Which Browns players are worth keeping in 2018?

Here we are again, Browns fans. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: calendar flips to December and we’re looking forward to the next season more than the one we are currently in. The Browns will again miss the playoffs–for the 15th straight season–and will once again be looking to avoid a winless season in their final four games. Browns fans are defeated, the morale is low, there is no denying this fact of existence.

Nobody truly know the direction ownership will take in the off-season in regards to Hue Jackson and the front office. It’s too tough to predict. However, Browns fans have to keep their eye on the future, and if you can avoid feeling miserable about the current win/loss record, one can see the talent that is on the field each week.. HBT’s Plan is heading toward it’s biggest year yet, as it has allocated a premium in draft riches, and those can be cashed in with a deep draft at the positions they need. Although the eye is on the future, the biggest part of this is breaking down the current Browns roster, and who we should be keeping our focus on for the future.

This is WFNY’s third edition of this concept, with editions looking ahead to 2016 and 2017. There have been some hits in year’s past (Haden) and some misses (Barnidge), but the future for these guys is hard to predict. The tough part is nailing down the core of the roster that can be a part of the future here with so much draft capital in the 2018 off-season. This off-season will be the biggest in some time, and the current roster has laid the groundwork for a core that can be a part of a winning core (or even mediocre) if the 2018 draft adds the influx of skill position talent needed. Before that time comes, let’s take a look at who on the current roster has the likelihood of being a part of this franchise for the long-term.

High Quality = Minimum of a likely starter on at least half of NFL teams
Roster Worthy = Minimum of a likely 53-man roster player on at least half of NFL teams
Replaceable = Can be fringe on future rosters, but can also be let go

Cleveland Browns Offense

Position: Quarterback

High Quality: None
Roster Worthy: DeShone Kizer
Replaceable: Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan

The Browns let Josh McCown walk, traded for Brock Osweiler, cut him, and went with their 21 year old second round pick in DeShone Kizer for the 2017 season. The position has been a disaster regardless of who is taking the snaps this season. Kizer is young and has development value, but the other two will serve no purpose in Cleveland’s future. Expect the Browns to take a quarterback first overall in the 2018 draft.

Position: Wide Receiver

High Quality: Josh Gordon
Roster Worthy: Corey Coleman
Replaceable: Kenny Britt, Ricardo Louis, Rashard Higgins, Sammie Coates, Bryce Treggs

Josh Gordon was elite in his return, but it is always tough to truly trust him. At the status quo, he is on the roster and it for the foreseeable future. Corey Coleman has NFL skills, it’s all about staying healthy and showing consistency. Kenny Britt might be in need of a reset after a disastrous season, but he has shown he can do it in this league and has three years left on his contract. I’m not sure how that one shakes out. Louis, Higgins, Coates, and Treggs have all shown the inability to be consistent NFL wide receivers and the Browns are best served to replace them this off-season.

Position: Running back

High Quality: None
Roster Worthy: Duke Johnson
Replaceable: Isaiah Crowell, Matthew Dayes, Danny Vitale

Duke Johnson has long-term value on this team, and any team in the NFL would be lucky to have him. He isn’t an every down back, but he deserves up to 20 touches a game, and has game breaking abilities whenever he touches the ball. Crowell’s time in Cleveland has run it’s course. He is just an average NFL back with skill set that can be easily replaced and for much cheaper. Dayes and Vitale add nice depth, but they don’t provide anything a team can’t live without.

Position: Offensive Line

High Quality: Joe Thomas, Joel Bitonio, Kevin Zeitler
Roster Worthy: Shon Coleman, JC Tretter, Spencer Drango
Replaceable: Zach Banner, Marcus Martin, Austin Reiter

I am presuming here that Joe Thomas returns from his season ending injury. Bitonio and Zeitler have been a nice duo inside to stabilize the line. Shon Coleman has flashed enough to show me that he is a right tackle in this league. He will never be great in pass blocking, but he is a monster in the running game. He needs to keep improving but I have seen enough. Drango has value all over the line–he can play four of five positions– and could play for most offensive lines in the league as it’s an area of concern for most.  Banner, Martin, and Reiter continue to be solid depth, but will never start without an injury to a player in front of them.

