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Ranking the 2012 Browns from 1 to 53

Jan 03, 2013 -- 6:00am


By Tony Grossi

The Morning Kickoff …

Here we go again: Ranking the Browns players from 1 to 53 always is a sobering experience. It puts into perspective how far away the team is from being truly competitive, let alone elite.

The Browns still don’t have a single difference-maker, a player on offense or defense who can change a game. They added a few who may develop into that type of player, but as rookies they were certainly not game-changers.

These rankings are based solely on my observations. I considered playing time, contributions, roles, production and impact. Obviously, a player who appeared in seven games is not going to have the same impact as a player who appeared in 16 games – even if he is a better player. A few players who did not finish the season were not ranked.

I know that a professional talent evaluator or coach will differ with my rankings. I don’t pretend to study film. I merely watch the games and report on them.

The 2012 Browns from 1 to 53

1. LT Joe Thomas: After a slow start, he may have been at his best in the second half of his sixth straight Pro Bowl season.

2. PK Phil Dawson: Arguably the only player on the team who is the best in the NFL at his position.

3. RB Trent Richardson: Two broken ribs, 11 rushing touchdowns. Showed flashes of what he can be when healthy.

4. LB D’Qwell Jackson: Plenty of tackles, as usual, but also 3.5 sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, two recoveries, one touchdown and tons of leadership.

5. CB Joe Haden: Emerged as the best player on defense – and most valuable -- but five missed games (four because of PED suspension) knocked him down a few notches.

6. WR Josh Gordon: Youngest player on the team owned the most athletic skills and the most big plays. Had a big impact and stayed clean, winning over all  skeptics.

7. DE Jabaal Sheard: Had six sacks in the last eight games to lead team with seven. Improved his defense against the run in second season.

8. WR Greg Little: Led team with 53 catches and matured into a sound No. 2 after the bye week. Had one drop over the last seven games.

9. SS T.J. Ward: His best season in three, though he failed to make it through 16 games for the second year in a row.

10. DT Ahtyba Rubin: Production fell off because of offseason sports hernia surgery and calf injury that cost him three full games. Still, a model lineman.

11. C Alex Mack: Very solid and dependable, as usual.

12. RT Mitchell Schwartz: An instant stalwart bookend tackle to Joe Thomas.

13. DE Frostee Rucker: Helped solidify the run defense on the right edge.

14. CB Sheldon Brown: Led secondary in pass breakups and had a touchdown at the age of 33. Fourth-best streak for a defensive player of 175 consecutive games played ended because of a concussion.

15. KR-PR Josh Cribbs: Touchdown-less, but his 27.4-yard kickoff return average was fifth in league and his 12.0 punt return average was fourth.

16. TE Ben Watson: Once the quarterback discovered him, he made some plays.

17. QB Brandon Weeden: Won more games and threw for more yards than any Browns rookie quarterback.

18. DT Phil Taylor: When he returned for the final seven games after May pectoral muscle surgery, the run defense improved by 30 yards per game.

19. FS-SS Usama Young: After missing most of preseason, he played in 14 games and started 12, and co-led team with three interceptions.

20. DT-DE Billy Winn: Filled in competently early, made some plays and displayed the versatility to play tackle and end.

21. CB Buster Skrine: Coaches love his toughness and fearlessness. Fans hate his penalties. His size limits him to the nickel role.

22. DE Juqua Parker: Had six sacks, two forced fumbles and one recovery in spot duty.

23. LB Craig Robertson: One of the biggest surprises, he finished second in tackles playing mostly as a nickel linebacker.

24. RB Montario Hardesty: Had his moments and showed a nice burst at times, but you don’t want to throw to him.

25. WR-KR Travis Benjamin: His speed can take your breath away, but ball security and durability was a concern.

26. TE Jordan Cameron: Has a ways to go to prove he can be a reliable starter.

27. LB Kaluka Maiava: Perhaps more valuable as a full-time special teamer than as a starter.

28. DT John Hughes: Did better than most expected. His three sacks were fourth among linemen.

29. LB L.J. Fort: What would have been had he caught that interception on the second-last play of the first game against Philadelphia?

30. OG John Greco: A dependable swingman on the offensive line whose nickname was Meatball.

31. TE Alex Smith: Filled in as a blocking fullback and brought some energy to the running game.

32. LB James-Michael Johnson: Got in eight starts in between injuries.

33. ST Johnson Bademosi: Dethroned Cribbs as the leading tackler on special teams.

34. RB Chris Ogbonnaya: Caught 22 passes as a part-time third-down back; a core player on special teams.

35. WR Mohamed Massaquoi: Seventeen catches in nine games secured his departure as his contract runs out.

36. DT Ishmaaa’ily Kitchen: Waiver pickup earned his spot and appeared in 15 games.

37. FS Ray Ventrone: Special teams ace had 35-yard run out of punt formation in Game 16.

38. RG Shawn Lauvao: Answered the bell for every offensive snap.

39. FS Tashaun Gipson: Undrafted free agent wound up starting three games.

40. QB Colt McCoy: Difficult season ended with another injury and harsh words with Pat Shurmur.

41. LS Christian Yount: No major problems.

42. P Reggie Hodges: Finished 31st in gross average and 30th in net, his appeal to fans helped Dawson’s Pro Bowl campaign.

43. CB Dimitri Patterson: Drew ire of coaches and some teammates by milking a high ankle sprain for eight weeks.

44. LB Scott Fujita: Scored biggest victory of difficult season by having name cleared in Saints bounty scandal.

45. WR Josh Cooper: Had nine catches in five games; deserved more time.

46. QB Thad Lewis: Goes down in annals as 18th Browns QB to start since 1999.

47. FS Eric Hagg: Gave back opening day starting job by making no plays.

48. CB Trevin Wade: Twelve games as a reserve and special teamer were inconclusive.

49. RB Brandon Jackson: In only appearance, had 54 yards rushing on eight attempts in final game against Pittsburgh.

50. OT Oniel Cousins: Lined up as tackle-eligible in short-yardage and goal line.

51. OT Ryan Miller: Not much action in rookie season.

52. FB-TE Brad Smelley: Should have been activated much sooner.

53: FB Owen Marecic: Nine games at fullback, no carries, no catches.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi


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