Hope, like rust-based puns, springs eternal in Cleveland. We’re getting close to the real season, which means that fans everywhere must decide who their favorite players will be. Who can you really count on, week after week? Who will you enjoy watching, and who will make you feel like you’re getting your time and money’s worth? Could there actually be a jersey worth purchasing out there? Let’s break it down by position group, starting with the offense.
First, it doesn’t matter if you support Johnny or the Destroyer. They’re both too risky. If you’ve been a Browns fan for more than six weeks, you know why. Quarterbacks don’t just come to Cleveland to die—they come to develop a gross, debilitating illness that requires years of care. That’s the rub of having the Clinic in town. That said, Johnny is the off-the-board favorite to be the most entertaining Brown all season long, on- and off-field. It wouldn’t matter if his left leg fell off tomorrow—I would still watch a 24-hour live feed of his life over any other Brown’s, and it’s not even close. The best-case scenario for the Browns’ actual season would see one of these two becoming a star. But again, if you’ve been a Browns fan for more than six weeks, you know not to hold out too much hope for the best-case scenario. Onward!
Wide receiver? Yikes. If Josh Gordon isn’t suspended, he’s obviously the most exciting pass catcher. But if you decide that he is going to be your guy for the season? Then you have to avoid reading the newspaper internet every morning, because the odds of something awful happening are just too great. Having Josh as your favorite is a bit like having unprotected sex that way. Miles Austin and Nate Burleson are nice enough people, but they’re 30-plus and aren’t worth getting into too much of a froth about. If there is a non-Gordon receiver worth latching on to, it’s Andrew Hawkins. He’s an NFL player who is seriously the size of a middle school student, and he runs a 4.34 40. Dudes look like they’re log rolling when they try to catch that little guy.
Offensive line? God bless Joe Thomas and the gang, but o-line play just isn’t that interesting unless you played it yourself. It’s important, of course, and I love a good block, especially when a pulling lineman gets a shot on a DB. But it probably isn’t something you want to watch every play. Unless Joel Bitonio plays left guard like a feral rhinoceros, you should look elsewhere. This is all coming from the proud owner of a slightly bootleg Joe Thomas jersey.
The running backs are interesting, sort of. Ben Tate could break out and become Arian Foster, north coast edition. Terrance West rushed for 1.42 miles at Towson last year. These two are worth keeping an eye on, but football’s evolution toward the passing game—and the belief that running backs are only slightly less replaceable than flathead screws—limits their potential. Still, Cleveland is Jim Brown territory, and running back play is held in high esteem. This is coming from someone who has the “RUN WILLIAM RUN” YouTube video favorited.
How about tight end? Jordan Cameron was a Pro Bowler last year, and he was in that video with Blake Griffin, so it would seem that he has some juice. Tight end has become a modish position, and Cameron has the size and skills to be the next Antonio Gates or Jimmy Graham. Remember, however, the last Browns tight end with this much potential. [Mildly sexist note: If you’re a woman, odds are he’s already your favorite player. And rightly so—he’s a hot dude. Nothing wrong with that.]
There’s one other category to explore: Players with fun or funny names. Think guys like Ben Gay, Chad Mustard, Foswhitt “Fozzy” Whittaker, and Syndric Steptoe. We all like to be hipster fans to some degree, and embracing a lesser-known player can earn you some street cred. On the offensive side of the ball, sadly, there aren’t too many great names to choose from. Mitchell Schwartz opens up a wealth of Spaceballs jokes. Chris Ogbonnaya’s name is unusual, but not really ha-ha material. Kyle Auffray sounds like Pig Latin, but he’s not likely to make the team. Where have you gone, Adimchenobe Echemandu?! Thank heavens for Barkevious Mingo and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen on defense.
So who should be your favorite when the Browns have the ball? It depends on your taste. Here is a TL;DR version for those on the go. Choose wisely, and good luck.