As the Cleveland Browns inch closer to the season, let's take a look at three players who could make a surprising impact on the 2020 season.
The Cleveland Browns and general manager Andrew Berry has put together a roster that appears to have a good amount of depth on it at most positions. With Berry adding key players at positions of weakness through free agency and the draft, he set the Browns up for success in 2020.
Questions remain however, especially at the linebacker position where is was only addressed with the signing of a sparsely used linebacker and a third-round draft pick. But there are many players on this roster who can pop-up and surprise us.
Here are three players who can make surprise impacts in 2020.
No. 3: Jojo Natson, WR/KR
Jojo Natson was signed as a free agent in March from the L.A. Rams. Natson was not brought on this team to catch passes. His value to this club will be on special teams returning kicks. Something the Browns struggled with a season ago.
With a 22.2 yard per kick return last season, and excellent speed, Natson has game-changing abilities in the return game. He has never busted one for a touchdown in his three-season playing career, but hopefully that changes in 2020.
While his value on special teams is why he was brought to Cleveland, expect Natson to get a chance at playing time on offense. Speed kills, and that is something that Natson provides. With the lack of depth behind Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry questionable, Natson should be able to show what he can do in training camp.
Look for Natson to not only be a big-time player on special teams but also a limited contributor on the offensive side of the ball in 2020.
No. 2: Pharaoh Brown, TE
The Brush High School and Oregon product, Pharaoh Brown could be a key contributor for Kevin Stefanski's tight-end friendly offense. With two clear cut tight ends ahead of Brown on the depth chart in Austin Hooper and David Njoku, the Browns also brought in rookie Harrison Bryant to compete with the veteran Brown for playing time.
Brown saw action in nine games last season and caught two balls for 27 yards. He didn't get many chances but he made the most of them and proved that he not only possesses excellent size and good speed for a tight end in the NFL but that he also has sure hands. Brown also shows a willingness to block when on the field, which will be huge in Stefanski's offense.
We saw in flashes in pre-season of what Brown can do if given an opportunity. Its also not out of the realm of possibility to see Brown compete in an H-back type role as well with Harrison Bryant and Andy Janovich.
And with opportunity knocking, it's now or never for Brown to deliver. Look for the hometown kid Pharaoh Brown to carve out some sort of role with this offense in 2020.
No. 1: Chad Thomas, DE
Second-year defensive end Chad Thomas started to come on strong toward the end of last season. The former third-round pick out of Miami, Thomas had four sacks and 26 tackles during his second season in the league.
Steve Wilks, the former Browns defensive coordinator, appreciated Thomas' work last season.
"I think he does a tremendous job playing the 6-technique … and I think he has been decent in the pass rush," Wilks said. "He is quick off the ball, and he has great acceleration." -Steve Wilks, via ClevelandBrowns.com
Finally armed with the confidence that he can play in this league after sitting out most of his rookie season, Thomas could flourish in 2020. With a healthy Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon on the field, Thomas can rotate with them and come in on third down, pass-rushing situations.
An uptick in Thomas' play would be welcomed by the Cleveland Browns as they did not really address the pass-rushing aspect of its roster this offseason aside from the addition of Adrian Clayborn. Thomas should get an abundant opportunity to prove what he can do.
And who knows, with a stellar third season under his belt and Vernon being in a contract year, Thomas could wind up being a starter on the opposite end of Myles Garrett in 2021.