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 www.espncleveland.com. |
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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