One thing that Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski loves is versatility. He adores it. He craves this. It’s his BFF.
All across Cleveland’s roster there are guys who are able to assume different positions and play under separate roles.
On the offensive line, Nick Harris is able to play both guard positions and is the backup center. In the game against the New York Football Giants, guard Blake Hance started the game at center as well. Chris Hubbard has played right offensive tackle predominately since he was drafted into the league, but now is slated as the swing tackle which means he has to be ready to play either side. Plus, last year he played some guard as well.
Rookie JOK has been slotted at middle linebacker, outside linebacker, then safety, and for a few plays was lined up as a defensive end. DT Malik Jackson has gotten reps at defensive end as well.
The first couple of weeks the Browns have featured a lot of running backs such as D’Ernest Johnson, John Kelly and Demetric Felton. Johnson is a good inside runner and can hit the corner running. Kelly is young and had a good showing against the Giants. Felton is often seen in the wide receiver room and has mainly played in the slot when he is not behind the line ready for the handoff.
Felton (5’-9”, 189 pounds) is that versatility mode that Stefanski loves so much.
In the 23-13 win over Jacksonville in the first preseason game, Felton did not get any carries but had four catches for 44 yards with six targets. Most of those catches were going across the middle from the slot position. Against the Giants, he lined up in the backfield more . He also lined up in both punt and kickoff return.
In the win over the Atlanta Falcons, Felton had zero catches but rushed four times for just 15 yards. The second quarter is where he shined. He had a terrific 37-yard kickoff return after Atlanta kicked a field goal. Later, he was stonewalled on a dive play, but scooted outside for a 15-yard scamper plus he added an 11-yard punt return.
At the Senior Bowl this past January, Felton was listed as a running back but remained with the receivers the entire week of practice and into the game itself.
Check out this sic move he made during Senior Bowl week against Oregon DB Thomas Graham, Jr. who was later drafted by the Chicago Bears:
Browns’ Demetric Felton is listed as a RB— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 1, 2021
Here is his route running ⬇️
GM Andrew Berry had this to say about Felton and Johnson so far this preseason:
“I have been pleased with those guys. They have two different skill sets. D’Ernest is more the traditional ball carrier skill set. And Demetric, what we really like about him is his ability to be versatile and dynamic in the passing game.”
Yes, Felton is proving to very capable in the passing game, but how important is it for him to prove he can carry the load at running back if his number is called?
“That was part of the allure of drafting him this year that he would be able to serve a role as both a runner and as a receiver,” Berry continued. “And we like what we see so far.”
There’s that versatility word again.
Stefanski has his own take on what he has seen on Felton so far:
“He has done a really nice job. He is as advertised as a person. His coaches out there at UCLA loved him. He loves ball. He loves to compete, whether it is at wide receiver, running back or in special teams. You get the sense that this kid really loves to play football. Like anybody, he would love the ball in his hand, which is no shock, but the kid, he is a really competitive kid.”
On the Browns first unofficial depth chart the franchise released before the Jags game, Felton was listed as the fourth running back behind Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and D’Ernest Johnson. He wasn’t listed under the receiver category at all nor either one of the returners. That is the same on Ourlads.com with their depth chart.
Felton was a typical kid growing up in Temecula, California. He went to Great Oak High School. At this level he was listed as a RB/WR/DB. Talk about versatility.
He finished his high school career with 2,950 yards on 380 carries with a 7.8 yards per rushing average and scored 32 touchdowns. Felton can also throw the ball and has for scores, which this offense already has Jarvis Landry and OBJ doing.
He was ranked as a four-star recruit and was listed on Rivals.com as the 23rd ranked athlete in the nation. Felton was named Fourth Team All-State Cal-Hi Sports and invited to play in the prestigious Semper Fidelis All-America Bowl Game. He was also a member of the Athletic Director’s Academic Honor Roll.
Felton had quite a few schools who tried to sign him such as Washington State, USC, Duke, Colorado, Boise State, Michigan, Utah, Arizona State, Cal, Washington, UCLA and Arizona, to name a few.
