We wrap up our offensive line position with the team’s lone rookie, a couple of veterans, and a guy with massive size.
13. Rod Johnson - Rookie Offensive Tackle
Height: 6-6 | Weight: 300 lbs | Age: 21
Experience: Rookie | College: Florida State
Johnson, the team’s fifth-round draft pick, was the person at Florida State who started at left tackle and forced Cameron Erving to move to center (where Cleveland eventually drafted him). Although the Browns have an open competition at right tackle, the front office and coaching staff have made it clear that Johnson will work toward being the team’s backup left tackle.
It’s possible that the Browns’ front office views Johnson as an insurance policy in the event they ever decide to trade Thomas, or if he ever joins another team. The previous front office did something similar with C Alex Mack by drafting Erving -- but that was in the first round. This was the fifth round, and the right time to do it.
Despite being drafted in the fifth round, Dane Brugler of CBS Sports and Pro Football Focus each had him as more of a third- or fourth-round prospect. Here is a snapshot of the assessment Brugler had on him before the draft:
Although he can unleash his power in the run game, Johnson bends too much at the waist in pass pro and has noticeable contact balance issues, which could be a deal-breaker to his football future. Overall, he isn’t ready for NFL snaps right now, but with some fine-tuning technically and with his pace, Johnson has the gifts to improve those issues and develop into a NFL starter down the road.
I expect Johnson to make the team as a year-long roster stash, similar to what the club did with Shon Coleman a year ago.
Final Roster Odds: 80%
14. Matt McCants - Veteran Backup Tackle
Height: 6-5 | Weight: 309 lbs | Age: 27
Experience: 4 years | College: Alabama-Birmingham
The Browns signed McCants last November after John Greco was placed on injured reserve, but waived him in early December. They re-signed him at the end of March this year, and my assumption at the time is that with both Greco and Joel Bitonio still recovering from Lisfranc injuries, and with how often Joe Thomas gets a rest day, the team wanted another veteran body for the offseason programs.
While McCants was able to stick with the Raiders as a reserve for several years, that isn’t common in the NFL and Cleveland’s line is too deep right now for him to really compete for a roster spot. He did get a few reps as a sixth lineman for the Raiders, including this nice play on tape; if you recall, Browns head coach Hue Jackson also likes to do this at times:
Everyone gets in on the action. Here's Matt McCants pic.twitter.com/1N4oFAGE40— GipsySafety (@GipsySafety) May 17, 2017
Final Roster Odds: 5%
15. Zach Sterup - Massive Offensive Tackle
Height: 6-9 | Weight: 318 lbs | Age: 25
Experience: 1 year | College: Nebraska
Sterup was an undrafted rookie free agent in 2016 who signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. He was signed to their practice squad after not making the team, and eventually found his way to the Jets' practice squad and then the Browns' practice squad (in early December). One interesting wrinkle is that had Sterup not been signed by the Chiefs last May, the Browns were planning on bringing him in for an offseason tryout. Their interest in him goes back a full year.
Sterup will no doubt get people talking about his size at 6-9, 318 lbs. He is known as a poor run blocker, which is a contrast from many of the team’s other linemen, but a good pass protector. His good footwork and quickness is attributed to the work he put in playing basketball back in high school. Two concerns are that he battled a knee injury in college, and then as a rookie last year, he was suspended four games for violating the league’s performance enhancing drugs policy.
Sterup could see some action at guard or tackle, but the odds are stacked against him with all the talent ahead of him.
Final Roster Odds: 5%
16. Chris Barker - Backup Offensive Guard
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 300 lbs | Age: 26
Experience: 2 years | College: Nevada
Barker was originally an undrafted free agent by the Miami Dolphins in 2013. After spending camp with the Dolphins, he didn’t make the final roster but was claimed by the Patriots. From 2013-2016, he bounced between New England’s roster and practice squad many times. He’s played in 6 games in his career, but has never started a game.
If there is something Barker can hold over his peers, it's the fact that he's technically a two-time Super Bowl Champion. Our Patriots affiliate didn’t see much value in Barker, noting that he was merely a piece who somehow stuck around for several years. Unfortunately, there’s very little to go off of in terms of Barker’s abilities, so I have him as the least likely candidate to earn a roster spot.
Final Roster Odds: 1%
I’ve got two more poll questions for you to finish up our offensive line preview.
If the Browns only had two roster spots left for the offensive line, which of these three players should make the 53-man roster? (Note: Assume that cutting Rod Johnson means the team will try to get him on the practice squad)
This poll is closed
Greco & Erving make it, Johnson is cut (try for practice squad, risk waiver claim)
Greco & Johnson make it, Erving is cut
Erving & Johnson make it, Greco is cut
Which of these three players are you most intrigued by?
This poll is closed
Obviously, Zach Sterup