Position: Tight End

High Quality: None
Roster Worthy: David Njoku, Seth DeValve
Replaceable: Randall Telfer

This is a position of strength for the Browns future. David Njoku has shown serious talent in the passing game, and he has continued to improve of late as a blocking as both a wing ,and inline tight end. DeValve, although not a big time core piece, has shown he is solid as a tight end who splits snaps, and I believe he would play for most teams in this league.

Cleveland Browns Defense

Position: Safety

High Quality: None
Roster Worthy: Derrick Kindred, Jabrill Peppers
Replaceable: Kai Nacua, Derron Smith, Justin Currie

The Browns will need to address the free safety position in the draft (fingers crossed for Minkah Fitzpatrick), but they have seen signs of improvement of late from Jabrill Peppers in a role that he was never intended for. Peppers future in the Cleveland defense will be interesting, but I think he can play a big role as he keeps developing. Derrick Kindred has been dynamic the box in a strong safety hybrid role, and probably has a future holding down that spot in Cleveland. Kai Nacua has interesting value moving forward, and the Browns will keep him, but as of now he is replaceable.

Position: Cornerback

High Quality: Jason McCourty, Briean Boddy-Calhoun
Roster Worthy: Jamar Taylor
Replaceable: Mike Jordan, Darius Hilary, Howard Wilson

The Browns have had tremendous cornerback play in 2017 given the predictions most made. Cutting Joe Haden was controversial, but given the performance of Boddy-Calhoun, McCourty, and Taylor it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t the right move. Taylor will be here in the future, but given his skill set he is probably replaceable down the line. Boddy-Calhoun has been elite in the slot and shown he can play outside when called upon as well. Jason McCourty–under contract for another year–has been a top 10 corner in the league this year.

Position: Linebacker

High Quality: Jamie Collins, Christian Kirksey
Roster Worthy: Joe Schobert
Replaceable: James Burgess, Tank Carder, BJ Bello, Josh Keyes, Deon King

Despite a down year from Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey, the two have immense talent and have proven to be quality NFL starters. Gregg Williams defense asks so much of its linebackers, and I think it has been a tough adjustment for both. Joe Schobert also has redeeming qualities as an NFL middle linebacker, but he has to improve his block shedding, and the angles he is taking on pursuit. Joe tackles really well in open space, and has quality closing speed, he just needs to master the other areas of NFL linebacker in the future. Burgess has a case here, but he is below average at deciphering plays, and doesn’t have any part of his game that stands out long-term other than providing depth.

Position: Defensive Line

High Quality: Danny Shelton, Myles Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah
Roster Worthy: Larry Ogunjobi, Trevon Coley, Carl Nassib, Jamie Meder
Replaceable: Caleb Brantley, Tyrone Holmes, TY McGill, Nate Orchard

This is the Browns area of strength. Shelton has been better than ever in 2017 against the run, and keep developing in the technique aspects of things. Garrett has shown big time pass rush abilities, and surprised with the run game control. For a rookie, despite the health issue early, he has been as advertised. Ogbah continued his growth in year two before he broke his foot, but it’s clear he is the perfect end opposite of Garrett who can control the run and beat average tackles for plays in the backfield. Ogunjobi, in limited snaps, has shown he has potential to be a top 10 defensive tackle someday. Coley, Meder, and Brantley are all interchangeable inside and provide depth that few other teams have. Orchard is all hustle, but he doesn’t have a ceiling much higher than the average play we have seen so far.

