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The Browns gave up on the Johnny Manziel experiment due to excessive off field baggage and signed the once budding superstar Robert Griffin III to hopefully right the ship. Griffin has all the tools to be an exceptional NFL quarterback aside from durability as he displayed as a rookie passer in Washington. He has a 64% career completion percentage, 40 passing touchdowns against 23 interceptions, a career yards per attempt of 7.62 and 1498 rushing yards. He is dynamic, explosive and capable when healthy but his slender frame and style does not inspire confidence he can get through a season intact. This was a smart signing for a team however desperate for a star. Griffin III does ultimately have that ability and maybe the humbling experience over the past two years will help him grow as a player as well.
It is hard to believe but McCown is entering into his 15th NFL season and with his 7th team. He had surprisingly strong statistics in his eight games played with the Browns last year, completing 63.7% of his passes with 12 touchdowns against 4 interceptions. He will be turning 37 years old before the start of the season though and the Browns are hopeful that Robert Griffin III will emerged as the starter. McCown is a decent caretaker if needed and good insurance if Griffin struggles to stay healthy as he did with Washington.
Ausin Davis got into a few games for the Cleveland Browns last year but looked terrible. He may not survive training camp in 2016. Conner Shaw is everything that Johnny Manziel was not. He is a leader with mediocre skills and he struggled to have an impact in his only game back in 2014. He is the kind of guy you want to root for being
undersized and not top-tier talented.
Cody Kesler is a promising rookie quarterback that the Browns seem to like quite a bit. Worth keeping an eye on.
Glenn Winston, Terrell Watson
Isaiah Crowell is a formerly, undrafted running back from Alabama State who has come in and done a good job for the Browns over two seasons. Blessed with good size (5'11 and 224 pounds), he ran for 1313 rushing yards (3.9 YPC) over the two seasons with 12 touchdowns. He also caught 28 passes. Crowell is not overly athletic or fast but he runs hard and gives the Browns a reliable presence at the position. He is not a game breaker though and should never be a 20-carry per game player.
As a rookie running back last season, Duke Johnson struggled in the running game at the NFL level. He finished with only 379 rushing yards on 104 carries without a rushing touchdown. At times his excellent quickness and cutting prowess were on display but unless he got good blocking he didn't create much on his own. That's the bad news. The good news is Duke Johnson looked like a legitimate star in the passing game, catching 61 passes for 534 yards with 2 scores. He is a dynamic, explosive player and his upside is miles ahead of Isaiah Crowell so when ranking Johnson, realized he is in a RBBC (running back by committee) but also recognize his upside. His numbers can go significantly up this season.
Jordan Payton, Rishard Higgins, Taylor Gabriel, Darius Jennings, Marlon Moore
The wildcard here is Josh Gordon if he ever overcomes his drug issues and gets back onto the field as he is a legitimate number one receiver option. There is no guarantees he gets another chance though with the Browns or anyone else.
The Browns receiving core was terrible last year and the team drafted five receivers in this year's draft in an attempt to restock the cupboards. First round pick Corey Coleman has a real chance to become a star at the next level. Blessed with terrific speed and top end burst, he is a challenge to stick with as he plays faster than most of his opponents. He has tenacity in regards to going after the football and looks impressive as a runner once the ball is in his hands. He needs to work on route running as the entire tree is not used in Baylor but Coleman, who overcame a difficult youth environment to succeed, is a worker and will emerge as the best receiving option for the Browns in 2016.
The other rookie who looks poised to compete for playing time is Ricardo Louis who is a bit of an enigma. He is a huge, athletic receiver that has the tools to be great but has rarely achieved that level with Auburn. He can be lazy in his route running and loses focus on the ball but the talent is there to compete in Cleveland.
Brian Hartline was released which leaves Andrew Hawkins as a serviceable, veteran NFL receivers without much upside. The best thing that could happen to Hawkins is for rookie Corey Coleman to emerge as a legitimate one, bumping him down the depth chart.
UPDATE May 24th / 2016
The Browns have released veteran receiver Brian Hartline to make room for the kids. This is not a surprise.
Taylor Gabriel is a diminutive target at 5'7 but has caught 65 passes over two years. He has just one NFL touchdown however.
Terrelle Pryor is a physical beast but his conversion from quarterback to wide receiver has been a slow one. If he does figure it out at 6'6 and an athletic gem, he could be a surprising player but he has shown nothing yet on the field as a receiver. He is not a bad player to pick up in the last round or two just to sit on through the first couple of weeks to see if he can put it together.
Seth Devalve, E.J. Bibbs, Randall Telfer, Conner Hamlett
Gary Barnidge is proof that many NFL players only need a chance to be an impact player. Throughout his six years prior to 2015, Barnidge caught only 44 NFL passes and 3 touchdowns. He was relied upon to block and rarely got a receiving target. Due to necessity though, he stepped in as the full time tight end last year and what a season he put together. He caught an amazing 79 passes for 1043 yards and scored 9 times and finished as the 3rd best fantasy tight end. Some of that was due to mediocre receivers making him the go-to target but he had to have the ability to make that happen and he proved he did. At 6'6 and 243 pounds, he is a matchup nightmare for defenses and there is no reason to expect him not to achieve once again in 2016. He was a great story last year and should continue to be so going forward.
Projected Starters: LT Joe Thomas, LG Joel Bitonio, C Cam Erving, RG John Greco, RT Shon Coleman (rookie)
Key Backups: Austin Pasztor, Alvin Bailey, Michael Bowie
The Browns offensive line is likely the strength of their team and something to build around. After toying with trading him this offseason, star tackle Joe Thomas is still their starting left tackle and a great anchor to the unit. He adds stability to the group. The team drafted Cam Erving 19th overall in the 2015 NFL Draft and after letting Alex Mack go via free agency, the center position has been handed over to him. Joel Bitonio had a very good season last year and has secured his role at the left guard position. The other guard position is also stable with the underappreciated John Greco holding down the fort. The only question mark here is at right tackle where rookie Shon Coleman from Auburn will battle both Austin Pasztor and Michael Bowie for the starting job. I would give both Coleman and Pasztor a 40% chance each to win the job with Bowie at about a 20% chance. If somebody fills the right tackle slot well, the Browns have a making of a top-ten unit.
Travis Coons: He kicked 28 out of 32 field goal attempts in his first season.