Last year, I openly speculated about not only who the Cleveland Browns ultimately would keep for the opening day 53 man roster, as well as the depth chart for the entire roster. Some of the predictions were prescient. Others were hilariously off base. As last year, I’ll recap on opening day just how close I got.
Of course, there is the built-in caveat that you don’t know who’s going to available either by waiver or trade. As such, I’m not going for 100% accuracy top to bottom, but I think I’ll be pretty close with the depth chart. Also, must say that this is what I think will happen, not necessarily what I prefer what happens.
Starter - Cody Kessler
Cod is going to get the nod probably more than anything due to his work ethic and attitude. For a rookie on a 1-15 team, the kid held help decently at times in 2016. I think he has serious durability issues, but if I’m wrong and he’s able to stay on the field, it’s not unrealistic to think he could improve substantially in year 2.
Second String - Brock Osweiler
Just the fact that Brock Lobster will be filling ANY kind of role makes the trade for him that much more of a win for Sashi Brown and the front office. Despite speculation to the contrary, I don’t think he’ll do enough to unseat Kessler. He’ll stand tall and hold the clipboard though and probably see action at some point (in the first half of the first game).
Third String - DeShone Kizer
My druthers would be to start Kizer right now and get his lumps in, but that doesn’t appear to be the direction things are heading in. Thus, he’ll not get very much in the way of reps or meaningful practice, but also will probably (read: definitely) see action at some point this year. Unless things go right.
Starter - Isaiah Crowell
Entering a contract year and playing behind a revamped offensive line, this could be a big year for Crow. He’s quietly improved every year of his career, and last season fell just 48 yards shy of a thousand yard campaign. Also caught 40 passes out of the backfield.
Second String/3rd Downs - Duke Johnson
If you are in a PPR league you may want to think about investing a mid round pick on Duke. He caught 61 passes in his 2nd season after hauling in 51 receptions as a rookie. Averaged 4.9 per carry as well and is a pretty great complement to Crow.
FB/H-Back - Dan Vitale
Unheralded pickup last season, didn’t chip in much in the way of carries or receptions, but seemed a steady blocker in situations. That should continue to be his role.
Backup Running Back - Matthew Dayes
WR1 - Corey Coleman
Coleman was the first WR taken off the board in the 2016 draft, and like his 1st round counterparts at the position had some injuries which limited his development and productivity (which was already limited due to mostly very poor QB play). In his second game against Baltimore he flashed all the traits we were hoping for when we drafted him. Then someone stepped on his hand and he just never got back to that. Still, I’m not upset with his rookie season; the injury was a fluke and the kid did show that he can play at this level. Let’s hope he can stay on the field.
WR2 - Kenny Britt
I think it’s safe to say most Browns fans are lukewarm at best (and disappointed mostly) in the swapping of Britt and fan favorite (and 2016 leading receiver) Terrelle Pryor. Personally, I’m more than satisfied with the swap, even if I’m rooting for Pryor in Washington. Britt had a career year in ‘16, going over 1,000 yards receiving while catching sixty-eight balls. He’s big (6’3) and should complement Coleman quite nicely...if and only if we have anything resembling decent QB play (which of course is no kind of given).
WR3 - Ricardo Louis
Louis didn’t exactly set the world on fire in his rookie campaign, but he did show up - catching 18 passes. He’s got good size (6’2) and speed (4.43 forty) and if he can progress as a player the position absolutely has the goods to burn defenses.
WR4 - Rashard Higgins
Higgins slid pretty far down the draft board before Cleveland plucked him at #172. For his part he snagged 6 balls as a rookie. Much of his making the team is projection of development (as are many depth positions).
Backup WR - Jordan Payton
Honestly, this guy could be washed away by a 90-to-53-day cut, as he had his trouble last year. He caught one pass all year (3 yards).
Backup WR - Ranell Hall
Same scenario as Payton, but Hall might stick because I think he can contribute both as a special teams and also a return man. He’s shown some ability in that regard.
Starter - David Njoku
A first round pick that we traded up for, which caused us to drop Gary Barnidge the next day, Of course I don’t want to be overly confident, but I just feel so supremely satisfied with this kid as our starting TE for like 15 years. He’s going to be so good, I can’t wait to see him on the field.
Second String - Seth DeValve
Kinda felt like DeValve would be the one to emerge as the young TEOTF. Alas, he’ll still be a great secondary option and I love the sort of mismatches having both he and Njoku on the field at the same time can create.
