The players I thought were going to make the roster, but did not, were WR Taylor Gabriel, WR Marlon Moore, S Pierre Desir, and CB Justin Gilbert.
The players I failed to predict making the roster were WR Jordan Payton, S Rahim Moore, S Don Jones, and CB Tracy Howard.
3. Astounding Number of Rookies: The Browns kept all 14 draft picks and 2 undrafted free agents (ILB Dominique Alexander and CB Tracy Howard), which means 30.18% of their roster is made up of rookies. ESPN’s Field Yates took it a step further to count how many second-year-players-or-less the Browns have:
Youth movement: 28 of 53 (52.8%) players on the Browns' initial roster are rookies or second-year players.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 3, 2016
Surprisingly, there was another NFL team that came close to matching the Browns in number of rookies. The Seahawks kept 14 rookies in total, consisting of 8 draft picks and 6 undrafted free agents.
If I go back to my pre-training-camp roster projection, I had all 14 rookies projected to make the roster. Some of the comments from that projection back in late-July? This comment came from that initial thread:
“All 14 rookies make it? I guess would be an NFL record. Well maybe need to exclude expansion and the early years.”
It is a reality now. In my final projection, I had 13 rookies making the roster, with only WR Jordan Payton being the odd man out.
4. Biggest Surprise: The trading of CB Justin Gilbert. Although it’s not difficult to admit that he was a bust, and I did not feel an ounce of regret after hearing about the trade, I thought he would stick on the roster. The Steelers were enamored with him a bit back in 2014, so this basically gives them a free look at him and takes his contract off of Cleveland’s hands.
5. Gameday Considerations: When you think about the Browns’ roster, you might say, “how can you keep Rishard Higgins, Jordan Payton, and Ricardo Louis when they basically did nothing all preseason?” Or, “aren’t the Browns weak at cornerback that they had to keep Trey Caldwell and Tracy Howard as their fourth- or fifth-options?” I could go on and on.
However, now we have to start thinking about gameday considerations versus what the Browns are basically using as a big extension of the practice squad. How many wide receivers usually play on offense on gameday? Three. That would be Terrelle Pryor, Corey Coleman, and Andrew Hawkins. How many cornerbacks usually play on gameday? Three again — Joe Haden, Jamar Taylor, and Tramon Williams.
When you think of it like that, it’s not as surprising to think about the team keeping so many rookies. They can be eased into playing time throughout the year when they have more time to develop. We’ll probably see Louis and Howard be key cogs on special teams, based on their preseason utilization and the departure of Marlon Moore.
6. Practice Squad Possibilities: I think the Browns should try to sign TE Connor Hamlett, OT Dan France, C Mike Matthews, and CB Eric Patterson to their practice squad. If nobody claims them and they are humble enough to accept practice squad assignments, then I’d also like to see WR Taylor Gabriel and CB Pierre Desir added to the practice squad, which would take advantage of the rule that allows up to four players with two years of experience to be stashed. If we’re digging back into the first round of cuts, I’d also like to see TE E.J. Bibbs on the squad, but that’s probably just a fantasy at this point.
7. Waiver Claims: Remember that this was the initial 53-man roster, or as many like to call it, the “fluid” 53-man roster. Teams make waiver claims every year, and the Browns should be especially active this year because they hold the very-powerful 2nd priority in waiver claim order:
A reminder leading into a busy NFL weekend...— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 2, 2016
Waiver claim priority:
Who are the most likely players to get the boot? First, you’d have to look at the positions where we have a surplus, and that would be inside linebacker and safety. Therefore, I’d say that ILB Dominique Alexander, ILB Scooby Wright, S Rahim Moore, and S Don Jones are the most at-risk players.
Other players I could see being at risk are RB Raheem Mostert, OG Alvin Bailey, OLB Cam Johnson, and CB Tracy Howard. It’s also possible that the team tries to do a few “roster stashes.” They could place WR Ricardo Louis or CB Trey Caldwell on injured reserve, for example. Why not do that in the initial cutdown to 53 players? Because they would’ve been exposed to waivers first. Now, you can place them on IR without going through waivers.
8. This could become a reality...
We’ll have coverage of all the Browns’ waiver claims and practice squad additions today, so stay tuned!