Assessing the Cleveland Browns UDFAs' Chances of Making the Roster
Depth is a necessity if you want to have a competitive team in the final weeks of the regular season. The Cleveland Browns have arguably the most starting talent they have had since their return in 1999. Now they have to add the right guys for depth.
Injuries happen in the NFL. It is the unfortunate reality of the league. The way you combat those injuries is with a roster full of guys who can step in and compete at a high level.
The Browns selected six players in the draft and then signed 11 more undrafted free agents. Those undrafted free agents may not have gotten to walk across the stage in New York, but they have an opportunity just the same.
The great general managers in the NFL can identify contributors who were not drafted. Browns general manager Ray Farmer gets his first shot at doing that this season.
Let’s take a look at some of the undrafted free agents and assess their chances of making the roster.
The Browns entered the offseason with one fullback on the roster, and he is not even really a fullback. Chris Ogbonnaya was converted last season and did an admirable job in the role.
Unfortunately for him, he is just 225 pounds and not a traditional run-blocker. The Browns addressed this issue by signing fullback Ray Agnew out of Southern Illinois.
Agnew is 5’10”, 247 pounds and the very definition of a fullback. He was the lead blocker for an offense that rushed for 153 yards per game and 14 touchdowns last season. He also has an NFL pedigree.
His father played 11 seasons in the NFL and now works in the personnel for the St. Louis Rams.
As long as Agnew stays healthy and performs reasonably well, he is pretty much a lock to make the roster. Ogbonnaya did his best last season, but they need a true fullback to lead the run game. They have quite a bit of depth at the position and Agnew could force Ogbonnaya off the roster.
The most interesting undrafted free-agent signing the Browns made this offseason was definitely running back Isaiah Crowell. CBSSports.com’s Dane Brugler says he is probably the most talented runner entering the NFL this season but has serious character issues.
He failed a drug test while at Georgia and was also hit with two felony weapons charges. If he can keep his head on straight, he has a legitimate chance of not only making the roster but making an impact.
Isaiah Crowell would be a good bet. RT @mike_oconnell_: Who is this years Vontaze Burfict?— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) May 12, 2014
Crowell has an uphill battle to make the roster simply because of the amount of talent the Browns have at the running back position. Ben Tate and Terrance West are locks to make the team, and that leaves probably just one more spot for a running back. If he doesn’t get into any trouble, Crowell will snag the final spot over guys like Edwin Baker and Chris Ogbonnaya.
With the suspension of wide receiver Josh Gordon hanging over the Browns' heads, there is an opportunity for undrafted wide receivers to make the team. Head coach Mike Pettine told the media on Wednesday that the team is not thinking about the suspension.
“For us, until we’re told otherwise, it’s business as usual,” said Pettine after practice, per Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com.
He can say that, but the team’s actions prove otherwise. They signed Miles Austin and Earl Bennett and also signed multiple undrafted free agent receivers. One of those guys is Jonathon Krause.
Krause is a 5’11”, 187-pound receiver out of Vanderbilt. He caught 42 passes for 714 yards and three touchdowns last season. His most impressive characteristic, however, is his speed. He has sub 4.40-second 40-yard dash speed, and that is something you just can’t coach.
Krause will have a leg up on some other receivers trying to make the roster because he can also return punts. He returned two for touchdowns in his college career. Unfortunately for him, there seem to be better options to make the squad. He is probably headed to the practice squad if he winds up sticking around.
Another one of the receiver candidates this offseason is San Jose State’s Chandler Jones. Jones comes to the Browns boasting some seriously gaudy collegiate stats and an even more impressive 40-yard dash time.
At San Jose State, he finished as the career leader in receptions, yards and touchdowns. He was the first player in school history to haul in 50 receptions in each of his seasons at the school.
He also runs a 4.30 40-yard dash, which is crazy fast. He too has an NFL pedigree, as his father played seven seasons as a wide receiver in the NFL.
Jones is not huge; he is just 5’9” and 183 pounds, but he has game-breaking speed and great hands.
Jones is the one receiver most likely to make the team. He showed a great ability to separate in college, and as long as he can continue to do that he will be fine. He also has the added talent of being a kick returner.
Willie Snead had such a great career at Ball State that he opted not to stay for his senior season. He set a school record with 13 100-yard receiving games and caught 25 touchdown passes in just three seasons.
He is already making his presence felt at Browns minicamp and could be one of the front-runners for a roster spot early on.
WR Willie Snead (Ball State) making his presence known today with a couple of nice catches #Browns— Daryl Ruiter (@RuiterWrongFAN) May 21, 2014
He is 5’11”, 195 pounds and the best receiver in Ball State history. He is not particularly quick—he ran just a 4.62 40-yard dash—but he is a great route-runner and understands how to position his body against a defender.
Snead has a great shot at making the Browns roster and I think he will. The other receivers he is competing with may be faster but already knowing technique and running good routes is rare for rookies. The Browns will need guys who can step in and produce immediately if called upon and Snead is one of those guys.