Backup TE - Randall Telfer
In the similar vein of Payton & Hall (and most at the bottom of the depth chart) Telfer could be dropped if a surprise player is waived by another team. If not, I think he makes it.
Starting Left Tackle - Joe Thomas
No entering the twilight of his legendary career, still very comforting knowing that however bad the QB play is this year, at least they’ll be well protected from the blind side. Just like terrible QB play has been so protected for the last decade. Great player, and the longest standing member of the organization.
Starting Left Guard - Joel Bitonio
The Browns didn’t mess around tying up this three-year pro, inking him to a nice extension a full year ahead of him testing the market. He evidently is no worse for wear after his injury last season. Let’s hope so, because the combination of Thomas and Bitonio is dynamic.
Starting Center - J.C. Tretter
Cleveland clearly saw the interior of the line as a need, signing Tretter on the first day of Free Agency to a team friendly deal. He’s good, and an improvement over 2016 starter Cameron Erving. However, he’s had an injury history, and things can get complicated if he gets hurt.
Starting Right Guard - Kevin Zeitler
Also on day one of Free Agency, the Browns set the market by signing Zeitler away from Cincinnati, no doubt a direct benefit of having coach Hue Jackson. Major upgrade even though wasn’t really needed if John Greco is healthy. Unfortunately I don’t think he’s going to be.
Starting Right Tackle - Cameron Erving
I know, people are hurling rotten vegetables at the stage. I’m not being coy or anything else here; I think when the competition is over the staff is going to roll with Erving. As was demonstrated in the multi-gif article from last month, he can do the job, as can his teammate Shon Coleman. It should be a great competition, but Erving barely wins it.
Backup LT - Roderick Johnson
The Browns packaged picks together in order to move up and draft Johnson at #160. While he’s in the competion with Erving and Coleman at RT, but the better bet is he’s being groomed to eventually take over for Joe. Hopefully he’ll be like a five year pro by then.
Backup G - Spencer Drango
This is in keeping with a general tendency I think we have to give priority to players we draft. Only thing about it is I’m not sure he can kick inside to play C if Tretter gets hurt. It may be therefore that Erving is the backup option at C, and one of the young guys that we have (Reiter/Fabiano/Ikard) goes to PS.
Backup RT - Shon Coleman
It’s certainly quite possible that Coleman gets the RT job, and I am definitely in the minority on the point of view that he won’t. If Tretter gets hurt then Erving slides over and Coleman easily moves in. This is how I see the depth shaking out.
Starting Right DE - Myles Garrett
The Browns just finished the worst season in our history. The reward that we get for that much misery is the person of Myles Garrett. He is the reason we did not draft Mitchell Trubisky or Patrick Mahomes with the first pick in the draft (well that and possibly some other reasons). He’s the man. He needs to be ripping it up off the right side right from the jump.
Starting DT - Danny Shelton
If you haven’t noticed, Shelton has become a pretty good player. He’ll probably never have gaudy numbers but he is a force up the middle. So looking forward to seeing what it looks like with him line up next to Garrett
Starting DT - Larry Ogunjobi
Starting Left DE - Emmanuel Ogbah
Essentially a first round pick, and while not quite as gaudy, does possess many of the same physical attributes of his bookend teammate Garrett. He started slow but finished strong and ended with 53 tackles and 5.5 sacks. I’m downright giddy over the potential of this line.
Backup EDGE - Tyrone Holmes
One of the exact-type waiver pickups I’m referencing, we plucked him away from Jacksonville at the beginning of the year and he had a decent rookie year.
Backup DT - Caleb Brantley
The aforementioned 3-tech was an absolutely steal in the 6th round for us, after many (including me) had him as at least a late 1st/early 2nd rounder. He’ll make the team and he’ll play a lot.
Backup DT - Jamie Meder
Does the same things Shelton does (though not as well) so he makes sense as the backup here. Definitely on the field during goal-line situations.
Backup DL - Carl Nassib
Nassib really looked great in the early part of 2016, but then like a lot of rookies kind of tailed off. He’s a player that, if his potential takes off, this line is going to be SCARY.
Backup EDGE - Nate Orchard
Kind of bizarre the hasty way it seemed Orchard was placed on IR last year. He was a 2nd round pick two years ago and it just seems crazy that we’d give up on him after half of a rookie campaign. It could definitely happen though - however I think he makes it.