Cleveland Browns Special Teams

Position: Kicker, Punter, Long-Snapper

High Quality: None
Roster Worthy: Charley Hughlett, Britton Colquitt, Zane Gonzalez
Replaceable: None

Zane will be the debatable topic here. Consider that Zane has only had a chance to kick 12 field goals this year while most other teams are well into the 20’s. His skill is obvious. Give the kid a chance and you’ll see his skill set as a long-term kicker will pan out.

Your Turn

There have to be players who you do not agree with their categorization. Let me know where I have it wrong and why in the comments, while keeping in mind the Before You Comment guidelines. Enjoy.

  • mgbode
  • tigersbrowns2

    pretty good assessment , JAKE … i know Crowell isn’t having a good year , but once the passing game improves , i think he is “roster worthy”.

    i would switch Brantley & Meder … Meder is a feel-good story , but he is nothing special. and Schobert has some shortcomings , but he is 2nd in the NFL in tackles , he is doing something right.

    i also think Burgess is one of the most under-rated players on this squad … i think he’s done fairly well … i like him at “roster worthy” , even if it’s as a back-up LB.

    … well done.

  • Jaker

    Great write up Jake. With $60mil in cap and plenty more picks, it’s important to single out where we can move on and where we need an upgrade. 3 that I think may be misplaced…

    High Quality Omissions:

    David Njoku. I think if Njoku got more playing time and targets, like he did @LAC, He would be up here. The guy is so young and so athletic, seriously think he has Pro Bowl talent and isn’t far off from becoming a focal point of our offense (assuming we acquire coaching who will use him to his best abilities).

    Duke Johnson. While he isn’t exactly a starter, he is one of the top 3 receiving backs in the NFL no question. Considering where the NFL is now, He’s High Quality player for sure, and one we should look to extend since we don’t have any FA’s this year. Outside of JT I think he’s my favorite current Cleveland Brown watching him fight for everything. Would love to have 3 Duke Johnson’s just splitting time throughout the game.

    Roster Worthy Omission:

    Caleb Brantley. The depth of our DLine makes him look replaceable, but if we were to lose him he would be contributing on another team immediately, starting on a few. Definitely roster worthy.

    Outside of those I think you nailed it. Would like to see Dayes get some more snaps because I’m ready to move on from Crow, and I’m still interested in what Howard Wilson can bring.

    Question for ya Jake; what are your thoughts on Peppers/Kindred? I feel like those are the two biggest question marks on the roster right now. Is Peppers a 5th DB/passing down LB? If we fire Hue and possibly Gregg Williams, does that hurt or help these Safeties? What is the best path for this position going forward and the best use of Jabrill “discovered new land in Canada” peppers?

  • Mr. Clandestine
  • Rmesh

    Great job!!!!

    My only difference of opinion centers around the DL.

    Elite DTs should generate a pass rush. Shelton rarely does. Browns get killed on D when on running downs the other team passes and they can’t get a push in QBs face. Shelton is a keeper but until he pushes the pocket, he isn’t elite in my opinion.

    Meder is a JAG. Always seemed to be on the field when big gains happen and topples over way too easily. Totally and hopefully replaceable.

    Nassib is another guy who can and should be replaced, just like Orchard. Those guys rarely force the action and the drop off from Garrett/Ogbah to Nassib/Orchard is just too severe. Needs to be replaced.

    Again great summation!

  • RGB

    I would argue Brantley’s ceiling is much higher than Meder’s.

  • MartyDaVille

    Agree with you about Dayes. Let’s see what he can do.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi JAKER … good to see you posting , i know it’s been a rough & miserable year … good post.

  • MartyDaVille

    Wow, that’s 30 players worth keeping and 29 not worthy — a 50.8% worthy rate. So much for acquiring all that young “talent.”

    I hate to be so negative all the time, but Sashi Brown has no business making roster decisions.

  • BenRM

    Crow is pedestrian.

