Written by: J.D. Bagley, @jdbagley5
Football season is quickly approaching, which means it’s about time to start dissecting who will make the Cleveland Browns 53-man roster. This team has been discussed all offseason long as having one of the most exciting young rosters in the league. The questions regarding the Browns this season are not about talent, because believe it or not they have plenty. It will be whether rookie head coach Freddie Kitchens can mesh all this talent together, handle the expectations, and win football games for the city of Cleveland. Here is what I believe the roster will look like come Week 1 against Tennessee:
Overview: Mayfield is the leader of this locker room and will look to build on his record-setting rookie season. Drew Stanton will once again provide the veteran backup role for Baker, and former AAF QB Garrett Gilbert will beat out David Blough for the final spot.
Duke Johnson Jr.
Overview: Nick Chubb also looks to build on an outstanding rookie season where he didn’t garner more than three carries in a game until Week 7(!) and still almost ran for 1,000 yards. Duke Johnson has felt disrespected and ultimately requested a trade since the Browns signed Kareem Hunt. The smartest thing for Cleveland to do in this situation would be to keep Johnson until Kareem Hunt is eligible to return from suspension, then find a trade partner looking for an above-average pass-catching running back like Johnson. Dontrell Hilliard has opened some eyes in minicamp during Johnson’s absence and will likely fill his pass-catching role if he were to be traded before the season.
*Hunt will not be a member of the 53-man roster to start the season due to suspension.
Odell Beckham Jr.
Overview: The top four here are all sure bets to make the team barring something crazy
happening. Beckham comes over in the trade to reunite with his best friend Jarvis Landry in what will be one of the most exciting storylines of the 2019 season, while Antonio Callaway will join Beckham as the two-deep threats in this offense. Higgins will fill a role similar to the one he was in last year. Jaelen Strong and Derrick Willies will have to fight to make the team during training camp, beating out guys like Damion Ratley, Ishmael Hyman, and Dorian Baker.
Overview: David Njoku is one of the most promising young tight ends in football and will continue to fulfill his potential this season. Demetrius Harris was drafted by John Dorsey during his tenure in Kansas City and will fill a similar role from last season backing up Travis Kelce. Orson Charles will beat out Seth Devalve for the final tight end spot due to his ability to play full back and contribute on special teams.
Overview: Greg Robinson looks to continue to prove he is not a bust after playing very well the second half of last season protecting Baker Mayfield’s blindside. Chris Hubbard will start again this year at right tackle with no true threat to take the starting job. Former Texan Kendall Lamm will fill a backup role along with Drew Forbes, the Browns 2019 6th round pick.
Overview: Joel Bitonio is in the prime of his career and has proven over the last few seasons he is one of the best guards in the league. With the departure of Kevin Zeitler in the OBJ trade, the former second-round pick Austin Corbett will be asked to fill the starting right guard opening. First-year members of the Browns, Eric Kush, and Bryan Witzmann, will provide depth.
Overview: J.C. Tretter will start at center for the third year in a row, while Kalis carves out a backup role.
Overview: Sheldon Richardson was brought in on a three-year deal to bolster a relatively weak interior defensive line group. Ogunjobi looks to continue his 2018 success after receiving some added help throughout the front seven with Richardson and Olivier Vernon. Coley will likely play the same role he did last year as a rotational piece upfront. This will also be the case for Davis and Price.
Overview: Myles Garrett will anchor this edge unit and be on the hunt for his first DPOY award. Adding Olivier Vernon to this group will help take the focus off of Garrett, which will benefit everyone on the defensive front. 2018 fifth-round pick Genard Avery had a surprisingly productive rookie year as a rotational edge rusher, likely filling that same duty this upcoming season. Chris Smith will also be a rotational piece and Chad Thomas looks to prove his worthiness of a third-round selection.
Overview: This is a huge year for Schobert as he is entering the final year of his rookie deal. He also has two young, promising linebackers waiting in the wings in Mack Wilson and Sione Takitaki, who will fight for playing time this year and contribute on special teams. Christian Kirksey, one of the only remaining Browns who went through those horrific seasons, will likely take the other starting position barring a huge preseason breakout from Wilson or Takitaki. Adarius Taylor will chip in on special teams and play a backup role.
Overview: Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams might be the most exciting young cornerback duo in all of football. Both have outstanding coverage skills but lack tackling technique and willingness. Terrance Mitchell and T.J. Carrie will once again provide a veteran presence to this young Browns secondary, and Phillip Gaines will mainly contribute on special teams.
Overview: Damarious Randall will look to duplicate an excellent 2018 season where he would’ve been a Pro Bowler if he hadn’t been competing against great, young safeties Jamal Adams and Derwin James. After Randall, the water gets a little murky as any of these players could carve out a starting role at strong safety. I see this being a rotational position where Burnett, Murray, Redwine, and Whitehead are all used in some sort of capacity.
Austin Seibert (K)
Britton Colquitt (P)
Charley Hughlett (LS)
Overview: 2019 fifth-round pick Austin Seibert will beat out Greg Joseph for the starting placekicking job to hopefully put an end to the Browns kicking woes. Britton Colquitt will be back for his fourth season as the Browns punter. Charley Hughlett will also be back in brown and orange for his fifth season-long snapping in Cleveland.
Breakout Player: Austin Corbett
Comeback Player: Kareem Hunt
Rising Star: Larry Ogunjobi
Player not to Forget About: Genard Avery
Player on the Hot Seat: Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey
Under the Radar: Antonio Callaway
Dark Horse MVP: Denzel Ward