Starting Linebacker - Jamie Collins
So it’s a little different this year projecting the starters at positions on a defense which figures to play as it’s base a 4-2-5. Yes, that is the same thing as “Nickel”, but it seems like it’s more appropriately formal sounding breaking it down this way so as to differentiate that it is the base scheme. At any rate, Jamie Collins was the most important offseason priority, and we got that done. So, I pretty much expect him to be on the field no matter what we’re running.
Starting Linebacker - Christian Kirksey
Another offseason success story, as the steadily-improving three-year pro was inked to an extension of his own this spring. Again, since most of the time there’s only going to be two LB’s on the field, I expect Kirko to be the other one. Very solid young player worth being excited about.
Third Linebacker - Joe Schobert
I have no idea why anybody ever thought this guy was an EDGE player, but this is his position here. I’d imagine that when we have three (or more) LB’s on the field, Collins will be the one on the inside with Kirksey and Schobert flanking him.
Backup Linebacker - Tank Carder
People write this guy off every year, but then every year he makes the team and at this point is a team captain. He’s quietly gotten better as a defensive player as opposed to being “just” special teams.
Backup Linebacker - Dominique Alexander
That’s right! For the second year in a row my man Alexander not only makes the cover art of my article but also the team. He might see some defense too.
Backup Linebacker - Kenneth Olugbode
I know this is a bold selection, but he’s this year’s version of Alexander. Except, he comes with a bit more acclaim.
Starting CB - Joe Haden
Yes I know he’s not what he once was, or at least he hasn’t been for much of the last few years. At the same time, most of the time, he’s still a good, solid CB. Worth his contract? Certainly hasn’t been, but he’s the best CB on the roster still, and we’re better with him than without him.
Starting CB - Jamar Taylor
Hybrid NB - Jabrill Peppers
He’s listed on the roster as a SS, but is fast enough to cover WR’s and will be returning kicks and playing some offense, allegedly. Given the role he played at Michigan, he also seems suited for that “hybrid” ‘backer that new DC Gregg Williams so effectively utilized in LA last season with Marc Barron. Peppers seems perfect for this role and it’s why I believe we drafted him.
Starting Free Safety - Jason McCourty
This is still mostly just speculation on my part (lingering from when we first acquired him). However, given the relative dearth of talent at this particular position group (and the seeming lack of attention paid to address it) and I see this as the move. He could be REALLY good in that role (as his twin brother is for the Patriots).
Starting Strong Safety - Calvin Pryor
Now it could be that the roles get flipped here and Pryor plays the “hybrid” role (which he’s well suited for) and have Peppers play back. As of now I see this as the more likely scenario, and we got him for such a bargain.
Third CB - Briean Boddy-Calhoun
Picked him up the at the same we got Holmes, but Calhoun has made more of an impact. 43 Tackles and three interceptions is nothing to sneeze at for a rookie campaign. He played pretty well for a rookie, and only figures to get better.
Backup CB - Howard Wilson
Of course, this is contingent on everything going right and the 4th rounder getting back to the field on the optimistic timeline. Good size and speed for the position.
Backup CB - Channing Stribling
I was hoping we’d draft this guy, and was overjoyed when I saw we signed him. Size and speed and comes from a good program where he played with Peppers. His talent will shine through and he’ll make the team.
Backup Safety - Ed Reynolds
Another rookie player last year who came in a tough situation and didn’t completely soil himself. I wouldn’t be terribly enthusiastic about him starting but as depth he’s great to have around.
Backup Safety - Derrick Kindred
This kid is tough, but then maybe one of the reasons he needs to be is because he does tend to get dinged up a lot. Still, when he played he showed good things from time to time.
Backup Safety - Ibraheim Campbell
What a huge disappointment last year was for Campbell. Such huge regression from the promise shown his rookie year leads me to think that maybe it was scheme/coach related. Maybe not, but this is a serious bubble-situation here.
Kicker - Zane Gonzalez
The great part about the way the good guys wheeled and dealed on draft day(s) was that when they started trading up, they still got “throwaway” picks in exchange, so we never lowered the total number of picks we had. Well one of those was used on Gonzalez, who’s now going to be our kicker.
Punter - Britton Colquitt
Long-Snapper - Charley Hughlett
How important is long-snapper to the Browns? Enough to make Hughlett the highest paid LS in the league. Seems to be able to do the job without issue consistently.
Alright, that completes it, and we’ll review how I did on the morning of week 1. Until then, let me know how I did below.
How Close Do You Think This Will Be To The Opening Day Roster
This poll is closed
Not bad, but some misses
Not good, off by quite a bit
Ridiculously far off