  • bossman09

    What jumps out to me is the number of players listed as “roster worthy” that are trending to “high quality” – Duke, Njoku, . Other than QB, the only serious need is FS. You could argue we need another WR because of Gordon’s history. There are serious issues with the Front Office, but who ever is in charge in 2018 is in a great position.

  • RGB

    But, if you fire Sashi now, the numbers nerds will bleat “You didn’t give him a chance. The Process cannot be held to your arbitrary schedule. You just don’t understand, luddite.”
    Better to give them another season or two, so they can either succeed, or fail miserably so we can move on with a minimum of wailing and gnashing of teeth from the numbers nerds.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi BOSS … good post.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi BEN … i agree. i personally would have him as “roster worthy” , even if he’s a back-up.

  • tigersbrowns2

    good post , RMESH.

  • tigersbrowns2

    … i see a lot of dead weight at WR , back-up LB’s & back-up DB’s.

  • bossman09

    First, lets ask my friend “math” for some help. This article is reviewing SIXTY (60) players which includes the practice squad (by definition, not NFL roster players), not the 45 that play in a game. So if you actually compare the 30 keepers to a game day roster, you would come up with 66%, not 50%. So the real question is, how many players on an average 45 man game day roster would actually be part of another teams 45 player roster. I think somewhere between 35-40? This makes the gap more like 5-10 players, not 30.

    Also, you are generalizing the value of the players. A 33 year old “Roster Worthy” player compared to a 22 year old rookie “roster worthy” who is getting better is apples to oranges.
    When you also factor in Cap space and picks, the team is in excellent position to help this next year as well.

  • MartyDaVille

    Fair enough. I knew my comment is subject to legitimate criticism, and you make good points.

  • CBI

    More concerning to me, out of the 30, how many are elite/pro bowl level talent? Garrett maybe if he can stay healthy? Gordon maybe if he can stay sober and doesn’t get traded?

    Are we going to see improvement from this team? Sure, but I’m worried Sachi is building a roster full of JAGS with a 9-7/one and done playoff ceiling.

  • “Expect the Browns to take a quarterback first overall in the 2018 draft.”

    For once, I agree with this statement. And I got the perfect candidate that they should select. His name is Saquon Barkley. Check it out:

    Check out his passing stats. His passing accuracy is 100%. ONE HUNDRED PERCENT. That’s unbelievable. Much better than the ho-hum prospects like Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen. And light years better than his backup QB… uhh… what’s his name? McSorley was it? And ooooh, 18 yards per passing attempt. Very nice. Browns fans will call him Mr. Driver for how quickly he’ll be able to move the ball down the field.

    But seriously, draft Saquon Barkley to replace Isaiah Crowell, sign a veteran QB in free agency, either use a 2nd or 3rd round pick on another QB or keep one of the other backup QBs that we have, and let them battle for the starting QB position.

  • mgbode

    30 players worth keeping in 2 years means 45 in Year 3 and 60 in Year 4. For a 53-man roster!!!!


  • KFunk

    Jake, I agree on the urgent need for a FS, but no way should they draft Fitzpatrick from AL. If they take a QB #1, they had better draft an offensive playmaker with their second pick (WR or Barkley). Fitz won’t be around @ the top of the 2nd round.

    All the more reason why the best case scenario is Cousins via FA, and skip the QB @ #1. They could build around him with WR, FS & RB.

    If no Cousins, they still need some kind of vet QB to help Kizer & the rookie. Ugh, just typing that makes me cringe– another season breaking in a new rookie QB. Ugh. May be necessary, but ugh. They better pick the right one

  • Pat Leonard

    YES. It’s time for Dayes to get Crow’s carries.

  • Harv

    Great job. Thank you for being honest about dudes like Crowell, who in pre-season was being inexplicably proclaimed as one of the better NFL RBs.

