Now that there’s officially nothing to play for, the Cleveland Browns are expected to rest some of their starters in Week 18. That turns their finale with the Cincinnati Bengals (who are eliminated from the playoffs) into an unofficial preseason game.
There will be plenty of chances for the younger players to hone their skills but most of the stars are done for the regular season. For a team that's dealt with as many injuries as Cleveland has, being able to rest players can be a huge advantage. For us, it makes this a good time to hand out some team awards for the postseason-bound Browns so we can turn all of our attention to the playoffs next week.
Browns Rookie of the Year: Dawand Jones, Ronnie Hickman
On offense, Dawand Jones runs away with this award. He stepped in during their Week 1 win over the Bengals when Jack Conklin went down and there was no noticeable drop off. Jones remained the starter until he was lost for the year due to a knee injury but still proved in 11 games and nine starts that he belongs in the NFL.
Jones was added in the fourth round from Ohio State and Cleveland fans were thrilled to see their front office finally land some Buckeyes. Even their defensive rookie of the year came from OSU, which winds up being safety Ronnie Hickman.
Hickman, an undrafted free agent, was pressed into action when Rodney McLeod was injured. He moved to a starting role in Week 15 and was the highest-graded defensive rookie that weekend. Hickman has been excellent in coverage which was a knock coming out of college. He even recorded a pick-six in the win over the New York Jets in Week 17, turning his first-career interception into a touchdown.
This time, he was the highest-graded safety in the league in Week 17. Hickman has been an excellent addition and while he didn't play early on, he's still done more than enough down the stretch to be their best defensive rookie.