The NFL season is so close I can almost touch it! Yes, folks, we are less than two weeks away from the Cleveland Browns 2021 season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.
After a great season in 2020, the Browns made many changes this offseason to make the team better, particularly on defense. General manager Andrew Berry brought in safety John Johnson III and cornerback Troy Hill from the Los Angeles Rams. On top of that, the Browns also signed Jadeveon Clowney to a one-year deal worth up to $10 million. Then in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Browns selected cornerback Greg Newsome II out of Northwestern with their first-round pick. In the second round of the draft, Berry moved up a couple of spots to select Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. The Browns defense is now loaded with talent, but let’s not forget about the offense.
The Cleveland Browns offense was very good last year, and it had a lot to do with their dominant offensive line and the running back tandem, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Cleveland finished third in rushing this past season, posting 2,374 rushing yards total. All in all, the Browns finished the season ranked 16th in total yards gained. While quarterback Baker Mayfield was great during the second half of the season, he needs to continue to play at that level if the Browns are going to be a real Super Bowl contender. As for the receivers, OBJ is back and healthy. On top of that, Jarvis Landry and Donovan Peoples-Jones had great training camps and preseason.
However, after defeating the Falcons in Atlanta last night to close out the preseason, the final Cleveland Browns roster will surely be announced in the coming days. Let’s take a look at who will likely be on the 53-man roster come September 12th.
Predicting the 53-Man Cleveland Browns Roster | Offense
(1) Baker Mayfield (2) Case Keenum
No surprises here. Baker Mayfield will become the first Browns quarterback to start three consecutive season opener’s since Bernie Kosar. Keenum is a quality backup, who has been a mentor for Mayfield during his career. If Mayfield takes a knock or has to miss a week or two, the Browns would feel confident with Keenum stepping in. Kyle Lauletta had a good pre-season, but he will likely be a member of the Browns practice squad going forward.
(1) Nick Chubb (2) Kareem Hunt (3) Demetric Felton (4) D’Ernest Johnson
Again, no question marks when it comes to the running backs. Chubb and Hunt are the best running back tandem in the NFL and could both eclipse 1,000 yards rushing this season. Felton is a rookie who was drafted in the seventh round, so the Browns will keep him around. He’s a versatile back that is capable of returning kicks and catching passes. Johnson will be one of the harder decisions for the Browns to make. He’s a quality special teams player, and showed last year he can step in if need be. He will be one of the final players to make the cut.
(1) Andy Janovich
Rumors around Berea seem to indicate that Janovich’s spot is up for grabs. Johnny Stanton has played a lot and played well this pre-season, and he might be a better long-term option than Janovich. However, I believe Janovich will be the starting fullback, with Stanton heading to the practice squad.
(1) Jarvis Landry (2) Odell Beckham Jr. (3) Donovan Peoples-Jones (4) Rashard Higgins (5) Anthony Schwartz
Landry and Beckham Jr. are no-brainers. The feeling inside the Browns facility is that OBJ is back and healthier than he’s ever been, so he could have a great season. People-Jones is a bit of a no-brainer as well, considering out of all Browns players, he probably had the best training camp. Higgins is a top target of Mayfield, so they will keep him around. Schwartz was an exciting possibility when they drafted him in the third round. However, he can’t seem to get on the field, being hounded by injuries. However, considering he was picked in the third round, they will be patient with him. KhaDarel Hodge is probably the last player to be cut. It’s very possible the final roster spot comes down to Hodge and D’Ernest Johnson. With the young talent the Browns have out wide, it’s likely Hodge is cut or traded.
(1) Austin Hooper (2) David Njoku (3) Harrison Bryant
The Browns will definitely keep three tight ends. Why wouldn’t they, considering how good all three of them are. Austin Hooper had a mediocre season last year but is very reliable. Njoku has the talent to be the best tight end in the AFC, but he needs to be more consistent. Bryant will play near the goal line and in certain packages. Overall the Browns tight end room is one of the best in the NFL.
Offensive Line (L-R)
(1) Jedrick Wills Jr., Joel Bitonio, JC Tretter, Wyatt Teller, Jack Conklin (2) Chris Hubbard, Michael Dunn, Blake Hance, James Hudson, Nick Harris
The Browns had the best offensive line in the entire league last year. Joel Bitonio, Wyatt Teller and JC Tretter are probably the best interior offensive line in the NFL. At the tackles, Wills Jr. had a great rookie season but will need to improve to become a major cog in this great offensive line. Jack Conklin, who signed before last season, was one of the best right tackles in the NFL last year. Look for this group to be incredibly impressive, as long as everyone stays healthy. Hubbard is the main backup at four positions. Dunn and Hance are good to go if needed. Dunn had a great playoff game in the win over the Steelers last season. Hudson is a rookie that was drafted in the fourth round, and Nick Harris is the backup center if Tretter goes down.
