5 Most overhyped Cleveland Browns in 2020

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2. Denzel Ward, Cornerback

Let’s get one thing out of the way — in no way is Denzel Ward‘s appearance on this list an indictment of his talent. The No. 4 overall pick in 2018 is a solid defensive back and he has the confidence and skill level to go up against any wide receiver in the league and hold his own.

The problem is, some fans are ready to fit Ward for a gold jacket after he made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. And for any struggles he had in 2019, those have been shrugged off and placed on the shoulders of outgoing defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.

While it’s true the defense struggled last season, Wilks was not the sole reason. The problem boiled down to the roster. Week after week, Wilks had to field a defense that was missing starters. Myles Garrett, Olivier Vernon, Christian Kirksey, and Greedy Williams all missed significant time. So too did Ward, who was out a total of four games in 2019 with hamstring problems. This wasn’t uncommon for Ward, who also missed three games in 2018 with concussions.

Again, no ability in the league is better than availability and Ward has shown in his first two seasons to have concerns there.

On top of that, he did see his performance go in the wrong direction as his grade with Pro Football Reference (subscription required) fell from 78.9 as a rookie to 68.9 last season. He was still a decent corner, coming in at No. 37 out of 115 ranked players but even the newly signed Kevin Johnson fared better as he was ranked 23rd.

Ward should be fine and 2020 is expected to be a bounce-back season for him. Still, he needs to show he can be on the field for 16 games and play more consistently going forward.