1. Dontrell Hilliard, Running Back
It was this time last season when Dontrell Hilliard started to become a star for the Browns. Undrafted the season prior out of Tulane, Hilliard had begun to win coaches and fans over with his receiving skill out of the backfield and his ‘take on the world’ attitude. And with Kareem Hunt suspended for eight games and Duke Johnson being traded to the Houston Texans, Hilliard’s rise was a breath of fresh air.
He started to make good on that promise as he had three receptions for 80 yards and ran in a four-yard touchdown on his only career in Week 1. Then, he went radio silent in Week 2 before scoring again in Week 3. From that week on, he hardly saw the ball come his way and once Hunt was reinstated, he was a forgotten man.
Hilliard didn’t just lose touches to Hunt either as he also saw his chances as a return man start to die off with D’Ernest Johnson starting to get more involved in that area. Johnson, who was another member of the Orlando Apollos signed by Cleveland showed some promise and for that reason, he could challenge Hilliard for the No. 3 running back job this season.
Neither player is expected to be a difference-maker in the base offense — which is expected with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. That means it will likely come down to the return game — and they were both decent in that area overall.
Hilliard finished with 24.8 yards per kickoff return and 7.1 as a punt returner compared to 25.8 and 4.5 on punts for Johnson (although he had just two punt returns).
There isn’t room for both so that puts Hilliard on the defensive as he has to prove he’s the superior option to Johnson.