2014 Depth Chart: Cleveland Browns

A look at the depth and quality of each position on the roster for the 2014 Cleveland Browns.

| 3 years ago

2014 Depth Chart: Cleveland Browns

2014 depth update CLE

[Chart last updated: 7/2/14… see update notes from 7/2/14]


•  In the chart we grade by the position we feel the player is likely to play. In the case of Paul McQuistan, the tackle depth is so limited we feel that’s his most logical location. As a result of injuries to Russell Okung, for the Seahawks last year, he played both LT and LG. Now as a tackle McQuistan was very poor (-23.2 grade) but as a guard he’s perfectly capable (and rated a -1.2 in 2013). If they do play him inside a two grade jump to “average starter” is what we’d expect the difference to be.

•  Both Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor were on the cusp of the “good starter” category but in the end we accepted the same argument about both; they are too limited in what they can do and not quite good enough at what they do well to be considered more than average. Rubin is an excellent run defender but so poor at getting pressure on the quarterback we don’t believe it balances to more than the grade we’ve allocated. With Taylor his pass rush is acceptable for his position but his run defense, while good, isn’t enough for us to think it warrants the next level. John Hughes is the comparison we’d make. His run defense (if anything) was better than Rubin’s while his pass rush wasn’t so poor as to move him down a level. He may not be the starter (although “starter” in a defensive rotation isn’t that relevant), but our opinion is if he was he’d be a good one.

•  I keep asking myself if we’ve been too kind to Barkevious Mingo. When I saw him in training camp he looked like he was on a different planet to the other pass rushers, but after returning from his injury he never played like the player I saw in August. It’s one thing to give players a pass after returning from injury when you’ve see them do it on an NFL field, but he hasn’t yet and his “average” grade, based on pure performance, is remarkably generous. Watch this space and if he plays at the same level this year I’ll consider myself rebuked.

Roster Battles

1.  Left and Right Guard

The Browns were quick off the mark in stating second round draftee Joel Bitonio will initially be tried inside.  There was some speculation after Mitchell Schwartz’s so-so sophomore year he’d be moved inside if Cleveland took a tackle in the draft. That isn’t happening — at least so far — so it will leave, Bitonio, John Greco, Jason Pinkston, Garrett Gilkey and possibly the aforementioned McQuistan fighting for places.

On the basis of previous performance Greco should be safe (if not entirely secure) and Bitonio will be given the chance to win the other job. Just guessing here but moving both positions and sides may be a step too far for a rookie so perhaps it’s Bitonio at LG and Greco at RG to get the OTA’s going. However, if experience if valued over performance it may be Greco on the left and Pinkston on the right.

2.  Left Inside Linebacker

The Browns clearly like Craig Robertson because they never seem too keen to replace him, but for the last two years, after bright starts, his form has just disintegrated. I thought after 2012 they’d keep Kaluka Maiava but Robertson was their choice and he ended the year with a -18.1 grade. This year he’s only got the presence of third-rounder Christian Kirksey to contend with but unless he improves markedly (or Kirksey is poor) that might be a mismatch.


Click here to see all of the depth charts we’ve covered.


Follow Neil on Twitter: @PFF_Neil

| PFF Founder

Neil founded PFF in 2006 and is currently responsible for the service to the company's 22 NFL team customers. He is constantly developing new insights into the game and player performance.

  • Daniel Gleeson

    I have to ask… what did the long snapper do to get that grade?

    • PFF_Neil

      He had the second lowest snap grading of any LSN. Basically we log each snap for accuracy and normalize based on the number of snaps he makes.

  • JWard

    Joe Haden isn’t Elite?

    • BrianB

      I agree. The fact they do not rate him elite brings the entire grading system in question.

      • JWard

        Agreed. Seeing that, it’s hard to take any of these grades seriously. And that’s kind of a shame.

        • PFF_Neil

          I debate whether to answer these types of statement because I really don’t want to appear defensive regarding the charts. A defensive attitude makes it look as if I feel these things should be carved in tablets of stone and I certainly don’t. I read EVERY comment because I’m always looking for a point which may make me alter the chart and effectively make it more accurate (I did it earlier today with Chris Conte because I was wrong).
          It was only your last sentence which made me answer this because you’re right – it would be a shame to write off the information without context.
          So here’s the thing: nearly every fan of every team sees their best player as better than they are and the worst as worse. It’s a universal truth and you can go through the comments for every chart and see almost identical comments about the top player (WRs as often as not) on each team. Interestingly when we showed the coaches and personnel guys for the teams the last set of these at the combine they only do the last part of that. They never see their best guys as better because they know the flaws but they always think their poorer guys are worse – it’s a “I can do better” approach until you point out the guy they think stinks is still better than 40% of other starters and then they think again.

          The underlying point is “elite” is just a term. Until you see the full series and consider who are the players being viewed as comparatively better it’s very difficult to couch an argument beyond “it doesn’t say what I want to hear so therefore it’s wrong”.

          Just as with the long snapper question above we go to lengths nobody else in the world does to provide accurate, insightful and yes, challenging information.

          If you are up for that then dismissing this would be a shame and if you’re not then there are all sorts of websites out there that will tell you exactly what you want to hear with very little effort at all.

          • JWard

            I appreciate the response. Sincerely. And I fully understand the frustrations you must have seeing fans of their teams belittling what they see as slights.

            The problem is we don’t have the context here. Haden is seen across the league, almost universally, as in the elite tier of CBs. The consensus seems to be that Revis, Sherman, Haden, and Peterson are the “elite 4″, with a second tier below them that are all very good CBs. That there seems to be a consensus doesn’t mean that the opinion shared is correct, far from it, but we aren’t given the context needed to understand why Haden is graded outside of that “Elite” tier here. I’m not a regular here, I would say I visit or read an article once a week, and I am not a paying member, but I do see a lot of value in what you all do here. That’s why I included that last line in my reply, that seeing that grade on Haden, without context, will make some (many?) people de-value the entire thing. That is unfortunate. It might be that the entire series will reveal the context as to why he was graded as such, or that I’m just missing something, but right now I don’t see the context explaining the grade, and for a passing reader, it’s hard to understand.

            Certain people absolutely want to live in an echo chamber. I don’t believe I’m one of those people. I think Haden is one of the best 3 or 4 CBs in the league, and I think a lot of other people share that opinion. If you don’t share that opinion that’s fine, but I (and I’m sure others) would like to know why that is. Not that you have to explain yourself or anything, but adding the context adds legitimacy to the rankings.

            I hope that made sense.


            -J Ward

          • Pygskyn

            I would agree that Haden is a top-5 CB, however if you look at their comments on the main page for these depth chart updates, theuy mention that Elite is the best 50 or so players in the league regardless of position.
            If when all is said and done they have 5 or 6 CB’s listed as Elite and Haden isn’t one of them, then yeah, theres an issue. But with so many positions out there the odds of any one position having that many “Elite” players is slim. I’m just guessing here, but I’m guessing that we might see 2… possibly 3 CB’s get an Elite mark. And with Revis, Sherman, Grimes, Haden, and Peterson all in the mix for those 2 or 3 spots, somebody that is in that “Elite Teir” is likely to be left on the outside looking in.

          • jtruff

            You have to realize that you are asking an awful lot of PFF, here. What these depth charts are is a cliff notes version of their full body of work. They’ve taken hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of time grading film quantifying performances objectively and subjectively then presenting that information behind their pay wall. Even if all of that data were free most people would never go through it all and digest how they come to their conclusions. They either don’t have the time or the interest. Instead, most people want the quick and easy cliff notes version of who is good and who isn’t. Then, once they’re told, they dismiss the work entirely for not being thorough and failing to conform to conventional wisdom.

            Here is why they have Joe Haden as very good but not elite.

            In the past three years he has graded out as +8.4, +8.3, and +10.2. Those grades rank 18th of 110, 20th of 113, and 13th of 109 qualifying CB’s. He’s consistent, and quite good, but he’s never graded out in the top 10 of his position.

            If you’d prefer some more objective metrics here are some from the last year:

            Joe Haden allowed a catch on one out of 11.3 routes he covered. That was 24th in the NFL. Well behind the top notch CB’s like Richard Sherman who was at 18.3. When throwing at Haden QB’s had a passer rating of 74.9. Good, but again, well behind the pace setters. Richard Sherman was at 47.3. Also it is worth noting that opposing QB’s are not in the least bit afraid of throwing at Haden. He had the 12th most passes thrown at him, 99, of all CB’s. He was 33rd in completion percentage allowed which is not spectacular.

            The reason Haden is among the consensus top three or four CB’s whenever you hear a talking head opine is because those people are incredibly, fantastically lazy. If you were to ask any of them how, specifically, Joe Haden’s 2013 season compared to Atlanta rookie CB Desmond Trufant’s they would, at best, give you a blank stare and, at worst, give you a non-specific shovel full of blithering BS. Because they don’t have a clue. The reality is they had very similar seasons. They were almost identical in completion % allowed, passer rating allowed, yards allowed, and targets. But there’s no chance of Desmond Trufant being mentioned in any such discussion of the best CB’s because his name hasn’t made its way into the echo chamber yet.

            There are a lot of CB’s who are in the same class as Haden a notch below the top tier guys like Sherman and Revis. Which is why Haden is classified as very good, not elite by PFF.

          • JWard

            Then that context should be provided to back up their claims. If the masses are wrong, tell them why. Know what I mean?

          • Thomas James

            This is more of a methodological question than NFL related, but would it be possible to merge the elite and high quality player categories? My thinking is it would hopefully eliminate quite a few arguments which have cropped up throughout this series so far about who is and is not elite, while essentially stating the same thing about their careers so far (they are players who are projected to perform well with their current team in 2014). It obviously would not eliminate every argument, but maybe it could help? 😀

    • Michael Kovacs

      Yeah, and neither is Gordon. They do seem to be grading the Browns a little harshly, don’t they?

      • Brine Crow

        “They do seem to be grading the Browns a little harshly, don’t they?”

        No, the grades are pretty consistent between teams. And for the record, I don’t think Joe Haden is a top 5 CB (regardless of what other CLE fans or Ray Farmer think), so no he’s not “elite.” Haden isn’t fast enough to stick with top WRs, isn’t always as physical as he should be, and gets beaten too often by precise route runners. I think his ball skills cover up some of these deficiencies.

        Nor do I believe that, at this point, Gordon is a a top 5 WR (though he probably will be if he’s able to stay in the league, which is a big “if”). He needs to improve at route running and high pointing passes, and eliminate some of the drops.

        • Michael Kovacs

          We can debate whether or not Haden is “elite”, but Cleveland fans are not the only ones who think Haden is a top 5 CB.

          As for Gordon, he led the NFL in receiving yards, even though he was suspended for the first two games of the season, and despite the fact that opposing defenses were able to key on him as the sole receiving threat of the Browns. The observation that he can still improve should terrify opposing defenses, not disqualify him from being considered an elite receiver.

  • Andy Mays

    The Browns are very young. Their arrow is pointing up. Just be patient and check in next year to see how their colors have changed.

  • Bob Maistros

    where is the other fullback the Browns signed?

  • kjg

    Taylor n Rubin should b rated higher. I read the rebutle but u don’t take into account that in a 3-4 the front 3’s success depend on lbs actually getting pressure. As DQ n company did little of that the few times Rubin Taylor n Bryant got to the qb showed they could win even when doubled. Gotta at least go above ave.

  • Gy R. Rinaldi

    Seriously, This is in response to the point they didn’t have Haden and Gordon as Elite… Now I get that right now based on a lot of your different metrics (which I really need to read up more on and try to understand since I’m new to the site) you might have Haden as not “Elite” But…. There honestly has to be NO METRIC where you say Josh Gordon is not Elite, if so please someone take the time to explain it to me. He wasn’t listed as #16 on the NFL best last season (missing two games) not to be “elite” so to the PPF_Neil who I am sure has a hard job and doesn’t usually comment on crazed fan reactions, please explain how the NFL obviously has him as “elite” (divide 16 by the number of players total in the NFL 1696 and you have almost to a tee .009 or 1%…) He’s that “elite” Please do everyone a favor and revise that since next to Megatron there is no receiver better. Heck, I don’t even know where Madden has him, and that is my bible, lol (not really but we all love Madden rankings) and they probably have him at or close to a 99 this year don’t they?

    • DnY

      You just used the ridiculously, hilariously arbitrary NFL Top 100 and, even more laughable, Madden ratings in your argument for someone being elite.


      They define Elite as being among the Top-50 players in the NFL. May I direct you now to “The PFF 101,” which has Gordon pegged as the #74 player. https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2014/05/16/the-pff-101-top-to-bottom/

  • Ryan

    Marquis Gray? I know he isn’t much, but he is on the team and with his versatility he will probably end up on the final roster.


    The gordon guy seems to judge players more with the eyes while everything by this Neil guy is based off stats.. The metrics are useful but we need to remember this isn’t baseball.

    • DnY

      They all watch much more game film than basically anyone else in the world. Their unique metrics (which are presented in many-an-argument here) are determined by watching all of that film. It just makes it easier to talk about and explain, in my opinion.