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.