There are some players on the Cleveland Browns who didn't stand out last season but are bound to explode in 2020.
All of 2019 was a disappointment for the Cleveland Browns but there are some players who played well, despite what the stats may say. If you pair the talent on this team with their new (and hopefully improved) coaching staff led by former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, expectations for the Browns coming to this season are as high as ever.
They addressed a lot of their problems in the off-season starting with a new front office led by Andrew Berry as well as allowing Stefanski to replace nearly every coaching position — although he did keep special teams coach Mike Priefer who has connections to Stefanski from their days in Minnesota together.
The Browns added talent on the offensive line, defensive line and secondary through free agency and the draft. But you won't find any of those players on this list of players who could explode in 2020. Instead, these are all players who were on the roster last season and for one reason or another are going to take huge a leap for these revamped Browns.
These are also players that will be crucial to the team improving their record. With the NFL expanding the playoffs to seven teams, improving by a couple of wins could land Cleveland a playoff spot.
That is a long way away for this team but when you look at their roster it's hard to envision them being worse than they were last year. Keep an eye out for these three players to be a big part of the turnaround.
3. Olivier Vernon
A lot of fans and media have called for Olivier Vernon to be let go by the Browns, mainly because it would save the team $15 million in cap space. Plus he only had 26 tackles and three and a half sacks last season.
That doesn't seem like enough production for the highest-paid player on the team. But when you watch the tape, Vernon actually played good in 2019. He was good against the run which was rare on a defense that ranked 30th against the run.
Vernon has the strength to hold his position and the intelligence to stay home. Sometimes his impact doesn't show up on the stat sheet because he forces runs back inside or gets double-teamed. And he got after the quarterback at a decent rate although his sack numbers don't reflect it.
Vernon seemed to be on the top of the chopping block going into the offseason because he can be cut and Cleveland would save $15 million in cap space.
All Vernon needs to do is convert some of his good plays to the stat sheet. If he does look for him to be a standout for this defense.
2. Kareem Hunt
It wasn't that he had a bad season in 2019 but Kareem Hunt was suspended for the first eight games so he didn't contribute as much as he could've if he played the full season.
Hunt had just 179 rush yards, 285 receiving yards, and three touchdowns. Not bad for half of a season by your backup running back but there are two reasons why his numbers will explode, playing the full season of course and the new system put in by head coach Kevin Stefanski.
The Browns will run the ball a lot under Stefanski, last season when he was the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings they were one of just three teams who ran the ball more than they passed.
They were led by Dalvin Cook with over 1,100 yards but his backups also played really well. Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, and Ameer Abdullah combined for 850 yards and had a big impact when Cook wasn't on the field.
Hunt is a far better backup than all of those players so if he gets the same amount of opportunities he will take advantage. He was the league's leading rusher as a rookie in 2018.
Running back is one of the most physically demanding positions in football and the Browns got lucky last year with Nick Chubb playing all 16 games. It's unlikely for that to happen again so there could be a couple of games when Hunt takes on the full load.
Hunt will have 1,000 all-purpose yards if he can stay healthy in 2020.
1. Greedy Williams
This may be an unpopular selection for a sleeper because Greedy Williams was a second-round pick in 2019 and was considered a first-round talent by most.
Two reasons he fell in the draft were injuries and tackling ability. One of those happened in his rookie season, he missed four games due to injury. His tackling wasn't really an issue he wasn't afraid to stick his nose in plays and had 47 tackles which were a few more than fellow cornerback Denzel Ward.
He was known for his ball skills which he didn't show in his rookie year, he only recorded two pass breakups and no interceptions. Some of that can be attributed to him missing the beginning of the season and also the plays being called by former defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.
Cleveland ran a lot of zone coverage last year and Williams thrives in man coverage. So not only was he trying to adjust to NFL receivers but also playing more zone coverage than he ever played in college at LSU.
There is a new staff for the Browns and hopefully, they put Williams and Ward in more man coverage so they can make plays on the ball. Williams will improve in zone coverage as well after playing it most of last season.
Williams will get his hands on an interception and will continue to improve tackling. Also, be on the lookout for him covering in the slot as well.