Thursday’s preseason finale versus the Chicago Bears marks the final tune-up for the Cleveland Browns and the final time for the players to make their impression to the team going into cuts. The deadline to cut the roster down to 53 players is Saturday at 4 p.m. In the past there used to be several different deadlines to trim the roster, but this season Saturday’s deadline is the only one, with teams cutting their roster from 90 players to 53 players in one massive scourge. It will be a wild weekend to say the least. Even if a player makes the Browns original 53-man roster, with all the cuts happening at once, the roster will be fluid over the course of the weekend with the team looking at the waive wire to pick up players who have been cut from other teams. With the deadline approaching, I have made my predictions on who will make the Browns 53-man roster.
(S)= Predicted Starter for the Position
Quarterbacks (3): (S) DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan
The quarterback position is set at the top with DeShone Kizer starting in Week 1 of the regular season. But, the intrigue is the rest of the depth chart. Cody Kessler seems to be a lock, but the real question is Brock Osweiler versus Kevin Hogan. With the news of the Browns looking to trade Osweiler, I am going with Hogan to win the third spot in the depth chart.
Running Backs (3): (S) Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson and Matt Dayes
The running back position is one of the more set and stable positions on the team. Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson and Matt Dayes all are going to make the roster, barring any huge surprise. The only question in my mind is whether the Browns decide to keep a fourth running back like Terrence Magee. In the end, I think they just take three running backs.
Fullback (1): (S) Danny Vitale
The Browns have just one fullback on the roster in Danny Vitale and I think they will make him the only fullback on the 53-man roster. The only pause I had on making this decision was the injury to Vitale.
Tight Ends (3): (S) Randall Telfer, Seth DeValve and David Njoku
The tight end group is in the same boat as the running back unit. It is pretty set with three locks in Randall Telfer, Seth DeValve and David Njoku. Like the running backs, the only real question is whether the Browns decide to have a fourth tight end on the roster. The leading candidate would be J.P. Holtz. But, I think the team decides to just go with three on the active roster.
Wide Receivers (6): (S) Corey Coleman, (S) Kenny Britt, Ricardo Louis, Rashard Higgins, Rannell Hall and Jordan Payton
The Browns wide receiver group is one of the bigger question marks going into the cut deadline. There seems to be three locks in this group with Corey Coleman, Kenny Britt and Ricardo Louis. Rashard Higgins is another receiver with a likely spot on the team. After that, it is a real question on who the Browns prefer. I believe Rannell Hall has played well enough to earn a spot and Jordan Payton has the billing of being the current regime’s draft choice, so he would get the final spot. Jordan Leslie is on the cusp to make the team and could get the spot over Payton, but in the end I think the Payton gets the spot and the Browns keep six receivers. This will be a position that the Browns will likely scour the waive wire and trades to address.
Offensive Line (9): (S) Joe Thomas, (S) Joel Bitonio, (S) JC Tretter, (S) Kevin Zeitler, (S) Shon Coleman, John Greco, Austin Reiter, Spencer Drango and Rod Johnson
The Browns starters of Joe Thomas, Joel Bitonio, JC Tretter, Kevin Zeitler and Shon Coleman are all on the roster with John Greco being the other lock in the unit to make the 53-man roster. Then, the questions begin. The unit has a lot of interesting options they could choose. I believe Austin Reiter will get a spot to be the backup center. Spencer Drango is another lineman I believe will get a spot because he provides versatility to play tackle and guard. Rod Johnson is an interesting player. He is a developmental lineman, so he may be a prime candidate for the practice squad. But, another team may pick him up, so the team might have to keep him on the 53-man roster. His potential is very hard to cut. So, I think they take a big group of nine offensive linemen on the 53-man roster.
Defensive Tackles (5): (S) Danny Shelton, (S) Trevon Coley, Larry Ogunjobi, Jamie Meder and Xavier Cooper
Danny Shelton is the centerpiece of the defensive line. Trevon Coley has been one of the most impressive players in the preseason, earning him a starting spot and a certainty to make the roster. Larry Ogunjobi is the other lock as he has played pretty well during the preseason after being the team’s third round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Jamie Meder seems to be close to a lock as he provides starting experience in a backup role. The final spot or spots will be interesting to watch. I believe Xavier Cooper will win the last spot in the depth chart, given his experience. But, the real question is with Caleb Brantley. Brantley has missed the entire preseason and has made his status on the roster very questionable. As the quote goes, “You can’t make the club from the tub.” I can see him making the squad as the sixth defensive tackle being that the Browns spent a draft pick on him. But, I believe they will stick with five defensive tackles and that won’t include Brantley.
Defensive Ends (5): (S) Myles Garrett, (S) Emmanuel Ogbah, Carl Nassib, Tyrone Holmes and Nate Orchard
The starting duo of Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah are a bright and exciting duo. They are bigger than locks if that is possible. Carl Nassib is certain to make the roster after having a good preseason. The final spot or spots are interesting to me. Tyrone Holmes has played very well this preseason and has earned a spot on the team. The question is Nate Orchard, but I am going with him to win the last spot. I think before the injury, he was performing well and showing he is a talented player for the roster. But, his injury has really cast his spot into question.
Linebackers (4): (S) Jamie Collins, (S) Christian Kirksey, (S) Joe Schobert and Dominique Alexander
The linebacker unit is all but set with probably just one spot uncertain. Jamie Collins, Christian Kirksey and Joe Schobert will start and will be on the 53-man roster. The last spot or spots in the unit are up for grabs. I believe the Browns take just one more linebacker and I think Dominique Alexander wins that spot. But, the Browns could go with either James Burgess or Kenneth Olugbode in replace of Alexander or alongside him as the fifth linebacker.
Cornerbacks (6): (S) Jamar Taylor, (S) Briean Boddy-Calhoun, (S) Jason McCourty, Marcus Burley, Trey Caldwell and Darius Hillary
There are three locks in the cornerback unit. Jamar Taylor, Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Jason McCourty will share starting duties at the position. The rest of the position is a complete mystery. I think Marcus Burley, Trey Caldwell and Darrius Hillary will make the squad, but I am the least confident in this position’s predictions than any other position on the roster. The cornerback unit is a likely spot where the Browns look outside the team to find help.
Safeties (5): (S) Jabrill Peppers, (S) Derrick Kindred, Ibraheim Campbell, Kai Nacua and Calvin Pryor
The safety unit is one of the more interesting positions to watch as it offers an array on intriguing safeties. Jabrill Peppers and Derrick Kindred are locks as the starting safeties on the team. The injury to Ibraheim Campbell has put a little doubt on his status with the team, but his playing experience should earn him a spot. Kai Nacua has played well during the preseason and I believe the undrafted free agent will get a spot because of it. It will be interesting to see whether the Browns take five safeties. I think the Browns will take five and give the last spot to Calvin Pryor. He offers experience for the young unit.
Kicker (1): (S) Zane Gonzalez
Zane Gonzalez is competing with Cody Parkey for the kicking job. I believe Gonzalez is the most talented kicker and will win the job.
Punter (1): (S) Britton Colquitt
Britton Colquitt is the only punter on the roster and so he will be the starting punter for the regular season.
Long Snapper (1): (S) Charley Hughlett
Charley Hughlett is the sole long snapper on the roster and will be the long snapper for the Browns going into the regular season.