    One of my few quibbles: not sure Kirksey would start for more than half the teams. There’s a ton of quality LBs around, and every fanbase thinks their LB is great. Kirksey is not a playmaker in a defense designed for him to create chaos, and disappears some games (last Sunday). We used to tell everyone about Wali Ranier because of his tackle total, and same for DQ Jackson. They had to re-sign Kirksey because he’s OK and, incredibly, an old head here.

    McCourty gets a lot of love but dude is a CB on the wrong side of 30 – he’s not this team’s building block. (And why is nobody talking about how undisciplined Jamar Taylor has been in the first year of a new deal).

  • JM85

    Draft a quarterback. Seriously, they have talent on both sides of the ball. Find some reliable receivers as well.

  • maxfnmloans

    I’ll go ahead and make the Peppers argument: He is high quality. Not his fault the Browns saw his skill set and then said “how about we play you in a position that does not line up with your skill set”. He has never been a Free Safety. If you look at his skills, its pretty obvious he wouldnt have as much success as a free safety as he would as a Strong Safety/ hybrid LB. Why not line Joe Thomas up as a WR and then say “welp, he wouldnt start for half of the teams in the league”.

    I was not excited about Gregg Williams when he was hired. I think he continues to get jobs because he’s aggressive, and many teams hiring a new DC are doing so because their defense was bad, so when they hear about aggression, and “getting after the QB” and “separating man from ball” etc, they probably love what he has to say. But, the results bear out that he’s underachieved for most of his career. The Rams defense was LOADED the past 2 years and couldnt get above the muddle of the pack. Thats on the DC. That screams to me that the DC is a guy who has “his” system, and likely thinks “we would be so very good if only the guys would play my system the way I want it played.

    Bad coaches complain they dont have the talent to run their systems. Good coaches take the talent they have and adapt their system to get the most out of what they have. Taking a guy who is an excellent edge defender, can match up with tight ends, and is excellent at tackling in space and lining him up on the dark side of the moon is poor coaching. Put Peppers with someone like Wade Phillips, Mike Zimmer, Bellichik, Pete Carroll, Jim Schwartz, Steve Spagnuolo, or even Ron Rivera and I’d bet a dollar he would have double digit TFL’s, and opposing TE’s wouldn’t have as much success as they do against CLE

  • KFunk

    I really want them to draft/acquire a stud S *and* CB. They can be better (and they need depth)

  • KFunk

    Remember how difficult is has been for Haslam to hire a “good coach.” The time before this, it was borderline embarrassing that no one wanted to coach this team. Just don’t forget that landing a good coach isn’t as easy as ordering him from Amazon. Then each needs 2-3 years..

    Point is, it’s really not fair to judge a coach who’s in charge of a stripped down roster. No, Hue’s not perfect, but remember that changing regimes is easier said than done.

  • maxfnmloans

    I agree wit you on Dayes. After the pre-season, i thought we would see a lot more of him than we have. Given that Crowll’s vision is so bad, I cant figure out why Dayes hasnt gotten more of a look. However, I tend to blame Hue, and thats yet another reason why I think he is more of a problem than the FO

  • paulbip

    Play Days more. I watched him in college and he has the ability to see the hole. He was almost a FA because he’s slow. I’ll take a slow 4 to 10 yard per carry every time.

  • Jaker

    Great Peppers evaluation. It’s becoming quite clear that we are playing him out of place. When Collins went down I thought there’d be a chance that we start playing Peppers not exactly as a LB, but put him in the box more and bring in a deep safety like Nacua. Instead they are playing Burgess who has done well at times, but it’s a real bummer that we got this shiny new toy in April and I feel like we won’t get to play with it until september 2018.

  • Natedawg86

    Crow would be roster worthy if he were under control next year, but he is a Free Agent and thinks he will be paid…relegating him to replaceable

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi NATE … i agree. but since he basically flopped this year , he will not be able to command big dollars next year.

  • Brent Blackwell

    Any idea on what the worthy rate is for other teams? Just posting a rate for the Browns doesnt allow for adequate comparisons on how Sashi is doing.