clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Stay or Go? Way too early look at 2020 Browns’ roster: Skill positions

DBN writers forecast what next year’s squad will look like

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns
Nick Chubb 
Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Last of the series in which the DBN staff attempts to predict which players the Browns will retain in 2020. Each writer was assigned players and given the opportunity to give their opinion on why Cleveland should keep each athlete, and let me seek other employment.

Leave a comment on what your thoughts are, if you agree/disagree, and why.

Here is our “Stay” or “Go” predictions:


Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals
Baker Mayfield
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Baker Mayfield

Chris Pokorny: Baker Mayfield is still firmly entrenched as the Browns’ franchise quarterback, and his slumping sophomore season did nothing to make me second guess that. When you see just how poorly Mayfield played at times in 2019, it really is an indictment on the coaching staff. Mayfield should be a coaching staff’s dream with his skillset, and not only were his strengths not catered to on offense, but his mechanics and tendencies were so obviously broken from Week 1 that it makes you wonder what in the world Ryan Lindley (quarterbacks coach), Freddie Kitchens, and others were doing. The No. 1 priority this offseason has to be the new staff studying Mayfield, improving his drop, getting him some plays where he rolls to both his left and right, adding some touch to his passes, and re-establishing him as a top quarterback in the AFC. STAY

Garrett Gilbert

Barry Shuck: It is difficult to believe the Browns will keep Garrett. Often in games where the game wasn’t even an issue, he still did not see the field. Against the San Francisco 49ers, a 31-3 mauling, Gilbert was only utilized in the final minutes of the game. Gilbert is not known for his accuracy. A more likely scenario is that Cleveland will select a young guy in this year’s NFL draft to groom in case Mayfield continues to regress, or gets hurt. A player such as Jalen Hurts of Oklahoma should be available in Round 3. GO

Running backs

Nick Chubb

Jesse Kuroiwa: This is maybe the easiest one on the team: Nick Chubb is the best running back in the league. So often Chubb got hit behind the line of scrimmage or less than 2 yards downfield, and he still almost led the NFL in rushing. He’s a big, powerful back who has enough speed and shiftiness to break off big runs, he can handle a heavy workload if needed, he breaks tackles all over the place, and he can thrive in any type of scheme. He’s a solid pass blocker and good enough in the passing game to use. Oh, and by the way he is an excellent teammate, focused on team success, humble, and will do whatever it takes to get wins (even if that means his individual touches or stats suffer). There is absolutely no way we should part ways with Nick Chubb. STAY

Miami Dolphins v Cleveland Browns
Kareem Hunt
Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Kareem Hunt

Thomas Moore: It wasn’t the explosive type of season that many fans expected from Kareem Hunt in 2019. Whether it was because he was rusty from his eight-game suspension to open the season, or if he was simply caught up in the offensive malaise the hit the Browns, Hunt finished the year with career lows in yards per carry (4.2) and yards per catch (7.7). Even though Hunt’s biggest supporter - general manager John Dorsey - is no longer with the team, he is a restricted free agent and having talented players is always preferable to not, so we should be seeing a full season of Hunt and Nick Chubb in the backfield in 2020. STAY

Dontrell Hilliard

Matt Wood: Very replaceable player at a very replaceable position. Didn’t give a big boost at special teams and didn’t give a big boost on offense. Won’t lose a wink of sleep. GO

Cleveland Browns v New York Jets
D’Ernest Johnson
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

D’Ernest Johnson

Chris Pokorny: Running back is a position of luxury for the Browns, unless they try to address another position of need at the expense of Kareem Hunt. D’Ernest Johnson is on a minimum contract as an undrafted rookie free agent from last year. He showed some good qualities as a reserve running back and kick returner, but every year, a general manager is going to what to find a running back in the draft. Johnson might stick around for camp, but he’ll go at the expense of a new toy. GO

Wide receivers

Jarvis Landry

Barry Shuck: Given the fact that Landry has made the Pro Bowl five straight seasons, his position on the roster is pretty set. Excellent route runner with very good yards after the catch. A coach’s dream and an excellent player off the field as evidenced by being named the Browns’ Walter Payton Man-of-the-Year candidate. STAY

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Cleveland Browns
Odell Beckham, Jr.
Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Odell Beckham, Jr.

