6 Cleveland Browns benchwarmers who may emerge in 2023
1. James Hudson III, OT
We hope Jimmy Haslam III is not jealous, because there is another JH3 in town and he plays football for the Cleveland Browns. James Hudson III may be ready to mount a serious challenge to Jedrick Wills for the starting job at left tackle.
Neither one was a superstar last season, so whoever steps it up could grab the starting role. To compare, we can use Pro Football Focus as a neutral authority, if not without controversy. They rank Wills as the 56th-best tackle in the NFL among qualifiers.
Thus, based on 64 nominal starters in the NFL, Wills would rank near the bottom. He is credited with six sacks allowed, the 15th highest in the NFL, which actually seems like a low number. Perhaps this fan’s expectations are set too high, but it seemed like there was always a lot of heat coming from the left side of the Browns line.
Wills was a first-round pick from the Alabama Crimson Tide and everyone seemed to think he was a great choice. However, he never got any better, while Andrew Thomas and Tristan Wirfs from that draft developed into stud tackles.
Hudson, drafted in the fourth round in 2021, is graded even lower by PFF than Wills. Had Hudson had enough snaps to qualify, he would have ranked about 68th, which would put him in the category of a capable backup, which he was last season. However, the eyeball test says that he improved significantly from his rookie season to last year.
In his rookie year, Hudson seemed overmatched, particularly in the Pittsburgh game, in which T.J. Watt had a dominant game and cemented his claim to the Defensive Player of the Year Award. That was terrible to watch. He seemed to be more effective in year two in the pros.
We might also question whether Hudson’s better position is right tackle or left tackle. Hudson probably excels at run blocking, which would possibly make him better at right tackle than left, though he has experience at both. However, Jack Conklin is probably not going anywhere.
Anyway, giving Hudson a legit shot at left tackle might just bring out the best in Jed Wills. There’s nothing wrong with a little competition in football. It can only help the team and sharpen the skills of both players.