With the ending of the 2010 season, it becomes a time for roster turnover, new personnel, and new players. With the end on the horizon, young players who have yet to make an impact in the league, sweat the length of the off season wondering if they'll be getting another chance next summer.
In Cleveland, with potentially a new coach in the future, the young Browns players should be even more worried than most. A new coach means major changes, whereas if head coach Eric Mangini is retained, most of these players will get a call back for 2011.
So let's take a look at ten players you may not have heard of who could be on the Browns' 2011 opening day roster.
Most Browns fans remember Mitchell's name from a trade in October with the Minnesota Vikings for a late-round 2012 pick, since then he has been on the active roster but, to my knowledge has yet to appear on the field, generally being inactive. It's no secret that Rob Ryan's defensive schemes are complex and take a while to learn, but one would hope he will see the field in the final game of the season.
Mitchell had appeared briefly in 29 games for the Minnesota Vikings in relief of their Pro-Bowl defensive linemen, notching 22 tackles and five sacks. With his 6'6, 285 frame, and just 26 years of age, Mitchell should be just coming into his prime in the league.
Likelihood of 2011 Roster: 75%, Cleveland's defensive line is aging and often injured. A 26 year old with NFL experience should have no problem making the final cut. Hopefully with a preseason and training camp under his belt, and an extra 20 pounds wouldn't hurt, he'll be able to contribute full time next season.
Ko Quaye was signed off the Bills' practice squad less than a week ago due to a lack of depth going into Weeks 16 and 17 on the line. A four-year letterman at the University of South Dakota (2006-2009), Quaye picked up 99 career tackles, 5.5 sacks, and one interception in his time there.
Still very young, Quaye is 23 years old, but is a monster at 6'1 and 307 pounds with the strength he possesses. Given time to learn the scheme, he could be a surprising staple of the Browns' defensive line for years to come.
While at South Dakota, Quaye was a nose tackle and specialized in stopping the run, something Cleveland could definitely benefit from after the embarrassing past three weeks. From his freshman season to junior season, he went from 255 to 300, all the while maintaining 4.93 speed, means he has room to grow and learn still.
Quaye's scouting report states "his quickness and low center of gravity make it tough for blockers to get a hold of and drive off the line. He is a good athlete and shows the ability to control the line and get penetration to disrupt the action in the backfield."
Likelihood of 2011 Roster: 25%, it will be very difficult to cut Quaye next season given his size, youth, and strength alone. Depending on the additions to the line during the offseason, which seem inevitable, Quaye should be at the very least a practice squad participant next season.
Brian Sanford is a rookie undrafted free agent out of Temple. Signing with the Browns during training camp, Sanford has survived all the cuts to finish out the season on the active roster. Still with no notable action, he has enjoyed the luxury of the Browns having no depth on the line.
Appearing in 43 games at Temple University (2006-2009), he grabbed 86 tackles, eight sacks, three forced fumbles, and blocked one field goal. Born September 12, 1987, the 6-2, 280-pounder is still young with a lot of room to improve. If he doesn't make the Browns opening day roster, it's likely he'll be retained on the practice squad.
Likelihood of 2011 Roster: 30%, as with most of the Browns linemen, their jobs depend greatly on the additions in the draft and offseason. It's worth noting that Sanford has been working hard in practice, something Mangini covets in players, and has been on the active roster the end of this season.
A 2010 draft pick of the Cleveland Browns, Mitchell was taken in the sixth round out of South Florida. Coming out of USF, Mitchell was ranked the 55th best receiver in the nation, largely because of injuries and foregoing his senior year. He has played in five games for the Browns this season, getting one carry for nine yards, and otherwise very little action.
The 22 year old has great size and height for a receiver (6'3, 215) and scouts say is still a bit green entering the NFL, as it showed this year. A year on the Browns' sidelines should have him primed for a 2011 breakout season, given his speed and amazing cuts back to the ball, he should be a natural West Coast Offense receiver.
Mitchell started 18-of-37 games at South Florida, catching 105 passes for 1,648 yards and nine touchdowns in a run-first offense. He surprised many scouts by coming out early, expected to be a 2nd or 3rd round pick the following draft, he could very well be a hidden gem in the way of Marques Colston has been to the Saints.
Likelihood of 2011 Roster: 85%, the receiver corp is expected to get a makeover this offseason with how unproductive they have been. Given his short time in the league and untapped potential however, it's unlikely Mitchell's time in Cleveland will be over.
