2017 Browns Season Position Preview: Quarterback

The Cleveland Browns’ quarterback position has been the biggest question mark on the entire roster dating back to their return in 1999. The team is still in the same position here with not a clear-cut starter taking control of the signal calling. Currently, the Browns have four quarterbacks on the roster, with Cody Kessler, DeShone Kizer, Brock Osweiler and Kevin Hogan making up the depth chart.1

What can the Browns expect from the quarterback position? WFNY tries to tackle that question by previewing the quarterback spot for the 2017 NFL season.

Additions: DeShone Kizer and Brock Osweiler

Subtractions: Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown

Projected Starter: Cody Kessler

Though this is far from a sure thing, Cody Kessler is the leading candidate to start the season at quarterback. For a rookie and a late round draft pick, Kessler was given a lot of playing time last year, including starting eight starts. In the 2016 season, he completed 65.6% of his passes for 1,380 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. He enters training camp as the No. 1 quarterback on the depth chart.

In his first season, Kessler showed some good and bad play. On the positive side, he displayed good accuracy and solid decision making, especially in limiting turnovers. His ability to start Week 3 as a rookie and not look completely lost showed impressive readiness and preparation for the young signal caller. However, he showed some troubling things that I believe will limit him to being just a backup quarterback rather than the team’s starting quarterback.

His biggest problem is his pocket presence. He had trouble with maneuvering in the pocket and getting rid of the ball on time and quickly. Many of the sacks he encountered were due to his doing rather than poor pass protection. Physically, he lacks the arm strength to be a reliable downfield passer. He struggled to consistently throw down field, causing him to focus more on short to intermediate passes. Pocket presence is a tough thing to improve on because a lot of this is based on your internal clock. He has struggled with this part of the game throughout his college career, so it is hard to see him improve something he has consistently struggled with since high school. And, his arm strength is another entity he cannot really improve on.

We will see pretty early in the preseason and season whether he was able to improve on his weaknesses. But as I have said earlier, it is hard for me to see him be the answer at quarterback for the Browns. His ceiling seems to be a career backup, who can start in spots for a team. Nevertheless, he deserves the first shot at the starting spot based on his performance last season for the Browns.

Possible Contributors: DeShone Kizer and Brock Osweiler

Most teams will only have one contributor at the quarterback spot, but as Browns fans know well, Cleveland will likely have multiple contributors this coming season. The main options to take snaps for the Browns are DeShone Kizer and Brock Osweiler. DeShone Kizer is most likely the next man up after Kessler with Osweiler possibly jumping ahead of both with a strong preseason.

Kizer is the Browns second round pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. He has everything you want physically in a quarterback. He possesses a strong arm, great size and solid movements skills. He pairs these traits with a tough and fearless mentality in the pocket. He moves well in the pocket and is able to throw under pressure without getting gun shy. His deep ball passing adds a quality that none of the other quarterbacks likely can show in their game. But, there is a lot of work that must be done in his game.

The biggest issue for him is his consistency to accurately complete passes. He can be up and down on being accurate, hurting his ability to be a reliable quarterback. Along with accuracy, he can be slow to process things and have questionable decision-making that lead to sacks and turnovers. His footwork is also a mess, giving him another area to work on. Kizer is probably the only quarterback on the roster with the potential to be the franchise quarterback, but he has a lot of work to do before that is even in the discussion, being that he is just a rookie with no NFL experience. He is the most interesting man on the quarterback depth chart.

Brock Osweiler was supposed to be just the throw-in that the Browns netted with the second round pick from the Houston Texans. He was a complete bust for the Texans, completing 59.0% of his passes for 2,957 yards, 15 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in 15 games last season. After signing the big free agent contract, Osweiler performed so poorly that Houston offered the Browns a second round pick to take him off their hands. But, he could be playing for the Browns in the end.

Osweiler is another guy with the size and physical traits that teams love to have in their quarterback. He can be really good, but also really bad. His accuracy can be all over the place and decision-making is another struggle for him. I just don’t see him being a quality starter for the Browns and believe his true value will be as a trade piece to net the Browns more draft picks. He should be the third quarterback on the depth chart. Kessler played better than Osweiler last season, while Kizer is most talented and has more promise to the current regime.

Biggest Strength: Depth

The quarterback group’s biggest strength is its depth. The Browns have three quarterbacks on the roster with playing experience from last season in Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler and Kevin Hogan, along with a high draft pick from this past draft in DeShone Kizer. Not many teams can boast that they have three quarterbacks who took a good amount of snaps last season. This gives the Browns coaches options, which is something that is very much needed when the team lacks a clear cut starting quarterback. The depth can help sustain the position if it suffers injuries throughout the season, which has been a common thread since 1999.

Biggest Weakness: Starting Quarterback

The biggest weakness with the quarterback position is that it does not contain a clear cut starting quarterback. The Browns continue their search for a franchise quarterback, which has eluded them since 1999. The current crop of quarterbacks does not offer a sure thing. Each player has his strengths, but also very visible weaknesses. The Browns just do not have “the guy” yet. At this point, Cleveland cannot rely on one of these quarterbacks to be a reliable starting quarterback. There are too many question marks with all of the signal callers to be able to rely on one guy. Hopefully, one of them emerges during the season, but as of right now, the starting quarterback is the biggest weakness of the quarterback position, which is not great.

Key Player: DeShone Kizer

I think the key player for the Browns quarterback position is rookie DeShone Kizer. He is the most physically gifted quarterback on the roster. His ceiling is higher than all the other quarterbacks with the chance to be the franchise quarterback for the team. His development this season will shape the future of the entire roster. If he can show improvement and promise this season, the team could have so many more options to them going forward. With the team’s belief in Kizer, the team can use the truck load of picks in next year’s draft to fix the rest of the roster and in turn speed up the rebuild process. His progress can change the franchise.

Top Training Camp Battle: Cody Kessler vs DeShone Kizer vs Brock Osweiler

The biggest battle in training camp at the quarterback position will be the one for the starting spot. Cody Kessler, DeShone Kizer and Brock Osweiler will battle to earn the starting spot under center. Kessler is the leading candidate to win this battle and be the opening game starter. But, Kizer and Osweiler have more physical talent than Kessler, which could help them outshine the former USC star. Kizer, in my opinion, has the best odds to take the job from Kessler, but in the end I think the Browns go with the quarterback who started most of the season last year, Cody Kessler.

Overall Opinion:

The Browns quarterback position has been a swinging door of mediocre to bad quarterbacks. The team is still in search for their starting quarterback. The current crop offers more questions than answers. Cody Kessler is probably the most reliable guy of the group, but he is a quarterback with backup level talent, not starting quality in my opinion. DeShone Kizer is a rookie with loads of talent, but also loads of work to do. He will most likely not be ready to come in right away and be the team’s starting quarterback. Brock Osweiler is on the team to be a trade asset in my opinion. I don’t see the Browns going to Osweiler unless he really shines during the preseason. His performance last season showed that he is not a starting quarterback in the NFL. And Kevin Hogan is going to have a hard time making the roster out of training camp with the three guys ahead of him.

I believe the best case scenario for the Browns is that Kessler takes the reigns for most of the season, allowing Kizer to learn and develop. In this scenario, Kizer would take the starting role late in the season and show that he could have the makings of being the franchise quarterback. As I stated earlier, I believe the success of the position lies on the shoulders of Kizer. But, there are a lot of question marks and uncertainty to get to that point. For the time being, the quarterback position is once again the biggest weak spot on the offense and most likely on the entire roster.

2017 Browns Season Position Preview Series: Quarterback

  1. Yes, Hogan is technically on the roster, so he counts. []