Predicting the 53-Man Cleveland Browns Roster | Offense
(1) Malik Jackson (2) Andrew Billings (3) Jordan Elliott (4) Malik McDowell (5) Tommy Togiai
This might be the toughest position group to predict. Jackson and Billings are locks. Elliott has looked good during training camp and is almost a sure thing. However, it gets tricky after him. McDowell has a lot of potential and can be eased into the rotation. The final spot comes down to Togiai and Sheldon Day. I think the Browns will hold onto Togiai since he was drafted this past year. However, it would not surprise me to see Togiai head to the practice squad.
(1) Myles Garrett (2) Jadeveon Clowney (3) Porter Gustin (4) Takk Mckinley
It’s possible the Browns have the best defensive end duo in the NFL. Garrett is an absolute beast and gets better every day. He and Aaron Donald are probably the two best defensive players in the entire NFL. On the other end, the Browns signed Jadeveon Clowney for a reason. He’s looked sharp in training camp and should be destined for a breakout year, considering Garrett will be getting a lot of attention. Gustin is a solid backup who can play well when needed. As for Mckinley, I don’t know how safe his spot is. He missed some time during training camp due to a personal issue. However, he still has a lot of upside, and I expect the Browns to hang onto him.
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(1) Anthony Walker (2) Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (3) Jacob Phillips* (4) Sione Takitaki (5) Malcolm Smith (6) Tony Fields
The linebacker room is one of the biggest question marks heading into the season. Walker was signed to a one-year, $3 million contract. He will be the signal-caller and leader of the defense. Walker has already been great for the entire group throughout training camp. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is just listed as a linebacker here, however, he could end up being more of a safety. He has a similar skill set to Derwin James of the Chargers. Phillips gets an asterisk because he will likely head to the injured reserve list. Takitaki is a good situational player, who had a great season last year. Smith is the veteran of the group, and with such a young team, having a guy who’s won a Super Bowl is a huge asset. Finally, Fields will likely be a special teams player. He has all the skills needed to be a quality NFL player.
(1) Denzel Ward (2) Greg Newsome II (3) Troy Hill* (4) AJ Green (5) Greedy Williams (6) M.J. Stewart
Denzel Ward is one of the best young corners in the game, as long as he stays healthy. Greg Newsome II, the Browns’ first-round pick, has impressed coaches and teammates during training camp. He’s shown the ball skills needed to be a quality corner, as well as the ability to play inside or out. Hill gets an asterisk as well, as he will be a starter, but only in the slot. This truly is the make-or-break season for Greedy Williams. If he doesn’t show up this year, he’ll likely be out the door in a couple of months. Green and Stewart add depth. Stewart is also a great special teams player.
(1) John Johnson III (2) Ronnie Harrison (3) Grant Delpit (4) Richard Lecounte
John Johnson III is one of the best safeties in the league and is the real leader on the defense. He came to Cleveland to win, so we know he’s all business. Harrison was solid last year, before an injury stalled his season. Johnson and Harrison have the ability to be one of the best safety duos in the NFL. The Browns have high expectations for Delpit, even though he is injured as well. He needs to get healthy and prove he’s worth a roster spot this season. Lecounte was once viewed as a possible first-round pick. We know he has talent, and he showed that during the pre-season. He could end up being a huge steal for the Browns.
Predicting the 53-Man Cleveland Browns Roster | Special Teams
(K) Chase McLaughlin (P) Jamie Gillan (LS) Charley Hughlett
The only question here is if another team cuts a solid kicker, will the Browns drop McLaughlin and sign another guy? McLaughlin has been good in the preseason, and the kicker battle was in full swing before Cody Parkey went down with an injury.
Do the Browns Have the League’s Best Roster?
There is an argument to be made that the Browns have one of the best rosters in football, top to bottom. Baker Mayfield is poised to have a special season. Chubb and Hunt, as I stated earlier, could both eclipse 1,000 yards rushing. Catching the ball won’t be an issue when you have guys like Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr., and David Njoku. As long as the offensive line stays healthy, it should be one of the best in the NFL. The Browns were one of the worst defensive teams in the NFL last season, so Andrew Berry made a lot of moves to improve the defense. Johnson III is a game-changer, as is Clowney. The Buccaneers brought back 22-starters from a Super Bowl-winning team, so they would probably have the best roster in the NFL. However, I’d argue that the Browns are not far behind!