The preseason is all about establishing yourself. Whether you are a rookie or a long-shot roster candidate, it’s all about making the most of the opportunity that is given to you. For the Cleveland Browns, there are three players who are boosting their stock off of their preseason play and two other players, well not so much.
Looking at their chances of making the 53-man roster, let us look at these five players:
Players whose stock is going up:
WR Austin Watkins
For someone who watches spring football leagues such as the XFL & the USFL, wide receiver Austin Watkins is someone you would be familiar with by now. Mostly only knew about Watkins as he spent time in the CFL with the Saskatchewan Roughriders (never actually appeared in a game), and he played in the USFL for the Memphis Showboats & the two-time USFL champions Birmingham Stallions.
One huge play stands out:
WE DIDN'T TAKE LONG TO GET INTO THE ENDZONE ‼️— B2B CHAMPIONSTALLIONS (@USFLStallions) April 15, 2023
LET'S GO AUSTIN WATKINS pic.twitter.com/fshoGBdOvO
Watkins ended up signing with the Browns and it wasn’t long before he began to make a case for making the 53-man roster:
Austin Watkins Jr. putting on a show pic.twitter.com/NC8Vd7Mv3c— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) August 6, 2023
It didn’t take long for those in the media to notice how good he has been after being signed:
Austin Watkins is still a longshot to make the roster, but what he's doing is not going unnoticed. The ideal PS stash and gameday elevation player.— Cory (@fakecorykinnan) August 12, 2023
Austin Watkins doing everything he can to make the 53.— Colb (@___Colb___) August 12, 2023
You love to see it.
In the three preseason games, he’s been the leading receiver for the Browns and the NFL as a whole. Watkins has good hands and the ability to be a quality downfield blocker. He does need to improve on his ball-tracking skills but he has the potential to make the roster. If he doesn’t, it might be tough for Cleveland to sneak him onto their practice squad.
S Ronnie Hickman
Hickman going undrafted still remains a mystery to many. It could be due to playing in a new system in his last season with The Ohio State Buckeyes but that doesn’t matter anymore. In a previous article, Hickman was one of the players considered to be on the roster bubble. Safe to say Hickman is doing a lot to help boost his case to make the 53-man roster. Last week against the Commanders, Hickman had two interceptions and his second interception was the most impressive one:
Ronnie Hickman's second pick. Single-high look, drives on the backside dig. pic.twitter.com/izB2mNEyHy— Cory (@fakecorykinnan) August 13, 2023
From a glance, it looked as if tight end Curtis Hodges caught the ball but Hickman was able to snatch it away and come away with the turnover. Hickman was also graded as the highest-graded safety for the first week of the preseason by PFF.
Highest graded rookie Safety from Preseason Week 1:— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 14, 2023
Ronnie Hickman: 90.3 pic.twitter.com/3nonTZsNPF
The Buckeyes safety continued to make plays with an interception this week as well.
Hickman has to work on his coverage ability, something he struggled with at Ohio State but he has made a solid case to be the 4th safety on the roster.
C Luke Wypler
Both rookie offensive linemen Dawand Jones & Luke Wypler have been impressive, butWypler isn’t getting the same attention. But before I get into just Wypler, look at this stat regarding Wypler & Jones from their first two preseason games.
Dawand Jones: 1 pressure on 36 snaps— Cory (@fakecorykinnan) August 13, 2023
Luke Wypler: 0 pressures on 22 snaps
The Ohio State linemen keep standing out.
Granted, it’s preseason but the film backs it up. Wypler is making a strong push to be the backup center to Ethan Pocic while also showing that can he play guard as well. Wypler has been pretty solid in pass protection and run blocking and shows quickness and ability to get to the second level. Wypler could make the roster as the 2nd or 3rd string but he is making the most out of his opportunity.
Players whose stock is going down:
WR Anthony Schwartz
Don’t like to kick a man when he’s down but wide receiver Anthony Schwartz is not giving the Browns a good reason to keep him on the roster. Whether it is dropping the ball or costly turnovers, he has been struggling.
There could be a plethora of reasons for his struggles, mostly because he is trying to transition from being a track star to a football player. It hasn’t worked.
Schwartz has speed, but he has issues catching the ball and his route running being unrefined. It’s not due to lack of effort for why he’s been underwhelming but maybe it could be due to confidence. If he wants to make the roster, he might need a miracle in the final preseason game.
QB Kellen Mond
At this rate, quarterback Kellen Mond is playing himself not only out of a roster spot but out of the league. Outside of the one drive that ended in a touchdown against the Washington Commanders, he hasn’t shown much. Rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson Robinson has outperformed Mond, and Mond has been in the league much longer. Going back to his tenure with the Minnesota Vikings, former head coach Mike Zimmer gave this answer when asked about seeing Kellen Mond on the field:
"Do you want to see Kellen Mond next week?"— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) January 3, 2022
Mike Zimmer is stone cold pic.twitter.com/KI1usresi7
Anyway, Mond hasn’t necessarily made a lasting impression despite being on the Browns roster since the start of last season. He has the physical tools but in terms of his mechanics and accuracy improvement is needed.
Cleveland has no incentive to keep Mond on the roster but Mond has to put some tape out there that is worth a team taking a chance on him. Whether it is as a backup or a PS candidate, Mond has to perform much better but, like Schwartz, might need a miracle to make the roster.
Who has raised their stock in your eyes in the Browns three preseason games? Share in our comment section below: