Mon. Jun 17th, 2019

Assessing the Browns’ Roster

NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah tweeted on November 20th a checklist for building a roster in today’s NFL. He broke it down to 12 players that need to be blue-chip players. His point, which he later made on his Move the Sticks Podcast was once you have these 12 spots taken care of, you can fill in the rest of your roster with good or solid players. In this article, we will examine who on the Browns current roster fits into Jeremiah’s 12 and who is close to blue-chip level.

Quarterback is easy. Baker Mayfield has already inserted himself as a top-half of the league quarterback. Going into year two for Baker, there is no reason to think he won’t improve on his impressive rookie campaign. Additionally, as older quarterbacks look to retire soon, there is no doubt that Baker can ascend soon to the top quarterback in the NFL (maybe a gaudy proclamation after one season, but the point is it can happen).

Next is pass rusher. DE Myles Garrett is clearly a blue-chip player. He, like Mayfield was the first overall pick in his draft and he has played like it. This past season, he recorded 13.5 sacks to lead the team. He also led the team with 29 quarterback hits. Whether he makes it to the quarterback or not, Garrett is a disruptive player on the defense. Currently, the Browns don’t have that second pass rusher on the blue-chip level, however, they have two players who have potential of ascending to that that level in DE Emmanuel Ogbah and LB Genard Avery. Both had moments of high-level play, but they were not consistent enough to be in the upper-echelon. If either can play more consistently, the Browns will have their two pass rushers.

In terms of offensive playmakers, there are two who can be considered blue-chip players, RB Nick Chubb and WR Jarvis Landry. In his rookie campaign, Chubb ran for 996 yards and eight touchdowns, while being grossly underutilized at the beginning of the season until the Browns traded away RB Carlos Hyde. Chubb also added 149 receiving yards and two touchdown catches. As Chubb continues to play, he should continue to improve. As for Jarvis, 976 receiving yards on 81 catches is top-notch. The only two things that hopefully will improve next season with Jarvis will be the amount of touchdown receptions he has and a higher catch percentage

While there are two blue-chip playmakers, there are a few players with the potential of being considered for that group. RB Duke Johnson, WR Antonio Callaway and TE David Njoku had moments of greatness during 2018, but it was not sustained. These three were the second, third and fourth leading receivers on the team, but they also seemed to disappear for long periods of time during the season. The biggest knock on Johnson was that he didn’t get the ball enough. If our next head coach makes a concerted effort to get Johnson the ball, there is no reason he can’t elevate his play to a blue-chip level. Antonio Callaway had a nice rookie season making 43 receptions for 586 yards, but he dealt with drops throughout the season. Catching the ball more consistently can help Callaway take the next step in his career. David Njoku improved from his rookie season to his second year but still has a way to go. Making more of his opportunities can go a long way to taking the next step required to ascend into the blue-chip level.

The next group, defensive playmakers is very similar to offensive playmakers. There are two players in the group and three with potential. The two that are in are CB Denzel Ward and S Demarious Randall. Outside of injury concerns, Ward stepped in day one and was a top level cornerback. He went up against some of the best wide receivers on the season and he slowed many of them down. He recorded three interceptions and 11 passes defended on the season. Making the Pro Bowl as a rookie is an impressive feat and there is no reason he won’t continue this great play throughout his career. The Browns definitely got the better end of the deal when they brought Demarious Randall to Cleveland. While moving to his natural position of safety, he brought with him a swagger that was desperately needed on the defensive side of the ball. He recorded 85 tackles, led the team with four interceptions and had nine passes defended.

The three defensive players who have potential to make it to the blue-chip level are LBs Christian Kirksey and Joe Schobert as well as S Jabrill Peppers. Kirksey was well on his way this past season until injuries slowed his season to a halt. He only played in seven games this season and still had the third highest amount of interceptions on the team. Schobert is a tackling machine. The question is how many of his tackles are because he’s a good player and how many are based on the defensive scheme the Browns have implemented. The answer to this query can decide where Schobert belongs. As for Peppers, he made an iconic play when he sacked Broncos QB Case Keenum to end the Week 15 game at Denver. He also made a few good plays over the course of the season but not enough to be considered a blue-chip player.

Finally, we come to the offensive line. According to Pro Football Focus, the Browns were the 2nd best offensive line group in the NFL this season behind only the Pittsburgh Steelers. The interior part of the line, G Joel Bitonio and G Kevin Zeitler as well as C J.C. Tretter, were especially good only giving up 39 total pressures on the season. You can add T Greg Robinson and T Desmond Harrison as two players who showed some potential this season and with a bit more grooming they can be considered blue-chip players as well.

Of the 12 players the Jeremiah feels a team needs, the Browns comfortably have nine and have a few more with the potential to make the jump. An advantage of being such a young team is that there are so many players with showed potential to bring the team up. This also goes to show what the next head coach will get with this team. Hopefully, between players continuing to develop, free agency and the draft the Browns can get to the 12 blue-chip players as they hope to take the next step into the playoffs and beyond.

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