2016 Team Preview The Cleveland Browns appeared to be playing this off-season a little more reserved than years past, as their only significant move leading up to draft day was the resigning of All World receiver Josh Gordon to a record breaking 7 year contract, that made him the highest paid receiver in the league. It turns out that the Browns were apparently just saving themselves for draft day, as a flurry of moves before and during the draft saw the Browns say goodbye to a future Hall of Famer, welcome the player they considered to be the best in the draft, and stockpile picks for next year's draft. Key Moves: The Browns traded cornerstone left tackle Joe Thomas to the Philadelphia Eagles for a package of picks including the Eagles 2nd this year and 1st next season. While it's never easy to trade away a franchise player, this was a business decision for the Browns, centered around getting younger and shedding a big contract. Cleveland traded their 1st round pick in the 2017 draft, for a package of picks from the Atlanta Falcons, acquiring a 2nd & 3rd in this year's draft and a 3rd in the 2017 draft. Another trade between the Falcons & Browns saw the Browns score the 2nd overall pick in this draft, in exchange for their own 1st round pick, while also sending the Falcons their original 2nd round pick back. The Browns made a number of other trades during the draft, that saw them moving all over the draft board. In the end they came away with 7 players that they are happy with, and picked up some additional picks in next year's draft. OFFENSE QB: Johnny Manziel comes into his 3rd season expecting to have a breakout year. After a disastrous rookie season, that saw him lead the league in INTs, Manziel rebounded to have a solid sophomore campaign in the sim season. Manziel has all the tools to succeed at a very high level in this league, he just has to put it all together on the field. HB: After being crowned rookie of the year in 2015, 2nd year halfback JaMichael Elmore spent the off-season continuing to hone his craft. Elmore reportedly still has a huge chip on his shoulder; after going from a potential top 5 pick last year, to free falling all the way to the end of the 3rd round. Elmore is determined to show that he is a MVP caliber player and make every other team in the league regret passing on him in the draft. The Browns feel that halfback is the deepest position on their offense, as they have former starter Ben Tate waiting in the wings behind Elmore. Youngsters Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West round out a ridiculously deep (and young) running back corps. WR: Despite listening to trade offers all off-season on their young superstar receiver Josh Gordon, it was clear that the browns didn't want to move the talented game breaker. After a long period of on and off negotiations, the Browns and Gordon finally agreed on a record setting $153M, 7 year contract. With the recent trend of veteran receivers' skills rapidly declining with age, the Browns are thrilled to be able to hang onto one of the best in the game, who has yet to even hit his prime. Rookie receiver Russ Justice, the 2nd overall pick in the draft, appears to be the real deal. It didn't take him very long in training camp to begin lining up opposite of Gordon with the first team. Some have compared him to a young Randy Moss or Megatron, but in the end those comparisons may not do the youngster any justice (no pun intended). He is a beast all his own, and it may not be long before Justice is considered the top receiver on this team (and quite possibly in the league). The sky is the limit for this kid. The addition of Justice allows 2nd year receiver Arron Preston, a teammate of Justice's at OSU, to slide into the slot position and continue to learn the intricacies of the pro game. Fellow 2nd year burner Dee Irvin could certainly benefit from all of the talent in this group, as his speed will allow him to break away quickly if the defense loses track of him for even a moment. TE: While all the talk about the Browns pass catchers seems to focus on their talented young receivers, you can bet that defensive coordinators around the league haven't forgotten about the Browns talented group of tight ends. Jordan Cameron and Jermaine Gresham, both former Pro Bowlers who are still in the prime of their careers, give the Browns offense a pair of weapons that can certainly keep those coordinators up at night. OFFENSIVE LINE: The Browns will field one of the youngest offensive line units in the league. With 2nd year players and rookies dominating the OL depth chart, this is a group that will continue to learn and improve on the job. Last year's top pick, left tackle Archie Massey, certainly has some big shoes to fill. After a solid rookie season starting on the right side, Massey is expected to be even better, with the move back to his natural position on the left side. Fellow 2nd year lineman, and brother of Archie, Kyler Massey will most likely make the move from right guard to tackle to fill in for his brother there. Another 2nd year player, center Dulan Saunders, played like a seasoned pro last season, and appears to be the man in the middle for the Browns for the foreseeable future. DEFENSE DEFENSIVE LINE: The Browns got plenty of size and experience up front leading the charge for the defense. With big Phil Taylor from Baylor on one side, Desmond Bryant on the other, and nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin clogging up the middle, the Browns have a unit that would rival the power of any in the league. Not to be forgotten is veteran edge rusher Paul Kruger, who give the Browns a pure pass rusher on passing downs. Rookie Broughan Porter, a 2nd round pick out of Florida State, comes out of camp looking even better than advertised. Despite tipping the scales at 340+, Porter also moves pretty good for a big man and is capable of playing anywhere on the line in the Browns 3-4 scheme. Expect this fast developping rookie to see plenty of snap on D this year. LINEBACKER: With the addition of budding superstar Vontaze Burfict, signed away from rival Cincinnati in Free Agency, the Browns feel like their linebacking corps is amongst the best in the league. Burfict teaming up with the returning Justin Houston give this defense one of the best pair of middle linebackers this side of San Francisco. On the outside the Browns return the young and talented duo of Barkevious Mingo and Jabaal Sheard. Both capable of getting to the QB in a hurry, the plan is to let these two wreak havoc in offensive backfields this season. Behind the talented starters, the Browns have some intriguing young prospects waiting in the wings. Chris Kirksey, Darius Eubanks, and Trevardo WIlliams have all shown promise in training camp and are certainly chomping at the bit to show what they can do when given the opportunity. CORNERBACK: All-Pro cornerback Joe Haden, coming off back to back AFC Defensive Back of the Year awards, is arguably the best cover corner in the game. A tireless worker in the off-season, Haden has continued to hone his craft and has made it clear that he wants to go down as one of the greatest of all time. Justin Gilbert, coming into his 3rd season, has most certainly benefited from playing alongside the tireless Haden. A very good cover man in his own right, with the hands of a receiver, Gilbert knows he will have to be up for the challenge that comes with playing across from a shut down corner like Haden. The rich appeared to get richer when the Browns scooped up Joetavius Mills in the 5th round of the draft. While he had some off field concerns that dropped his draft stock, Mills is a 1st round quality talent who has the potential to be a superstar in this league. Mills has gone on record as saying he couldn't envision a better situation than learning behind Haden and Gilbert as the nickle back for this D. SAFETY: Former Pro Bowl safety Donte Whitner returns as the veteran leader of this defense. Whitner may have lost a step in the speed department, he is still a fearsome tackler and has a nose for the ball carrier. Since coming to this team as a free agent prior to the 2014 season, Sanders Commings has gone from a special teams contributor to a legitimate starting safety in the NFL. A college cornerback, Commings has great instincts as a cover man, but also has shown an ability to cover the run and take down ball carriers.