Much has been made about the Browns again looking to trade Edwards, now potentially for Thomas Jones and a draft pick. Quite simply, as mentioned here there are a lot of reasons to not to do this. To examine this in further detail, let’s walk through the likely players filling the WR depth chart for the Browns this year:
The first point, Josh Cribbs is intentionally being left out of this analysis of the WR position, quite simply because he won’t win a roster spot as a WR, but rather for his special teams work.
That’s not to say the Browns won’t use him on offense frequently, but rather that the Browns don’t need to account for him on their 53 man roster as a WR (the same way Pontriband is listed as C, even though he long snaps)
Clearly, the Browns only have one option at Split End this year, and that’s Braylon.
Nobody else on the roster is as legitimate as a deep threat as Braylon (regardless of his drops). In addition, he is among the best in the league at getting separation from press coverage. Lastly, as mentioned in Steve Tater’s B/R column here, Braylon is an aggressive run blocker.
Day one: Braylon. There’s nobody else on the roster that with certainty can do what he does, stretch defenses, and get open.
End of season: Braylon
Starting at flanker will probably come down to a battle between two players, the recently signed Mike Furrey, and rookie Brian Robiskie.
Furrey doesn’t fit the ideal model of No. 2 receiver, but Robiskie is just a rookie, and the path to success in a rookie season for WR’s drafted in the beginning of the second round isn’t a certainty (see article here).
The Browns would ideally love to give Robiskie this position, but nobody knows whether or not he’s capable until we get in to the real mini-camps and preseason. I wouldn’t entirely rule Patten out at this position,
Day one: Furrey. His polished route running and 67% catch rate over his career is too attractive for the Browns to pass up at this position.
End of season: Robiskie. He’ll likely end the year at this position, pushing Furrey to his more natural slot position. Regardless, Furrey will certainly end the season with more catches.
As mentioned above, the Browns would love Robiskie to be the starting flanker, and Furrey to be the slot receiver, but that’s a lot to expect from Robiskie from the start. A more likely scenario is Robiskie starting the season as the fourth receiver, and Patten winning the slot position in training camp.
Patten is a fast, polished route runner, with above average hands, and a history of injuries.
Day one: Patten. Nothing against Robiskie, but he’s not suited to be a slot receiver in Mangini’s offensive philosophy (Chansi Stucky is built like Patten and Furrey, not Robiskie).
End of season: Furrey.
Here’s where it gets interesting. I’d be absolutely shocked if Robiskie isn’t on the field when the Browns go four wide receivers at the beginning of the season. The more interesting question is what happens towards the end of the season, and that will be determined by two people, Mohamed Massaquoi and Syndric Steptoe.
The other thing to consider is that Mangini had only five receivers catch passes last year, including versatile weapon Brad Smith. My guess is Mangini will take one look at Steptoe’s attempts at run blocking last year, and realize that he’s got two players (Furrey and Patten) that both catch and block better than Steptoe.
Day one: Robiskie. He seems to have the talent, and desire to block that Mangini looks for in his WRs.
End of season: Patten: As a self described “on the field coach”, Patten is a perfect No. 4 receiver.
No more than five guys will be kept at WR, and WR-5 is likely a special teamer that won’t see the field unless injuries tear the team apart at the position like it did last year in Seattle.
Steptoe will be fighting for this position with Massaquoi, and will likely lose not based on talent, but rather, that you can’t cut or place your second your draft pick on the developmental squad.
Day one: Massaquoi. Not much will be expected of him from the start, which is exactly in line with what the Browns need from their No. 5 receiver
End of season: Massaquoi. Year one for most middle of the second round draft picks is either incredible (very unlikely based on who's in front of Massaquoi) or terrible. See related post here.
As discussed in the beginning. Cribbs will obviously be on the field a lot, but the Browns likely won't carry any other receivers (sorry Syndric), and any Browns fans that think the team should add another WR.