Which UDFAs can make the Cleveland Browns roster in 2020?
The Cleveland Browns, like all other NFL teams, spend the days before, during, and after the NFL Draft talking to college players about signing with them as undrafted free agents. In doing so, teams are hoping to find one or two players that were missed during the draft and become productive NFL players. Every year there seems to be some player that claws his way from obscurity onto a depth chart somewhere.
This past off-season, the Browns signed 15 of these players in hopes of they have found that player or two. Below is the list of those 15 undrafted free agents signed after the draft per CevelandBrowns.com:
Solomon Ajayi, Linebacker, Liberty
Elijah Benton, Safety, Liberty
Ja'Marcus Bradley, Wide Receiver, Louisiana
Tony Brown, Wide Receiver, Colorado
Kevin Davidson, Quarterback, Princeton
Drake Dorbeck, Offensive Tackle, Southern Mississippi
A.J. Green, Cornerback, Oklahoma State
George Obinna, EDGE, Sacramento State
Brian Herrien, Running Back, Georgia
Jameson Houston, Cornerback, Baylor
Jovante Moffatt, Safety, Middle Tennessee State
Benny LeMay, Running Back, Charlotte
Alex Taylor, Offensive Tackle, South Carolina State
Jeffery Whatley, Defensive Line, South Alabama
Nate Wieting, Tight End, Iowa
Most of these players will likely find their way to the Browns, or other NFL teams, practice squad to spend most if not all of 2020, or not make it on a team at all. If the Browns are lucky, one or two might be good enough to earn a roster spot. Here are five that could likely find themselves in brown and orange game one.
5. Solomon Ajayi, Linebacker, Liberty
The Browns front office has decided that linebacker is not where they are going to spend any money to keep or bring in big-time talent. That makes for an excellent opportunity for UDFA Soloman Ajayi by creating more reps to show what he can do.
Not only does the lack of depth give Ajayi a chance to make the roster he could also see significant playing time if he is as good as he looked for Liberty last season.
Ajayi finished his college career at Liberty with 165 tackles, two interceptions, two passes defended, two sacks, two fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles, and one interception return touchdown. At 6-1 and 235 pounds, he has the size to play any linebacker position. While Ajayi was not able to show off his speed or agility because of COVID-19 canceling his pro day, it is believed that he runs in the 4.7 range in the 40 according to most scouting sites.
Browns fans and media alike are concerned about the depth at linebacker and rightfully so. If Ajayi can bring that speed, along with some big-play ability, to camp Ajayi has a real chance to land on the roster at a position of pressing need.
4. A.J. Green, Cornerback, Oklahoma State
A.J. Green is on this list for two reasons, experience and the Browns paid big UDFA money to bring him to Cleveland. Usually, that means a team likes what you bring to the table. For Green, it is a 6-2 frame and 40 games of experience at Oklahoma State.
As stated above, Green's size and experience are his two most significant assets. Green was very productive in his time with the Oklahoma State Cowboys with 147 total tackles, 21 passes defended, six interceptions, two forced fumbles, and an interception return for a touchdown. Green, with only a 4.69 time in the 40, will need to be very physical at the line if he is going to keep receivers in front of him.
That is unless Green is one of those rare players that plays faster than his times at the combine have shown. Green has already stated to the Cleveland media that he comes to the Browns with a "mountain on my shoulder," so motivation should not be an issue.
While it may be hard for him to find any time in a deep cornerback group, special teams is always a way to get on a roster and fight to get to the top.
3. Alex Taylor, Offensive Tackle, South Carolina State
The Cleveland Browns offensive line has gone from a weak link in 2019 to a potential strength in 2020. With the signing of Jack Conklin and the drafting of Jedrick Wills Jr., the Browns feel they have fixed the tackle position.
Cleveland also has depth at the position in Kendall Lamm and, a former starter, Chris Hubbard, even on the team. You're probably asking yourself, then why is Alex Taylor on this list. The answer is simple, young cheap backup talent. If Taylor can show he can hold his own during camp and preseason, it would allow the Browns to cut either Lamb or Hubbard, adding minimal but valuable cap space.
Taylor brings the prototypical size that most teams look for in a tackle at 6-8 301 pounds, and he could hold a bit more weight/muscle on his frame. Taylor's strengths are his mobility and length highlighted by his 5.09 time in the 40-yard dash and a 4.79 time in the 20-yard shuttle.
Those times are right in the wheelhouse for a lineman to be successful in a zone scheme. Taylor will need to get stronger and improve his overall technique to compete at the NFL level but is a high-end developmental lineman. Taylor has a lot of raw ability and has a real chance of latching on to the roster because of it.
2. Elijah Benton, Safety, Liberty
According to cleveland.com's Terry Pluto, Benton is a player that Browns' scouts loved on tape and cant wait to get on the field. That came out after the Browns drafted Grant Delpit in the draft, so take that for what you will.
While the Cleveland Browns did a solid job filling the safety position with free agents Karl Joseph and Andrew Sendejo, they are both only on one-year deals. That opens the door for a young safety like Benton to sneak on the back end of the roster.
Benton, like Solomon Ajayi, spent his college years at Liberty University. Benton played in 44 games for Liberty, making 26 starts. During his time there, he totaled 205 tackles, 85 of those came in his senior season, nine passes defended, two interceptions, a sack, and a forced fumble. Benton has a smallish frame at 6-1 205 pounds that could be a concern against NFL players.
He was also unable to show off his athletic ability during a pro day as, like teammate Soloman Ajayi, it was canceled by COVID19. While it does not sound like a player that jumps off the page, the Browns see something they like, so he has a chance.
1. Brian Herrien, Running Back, Georgia
Running back may be the deepest group for a player to latch onto with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt locked into the top spots and Dontrell Hilliard along with D'Ernest Johnson fighting for the third back. Most might think it is crazy that a college career backup is on this list.
Brian Herrien is not a typical college backup. Herrien excelled when given a chance, but with backs like Sony Michel, Nick Chubb mentioned above, D'Andre Swift, and more on the roster, the chances were slim.
Herrien finished his career at Georgia, rushing 277 times for 1,413 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also was able to put up 28 catches for 167 yards and two touchdowns.
The Georgia running back was also a willing blocker during his time and even returned ten kickoffs over the last two seasons. While he only ran a 4.62 40 at the combine, he is a tough runner that averaged 5.1 yards per carry, and with 16 catches as a senior proving, he could be a threat receiving also.
In the end, it will be a tough road but the last Georgia running back the Browns took has done ok, Herrien might just prove another should join him.