Jesse Kuroiwa: Odell is the best wide receiver this team has had since the return with the possible exception of the one year of a healthy and motivated Josh Gordon. He probably needs surgery, but getting him healthy, on the same page as Baker Mayfield, and actually generating some open looks for him should be top priorities of the new offensive coaching staff. He is a fantastic jump ball receiver, but too often we left he and Baker to just make spectacular plays in 2019. With some better offensive design, we could create better separation for Odell, and that would spell trouble for opposing defenses. STAY

Rashard Higgins

Thomas Moore: Heading into the 2019 season, it seemed like a lock that Rashard Higgins would thrive as the No. 3 wide receiver with opposing defenses focusing on Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. But a knee injury in Week 1 kept Higgins out until Week 7, but then … something happened. Higgins rarely saw the field the rest of the year and finished the season with just four receptions for 55 yards and a touchdown. The fact that general manager John Dorsey and head coach Freddie Kitchens are gone may influence his decision, but Higgins looks destined for a fresh start somewhere else in 2020. GO

Damion Ratley

Matt Wood: I’m actually intrigued. Had some flash plays on offense. Now the downside is that he was drafted by a previous regime and can be replaced pretty easily if the new guys don’t see the upside. Would like to see him get a shot in camp next season but chances are he will be gone. GO


Browns guru Matt Wood thinks Ratley will be gone next year. Agree or disagree?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    Wood is the man. Agree that Ratley is gone.
    (214 votes)
  • 58%
    Ratley has value. Keep him.
    (306 votes)
520 votes total Vote Now
NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
KhaDarel Hodge
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

KhaDarel Hodge

Chris Pokorny: This is a case where KhaDarel Hodge’s roster status could depend on whether special teams coordinator Mike Priefer. Priefer is a good coordinator who I believe would vouch for Hodge, who led the team with 10 special teams tackles and 2 assists. Hodge made a few catches at the receiver position and can continue to serve as emergency depth, but I am not looking for him to be getting as many reps as he was in the second half of 2019. STAY

Taywan Taylor

Barry Shuck: Taylor is a stud on special teams. That alone keeps him a roster spot. Only counts $896,500 of cap space and is a sure tackler. STAY

Tight ends

David Njoku

Jesse Kuroiwa: Njoku is young and loaded with potential, but this is a critical offseason for him. He needs to turn that potential into tangible on-field results. He’s our most athletic TE by far, and he’s still young. But his rookie contract is almost up and he’s got to become more skilled catching the ball and blocking. It isn’t time to give up on him yet, but his clock is ticking. STAY

Demetrius Harris

Thomas Moore: The Browns signed Harris to a two-year contract in March after he spent five seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. Harris was basically the same player with the Browns - 15 receptions for 149 yards and three touchdowns - that he had been with the Chiefs, which is a nice way of saying he is just a guy. Harris was clearly one of Dorsey’s “real players” and with his benefactor no longer in town, Harris’ time in Cleveland has probably come to and end. GO

Seattle Seahawks v Cleveland Browns
Ricky Seals-Jones
Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Ricky Seals-Jones

Matt Wood: I love what RSJ brought to this offense. He was reliable in the passing game and Baker LOVES his tight ends. Has always been more of a WR playing TE but I love his upside with Baker. Letting him go creates another hole so I think the Browns will keep him as he heads into the offseason as a Restricted Free Agent. STAY

Pharaoh Brown

Chris Pokorny: The biggest memory I will have of Pharoah Brown is when he jogged through the fans during a training camp session to use the portable bathroom set up in the public area before jogging back to the field. I didn’t realize that Brown was a local kid until just now, so it stings me a bit to say this, but he is “just another guy.” If Demetrius Harris was brought in by John Dorsey as “his guy” to replace Darren Fells (which was a mistake), then we’ll see Brown hit the road in this overturn. GO

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers
Stephen Carlson
Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Stephen Carlson

Barry Shuck: This one is tough. Carlson went undrafted and then was a practice squad player. Very good blocker, runs clean routes and has great hands when his number is called. Excellent touchdown catch against the Steelers. Does need more experience in the run blocking game and needs more experience, but has good size. His cap number is a mere $585,000 with zero dead money, so perhaps another year of development will determine whether he can be a full-time starter, or a waiver cut. STAY