The Cleveland Browns initial 53-man roster for the 2023 season isn’t their current 53-man roster as the Labor Day weekend hits. With a week to go until the Week 1 matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals, it is possible that the current roster won’t be the one they have when they welcome their in-state rivals.
There are many ways to evaluate rosters but, unfortunately, we really don’t know how good the roster really is until the season gets at least a few games completed.
Looking back at last year’s initial 53-man compared to this year’s can provide some context to what could be in store for the Browns this season. We copied each roster from the team’s website which annoying went in alphabetical order this year:
Quarterbacks (2): Jacoby Brissett, Joshua Dobbs
Quarterbacks (2): Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Deshaun Watson
Notes: Last year not having Watson on the initial roster creates an interesting dynamic looking back. Dobbs was relatively unknown at the NFL level while Brissett was a solid backup that was going to have to start a number of games for Cleveland.
Verdict: 2023 version has a much higher upside and long-term future.
Running backs (5): Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D’Ernest Johnson, Jerome Ford, Demetric Felton Jr.
Running backs (3): Nick Chubb, Jerome Ford, Pierre Strong Jr.
Notes: Seeing it in writing just brings home the changes at the running back position. In 2023, it is Chubb and unknown. In 2022, it was wondering if there were enough carries and snaps to go around.
Verdict: With depth and skill, the 2022 version is much better with a lot more certainty.
Wide receivers (5): Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Anthony Schwartz, David Bell, Michael Woods II
Wide receivers (6): David Bell, Amari Cooper, Marquise Goodwin, Elijah Moore, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Cedric Tillman
Notes: Just three holdovers from last year while Moore, Tillman and Goodwin provide a much higher upside and excitement to the receiver room. The (seeming) certainty in 2023 is nice compared to the hope and prayer version in 2022.
Verdict: Upgrading the receiver position was clearly an emphasis this year and, from all accounts, GM Andrew Berry has done so.
Tight ends (2): David Njoku, Harrison Bryant
Tight ends (3): Jordan Akins, Harrison Bryant, David Njoku
Notes: Just one addition, Akins, and the continued hope of development from Njoku.
Verdict: Simply adding a steady veteran without losing anyone or having age-related decline concerns gives the edge to 2023 easily.
Offensive linemen (10): Jedrick Wills Jr., Jack Conklin, Chris Hubbard, James Hudson III, Wyatt Teller, Joel Bitonio, Michael Dunn, Drew Forbes, Hjalte Froholdt, Ethan Pocic
Offensive linemen (9): Joel Bitonio, Jack Conklin, Nick Harris, James Hudson III, Dawand Jones, Ethan Pocic, Wyatt Teller, Jedrick Wills Jr., Luke Wypler
Notes: A large group, there really is just a few changes with a couple of veterans (Hubbard, Forbes, Froholdt) replaced by a couple of young guys (Jones, Wypler) with Dunn on the practice squad.
Verdict: A lot of assumptions that Jones and Wypler will be ready if called upon but that is not proven in live NFL games yet. For now, ‘22 has a higher floor while ‘23 has a higher ceiling.
Defensive linemen (10): Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney, Taven Bryan, Jordan Elliott, Alex Wright, Chase Winovich, Isaac Rochell, Tommy Togiai, Perrion Winfrey, Isaiah Thomas
Defensive linemen (9): Jordan Elliott, Myles Garrett, Shelby Harris, Siaki Ika, Isaiah McGuire, Ogbo Okoronkwo, Za’Darius Smith, Dalvin Tomlinson, Alex Wright
Note: Just wow!
Verdict: Pretty simple with the ‘23 version significantly upgrading with Tomlinson, Smith, Harris and Okoronkwo. The potential for Ika and McGuire adds to it but that might not even matter this season.
Linebackers (6): Anthony Walker Jr., Jacob Phillips, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Sione Takitaki, Tony Fields II, Jordan Kunaszyk
Linebackers (7): Matthew Adams, Mohamoud Diabate, Tony Fields II, Jordan Kunaszyk, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Sione Takitaki, Anthony Walker Jr.
Notes: A couple of special teams players are vital parts of the linebacking corps with the addition of Adams, retaining Kunaszyk (now on IR) and keeping Fields around. Otherwise, not a whole lot different.
Verdict: That Adams has a specific role and doesn’t have the injury concern of Phillips helps while Diabate might be an important player in the future, in 2023 the UDFA probably doesn’t have much value. A push between the two groups.
Defensive backs (10): Denzel Ward, Greg Newsome II, Greedy Williams, A.J. Green, M.J. Emerson Jr., John Johnson III, Grant Delpit, Ronnie Harrison Jr., D’Anthony Bell, Richard LeCounte III
Defensive backs (11): D’Anthony Bell, Grant Delpit, M.J. Emerson Jr., Mike Ford Jr., A.J. Green, Ronnie Hickman, Rodney McLeod, Cameron Mitchell, Greg Newsome II, Juan Thornhill, Denzel Ward
Notes: A new starter (Thornhill), a new veteran key reserve (McLeod), a new special teams ace (Ford), a developmental rookie (Mitchell) and another Buckeye, and UDFA, (Hickman) means a lot of turnover in the group. The departed will barely be missed.
Verdict: Significant upgrade. Not to the same level as receiver and defensive line but very close.
Specialists (3): K Cade York, P Corey Bojorquez, LS Charley Hughlett
Specialists (3): Corey Bojorquez, Dustin Hopkins, Charley Hughlett
Note: Yeah... about that 4th round pick spent on a kicker?!
Verdict: Everyone and their brother connected to the Browns has to believe that Hopkins will be better than York, at least on the shorter kicks, in 2023.
Comparing the two rosters, we had just one position group that looks like a certain downgrade (running back), mostly improved areas and a few that look like pushes. Add on top of that the change from Joe Woods to Jim Schwartz at defensive coordinator and Mike Priefer to Bubba Ventrone on special teams and it looks like a big difference.
Last year’s lesser roster, with Watson out for 11 games and playing poorly upon return, won seven games. To make the playoffs in 2023, Cleveland will most likely have to win 10 or more. Are the upgrades at receiver, defensive line and defensive back, along with the expected improvement of Watson, enough to make that jump?
It is important to remember that last year’s Browns team lost a few games (Jets, Chargers, Falcons, Saints) that they “shouldn’t” have.
Looking at the rosters head to head, what jumps out at you? Join our community in the comment section below to share your thoughts: