By Chris Ross @DraftScout_NFL on May 18, 2014
The Cleveland Browns are one of the NFL's most intriguing teams going into 2014. After years of mediocrity and losing, 2014 could be the year that the Browns finally turn it around. With that said, here is a prediction of what the Browns' starting lineup will look like next season.
Despite reports that the Browns have told Johnny Manziel to prepare to be a backup, I still think Manziel should be Cleveland’s starter. Manziel brings a certain playmaking ability to the offense that Brian Hoyer just can’t provide.
Signed this offseason from the Houston Texans, Ben Tate enters 2014 as the clear starter at the running back position for the Browns. Tate has some injury concerns, but when healthy, he’s a top-15 running back.
Perhaps the weakest part of this offense is the receiving corps. Nate Burleson, Miles Austin and Earl Bennett are all adequate receivers at the NFL level, but none of them come anywhere close to providing the type of target Josh Gordon gives the team.
Coming off a breakout year in 2013, Jordan Cameron enters 2014 as the obvious starter in Cleveland. Cameron is perhaps the team’s most reliable target at this point, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him build upon last year’s breakout.
Although Joe Thomas enters 2014 as arguably the NFL’s best left tackle, Mitchell Schwartz could end up being a liability at right tackle. Schwartz is an inconsistent player, and if he starts off poorly it wouldn't be too surprising to see the team replace him.
Greco is a solid enough player that he should easily win the starting job at left guard for the Browns going into 2014. As for Joel Bitonio, he possesses much more potential than his competition, Jason Pinkston, and I see Bitonio coming out on top in that battle.
Easily the best center in the NFL, Alex Mack enters 2014 as the clear-cut starter at the center position. Mack is great in both the run and pass games, and if his career up to this point is any indication, Mack will continue to be great in 2014.
Ahtyba Rubin is a physical player with some skill as both a run and pass defender, and he should be the starter next season in Cleveland. As for Desmond Bryant, a irregular heartbeat cut his 2013 season short, however, he should be ready to return and become a solid starter on the other side of the line.
One of the best, young nose tackles in the game, Phil Taylor has had a solid career up to this point, and I fully expect him to take another step forward in 2014. Don’t be surprised if soon Taylor is mentioned as one of the best in the league at his position.
Although he didn’t live up to his massive contract last season, Paul Kruger should remain the starter for the Browns. As far as Barkevious Mingo is concerned, the young linebacker is an explosive pass-rusher, and if he can improve in the run game, he could be a star.
He may be raw, however, there’s no doubting Christian Kirksey’s raw ability. Kirksey is reminiscent of Kiko Alonso, and I think he could have a similar impact in 2014. Karlos Dansby is not the explosive, young playmaker Kirksey could be. However, he was a solid addition this offseason and a sure bet to start.
Perhaps the deepest position on the roster, the Browns cornerbacks in 2014 should be Joe Haden and Justin Gilbert without question. Haden is in contention for the league’s best cornerback title, and while Gilbert isn’t all that polished coming out of the college ranks, he should make an impact for the Browns in 2014.
The Browns simply can’t feel good about this position going into 2014. Tashaun Gipson is more of a backup-type, however with no other alternatives on the roster, it appears Gipson will be starting come week one.
Although the Browns probably would've been better off just keeping T.J. Ward this offseason, Donte Whitner isn't too bad as a replacement. If nothing else, Whitner will provide the same kind of physicality as Ward, albeit at a much higher cost.
As far as special teams is concerned, there’s nothing particularly special here. Billy Cundiff will be the starting kicker, while Spencer Lanning will handle punts, and while that’s not awful, it’s not good either. As for the rest of the special teams unit, Christian Yount will handle long-snapping duties, and Travis Benjamin will take care of returns.
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