Cleveland Browns Running Back Depth
There’s perhaps no positional room stacked with as much upper-tier talent as that of the Cleveland Browns running back room. The starter, and the straw that stirs the drink, is Nick Chubb.
Wherever you rank Chubb among the league’s best is simply conjecture, because he will not get the same number of touches as the other workhorse backs in the league due to the Browns depth at running back. But the bottom line is that Chubb is elite.
Behind Chubb, you have Kareem Hunt, who is a top ten running back talent in his own right. Hunt is the perfect compliment to Chubb due to his running style and diverse skill set. While Chubb will patiently wait and stretch a defense in order to find a lane and then explode, Hunt will create defense gashing opportunities with his Tazmanian Devil running style. Hunt can operate in the zone running system, but he thrives in pin and pull gap schemes that allow him to come downhill at a defense.
But where Hunt separates himself from all of the Browns running backs is in the pass game. Hunt is an excellent route runner out of the backfield and can even be used in the slot to exploit matchups with linebackers. Aside from his route running, Hunt is a natural release valve player that can create check-down nightmares for defenses because of his playmaking ability once the ball is in his hands.
Then there is D’Ernest Johnson, who proved his effectiveness when called upon in 2021. Johnson is a versatile running back who possesses the ability to effectively run in both zone and gap schemes. Although Johnson does not possess the homerun ability of Chubb and Hunt, he is a chain mover who can take chunks out of a defense.
There’s not a better third-string running back in the NFL, and if the Browns were to cut Johnson to make room for either of the next two players, Johnson would most likely compete for a starting role with his next team.
Rounding out the running back room is Demetric Felton and rookie Jerome Ford. Felton is a second-year running back that has, to this point, not yet demonstrated the ability to be an effective NFL back. The value that Felton has shown so far has been as a receiver. He is being given the opportunity to show what he can do as a running back this offseason, but Felton is going to have an uphill battle to make the roster this year.
This brings us to Jerome Ford. The Browns drafted Ford out of the University of Cincinnati, where the running back was a touchdown machine. Ford is a highly capable runner who has shown flashes of being a dual-threat in the passing game out of the backfield. The Browns could have a diamond in the rough on their hands, and the future successor to Hunt as Chubb’s backup.
Right now, the running back room is at five players, and it is supremely doubtful that even four players will make the final roster. It will all hinge on Ford’s ability to show that his game transfers to the NFL. If so, both Johnson and Felton could find themselves on the chopping block. For Johnson, it would most likely mean a larger role on another team. For Felton, there would be an outside chance to wind up on the Browns practice squad.
This is a room that will need to be revisited after roster cutdowns. But as of right now…
Running back depth: A+