At 5'10, 180 pounds, Norwood isn't going to be the No. 1 receiver on any team in the NFL, not even the Browns. He could however make for an excellent slot receiver. Coming out of Penn State, he was overshadowed by Seahawks' Deon Butler and the Lions' Derrick Williams throughout school, yet still was considered by some scouts as having the most potential of the three.
Finishing college with 158 receptions for 2,015 yards, Norwood's hands and route precision make up for what he lacks in size. A bit slower than his peers, Norwood can catch literally anything thrown at him with ease, drops never being a problem at Penn State.
Likelihood of 2011 Roster: 30%, if Chansi Stuckey is not re-signed this offseason, Norwood could be a front-runner for the slot receiver position with Brian Robiskie, the position both men had success with in college.
Jonathan Haggerty made a big impression on fans and coaches during training camp, signed as a free agent out of Division II Southwestern Oklahoma State just after the draft. Haggerty caught nearly everything thrown his direction prompting Mangini to say, "He's a guy that has an outstanding work ethic, is bright, very bright and he gets it".
At SW Oklahoma State, he caught 173 passes for 2,726 yards and 23 touchdowns in his time there. All the hopes for Haggerty being an impact receiver for the Browns vanished however in late August when he went down for the season with a knee injury.
Likelihood of 2011 Roster: 20%, if Mangini is back, you can bet the kid will get another shot next season. If Mangini doesn't return though it's likely he will get lost in the shuffle. Percentage is based off the head coaching decision.
With the consistent injuries to the tight end corp in Cleveland, it's no surprise they're stocking extras on the practice squad. Tyson DeVree is a 26 year old out of the University of Colorado, standing at 6'6 and weighing 245 pounds, he's hard to miss in the redzone. His final season at Colorado he put up 37 catches for 402 yards with eight touchdowns.
DeVree was signed by New England as a UFA after the draft in 2008. That same year he appeared twice in games for the Patriots, also spending nine weeks on New England’s practice squad, before being released and signing with the Buffalo Bills in 2009. In 2010, DeVree recorded 18 receptions for 174 yards and three touchdowns with the Hartford Colonials of the UFL.
Likelihood of 2011 Roster: 25%, Mangini may be high on Robert Royal but not too many other people have been, as he has consistently dropped key passes. Alex Smith and Greg Estandia have been non-factors, and Estandia has spent most of the season on Injured Reserve.
At 6'2, 300 lbs, the 30 year old is no spring chicken, spending five seasons on the Patriots and earning a Superbowl ring in 2004.
Billy Yates started at Right Guard three times this season.
Once, versus the New England Patriots, the numbers that follow prove the point of his effectiveness. Hillis carried 29 times for 189 yards, Colt McCoy passed for 174 yards, and the New England defense did not notch one sack or interception in a 34-14 Browns victory.
Second, against the New Orleans Saints. No sacks, no interceptions. 30-17 victory.
Third, against the New York Jets. 3 sacks, no interceptions. Yates tears a bicep halfway through the game, Cleveland loses 26-20 in overtime.
Likelihood of 2011 Roster: 90%, you can't argue with success. Yates helped stabilize an often shaky right side of the Browns' line this year, it's unlikely he won't return in 2011.
Phil Trautwein has twice been on the Browns roster, once last season before being signed to the Rams active roster, and now again after an injury cause his St Louis release. Last season Trautwein was active for four games but never notched a play with the team.
A 6'6, 308 pound lineman from the University of Florida, Trautwein helped anchor the Gators 2006 and 2008 National Championship line in front of quarterback Tim Tebow, helping him launch to unseen NCAA heights.
Likelihood of 2011 Roster: 40%, the Browns can definitely use the help on the offensive line, and Trautwein has the intelligence and work ethic to do it. Mangini seems to have taken a shine to him, so expect him back if the coach returns.
Tyler Clutts is a Fullback converted from a Defensive End at Fresno State (2004-2007), currently on the Cleveland Browns practice squad. In 2010, Clutts was on the Sacramento Mountain Lions in the United Football League, showing surprisingly good hands and the ability to catch in the flats, a natural fullback for a West Coast Offense.
At 26 years old, 6-2, 260 pounds, Clutts played in 50 games in college. He totaled 172 tackles, 34.5 stops for loss and 23.5 sacks during that time, if you think the Browns like the versatility of Mike Furrey to play both sides of the ball, they should be head-over-heels for this kid.
Likelihood of 2011 roster: 20%, Lawrence Vickers is playing on an RFA contract and is perhaps the most underrated fullback in the league. If he's looking for a big paycheck, don't expect management to shell it out, especially if Eric Mangini is out and a full West Coast Offense coach comes in.
Tyler Clutts - Fresno State Highlights