The Cleveland Browns held their first training camp session on Friday, August 14th. With a day off today, it is a good time for me to unveil my first 53-man roster projection of the season. This year’s roster projection feels a bit different, because there will be no fan access at camp, no preseason games, and a greatly-expanded practice squad. In addition, there are only 80 players on the roster at the start of camp, as opposed to 90.
I will have just one more roster projection as training camp progresses. Remember that there is only one cutdown date, on September 5th, straight from 80 to 53 players. Teams may choose to progressively cut some players as the deadline gets closer. Some of the new things to be aware of for 2020:
- This season, teams can have 55-man rosters on gameday, by elevating two members of the practice squad temporarily for emergencies.
- Practice squad players can also come up to replace a player on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
- Gameday active rosters have increased from 46 to 48 players, although one of those extra players must be an offensive lineman.
|Pos||Final Roster||Practice Squad (Cut)||Players Cut|
|Garrett Gilbert||Kevin Davidson|
|Dontrell Hilliard||Benny LeMay|
|Andy Janovich||Johnny Stanton|
|Odell Beckham Jr.
|Jedrick Wills Jr.
|Jovante Moffatt||Elijah Benton|
Donnie Lewis Jr.
|M.J. Stewart Jr.
The list above contains 53 players that I kept, and 27 players that I cut. That comes out to 80 players. Because practice squads are so big this year (16 players), I have created a specific column for those players too. You can read here and here for more information on the expanded practice squads.
Every year, I fill in each player’s name on either the “roster” side or the “cut” side, without tallying whether or not I have surpassed the 53-player limit. Then, I count up the left side, and if I am over 53 players, I weigh my options and decide who the “tough” cuts are. This year, I came up to exactly 53 players, so I didn’t have to make any changes.
General Roster Projection Notes
- Quarterback: I am taking advantage of the new practice squad rules with this one, which allows teams to protect a player who is on their practice squad. That would be for Garrett Gilbert, who could be called up at any time as the team’s backup quarterback in the event either Baker Mayfield or Case Keenum have a COVID-related incident.
- Running Back: This is an area where I might be keeping the position a bit thin, but why not have just three running backs when we know that Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt will piggyback off each other for 99% of the workload? Between Dontrell Hilliard and D’Ernest Johnson, I want to see more of Johnson’s running style, while Hilliard can still be on the practice squad.
- Wide Receiver: Even though I like the six players I chose, there are still some question marks. The only three players who are really “safe” are Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, and Donovan Peoples-Jones. I hope that Rashard Higgins is safe, but it’s a new coaching staff, so you never know. After that, I think Damion Ratley has some good qualities, but I could see the team putting JoJo Natson on the roster instead if they love his return ability enough. I like keeping the Browns’ top gunners on the roster, a category which KhaDarel Hodge falls into.
- Tight End: Because the top three tight ends on the roster are receiving tight ends, I feel like Cleveland should have a fourth tight end who specializes in blocking. The problem is that while I have Stephen Carlson making the roster, he’s not a blocking specialist. We’ll see about this one — maybe keeping fullback Andy Janovich will reduce the need for a fourth tight end.
- Offensive Line: I feel pretty good about the first seven players listed here, and then after that, Kendall Lamm and Michael Dunn have good experience. It would be nice for a youngster like Alex Taylor to shine and win a roster spot over Lamm, but I think that becomes difficult to do in a shortened offseason like this. Fortunately, you can keep those young players on the expanded practice squad.
- Defensive Line: This group was all set until Andrew Billings opted out, making for some depth issues at defensive tackle again. I have Eli Ankou and Porter Gustin rounding out the back end of the depth chart for now, but opportunity is there for other players to claim those spots.
- Linebacker: Even though this group is not experienced, you have to feel pretty good about B.J. Goodson, Mack Wilson, Sione Takitaki, and Jacob Phillips making the final roster. Willie Harvey was a player I thought about due to him shining last year before his injury, but I have him on the practice squad due to Tae Davis’ special teams play.
- Safety: Similar to the linebacker position, the only decision here was regarding whether J.T. Hassell makes it or not. I’m intrigued by his play, even though I’m a bit defensive back heavy (11 players).
- Cornerback: For now, my roster projection buys into the hype of A.J. Green making the roster. We’ll see what type of camp he has. When I look at the depth here, Terrance Mitchell could be a surprise cut — not because I want him to be (those who read me regularly know that I wouldn’t mind him starting over Greedy Williams). If Denzel Ward and Williams are the starters, and Kevin Johnson is the nickelback, then one could wonder if Mitchell will stick around as a fourth cornerback for the second year in a row.
- Special Teams: There are no backups in camp this year, so we better keep all of them! Bonus note for backup fullback Johnny Stanton being on the practice squad — he was taking some long snapping practice too. At Stanton’s Pro Day in 2018, he worked out at quarterback, tight end, linebacker, and long snapper.
Feel free to share your roster projections in the comments section below, or some changes you would make to mine.