He chose UCLA, and this is where his career took a turn. For the first three seasons, he lined up as a receiver although each year he had rushing yards mainly on jet sweeps and end arounds. His senior season was his breakout year. Felton was now listed as the starting running back where his stats were 668 yards on 132 attempts with five touchdowns. But he also had 827 receiving yards on 154 receptions. So despite lining up in the backfield, UCLA still had him catching balls.
Felton also had 36 broken tackles in 126 touches.
During this time, Felton was used as a kickoff return man where he fielded 26 kicks for 611 yards with a 23.5 average return and scored once. For his efforts he was selected Second Team All Pac-12 (2020). This was all done in a shortened seven game schedule due to the pandemic.
Cleveland took Felton in the sixth-round of this year’s draft. The position he was listed as was wide receiver. Of course GM Berry knew that he was a return man plus had been a featured running back.
The variety of ways the Browns have been getting Felton the ball is exciting. The coaching staff has not hesitated to give the rookie his share of the workload to see what he can do.
Against Jacksonville he was used on 35% of offensive snaps. In the Giants game, he had a Pro Football Focus grade of 60.8, the lowest of all running backs used. He hits the hole at about 80% which allows him to see how the blocking unfolds, then he shifts gears and darts out.
In the post-game presser, Stefanski stated this when asked if Felton could be the type of weapon the team did not have last year:
“The role remains to be seen. It is what he makes of the role quite honestly. To be able to do both in practice is not easy. It is not easy for a young player. It speaks to his intelligence. It also speaks to how he prepares. He works really hard to make sure that he is ready to go, regardless of what position he may be playing that day.”
The Giants game was pivotal for Felton to display what he is ultimately capable of. He had eight carries, was targeted twice, and returned three punts. Against the Falcons, he showed flashes and then again was stopped cold.
He could make players such as return man JoJo Natson or RB Johnson expendable. It appears the Browns are content with keeping him come final cuts based on his ability to learn multiple roles.
How would Felton fit the Browns?
Versatility. Yeh, you know that was coming.
The Browns’ offense returns every starter from last year. How odd is that? So for a new guy to come in and find a spot isn’t an easy task. Especially a rookie who ran a 4.58 40.
What will Felton offer this offense? Fellow rookie Anthony Schwartz is supposed to be the impact rookie receiver this year but has had hamstring issues. Felton has shown he is fearless across the middle and can be added as another pass catching threat to Mayfield’s arsenal.
There aren’t any holes in this offense, so why do the Browns need Felton? Schwartz is supposed to be that impulse buy, not a guy like Felton who can be just as electric.
In DBN editor Chris Pokorny’s annual 53-man prediction article, he has placed Felton on the final roster here:
If the Browns waive him on the final cutdown, he will instantly be claimed by another team; so stashing him on the practice squad is not an option. But the coaching staff traditionally has only kept three running backs and we all know Chubb and Hunt lead that group.
Will it come down to Johnson or Felton?
If Cleveland is thinking about keeping him in the receiver room, they kept six last year. Jarvis Landry , OBJ, Rashard Higgins, DPJ, and the rookie Schwartz make five. Would they keep Johnson as a RB and then add Felton to the WR room? Would they keep Felton over KhaDarel Hodge or Ja’Marcus Bradley or the preseason sensation Davion Davis? Or even maybe Hollywood?
Kareem Hunt sees a bit of himself in Felton’s ability to catch passes out of the backfield. He said this about the rookie:
“I’m just doing everything to teach him little things that helped me when I was younger and just trying to teach him more about the game, help him learn it and just be a smart football player. He’s got very good routes and stuff like that. He’s been asking me how to make some of his routes better, what he can do. The kid works hard. I love his speed and his athleticism “
Felton is yet another playmaker. He makes guys miss and has quick feet. His best path to the field initially should be as a return specialist. But as a receiver he could some looks. There won’t be many carries left behind Chubb, Hunt and if Johnson is still with the squad. Quick slants, jet sweeps and short passes can be Felton’s calling.
Felton has continued to be the Swiss Army knife for this 2021 Browns roster. He is a runner, he goes over the middle, is a good receiver, return man, and could be a highlight reel just waiting to happen.
Will the Browns keep Demetric Felton instead of D’Ernest Johnson?
This poll is closed
That would be a no
Keep both players