Baker Mayfield tops our annual Browns player rankings

Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.

Our annual Browns player rankings usually are a sobering reminder of how weak is the team’s roster.

This year, however, it is readily apparent that the roster strengthened considerably under the direction of GM John Dorsey and his upgraded football operations department.

The major accomplishments of Dorsey’s first transaction season were clearly identifying the team’s franchise quarterback, injecting the roster with experienced starters and backups, and laying a foundation for a team that will be expected to challenge for the division championship in 2019.

Unlike past years, we limited the rankings to the top 40 players. The rankings are totally our own unscientific view based on contributions, roles, opportunities and production.

1. QB Baker Mayfield: NFL rookie of the year doesn’t do his season justice. He was the first transformative figure for the franchise since Bernie Kosar. He lit up the city for four months.

2. DE Myles Garrett: Because of four overtime games, he led all NFL defensive linemen with 1,011 snaps. They took their toll, but his 13.5 sacks were second all-time for the Browns.

3. LG Joel Bitonio: All-Pro recognition verified it as his finest season. And to think he spent three preseason games auditioning at left tackle.

4. RB Nick Chubb: Advertised as a “violent” runner, he displayed sure hands and ripped off long runs of 63, 41, 92, 29 and 40 yards. Never fumbled. Never left a game with an injury.

5. CB Denzel Ward: Two concussions in four weeks were ominous reminders that he will have to adjust his tackling style. Still, he never flinched against the best receivers in the league.

6. FS Damarious Randall: He was first in interceptions, second in passes defensed, third in tackles and was the defense’s best quote.

7. RG Kevin Zeitler: A key reason Browns were 11th in yards per rush and 13th in sacks per play.

8. LB Joe Schobert: The quarterback of the defense, in his three games missed with a hamstring injury the Browns allowed an average of 459 yards and 32 points.

9. WR Jarvis Landry: He brought leadership and toughness and spectacular catches, and led team with 81 receptions for 976 yards.

10. DT Larry Ogunjobi: The most improved player from 2017, he led all D-linemen with 52 tackles and was second with 5.5 sacks, and was fifth in the NFL with 930 snaps.

11. C JC Tretter: One of four Browns linemen to play all 1,091 snaps on offense, he did so despite suffering a high ankle sprain in Game 6. With no healthy backup center most of the year, he was the offense’s unsung hero to keep playing.

12. P Britton Colquitt: His franchise-record 32 punts inside the 20 were tied for sixth in the NFL and his 45.4-yard gross average was 12th.

13. CB Terrance Mitchell: He had four turnovers in his first four games (one interception, two forced fumbles, one recovery) and then missed eight games with a broken wrist. Still, his early impact set a tone.

14. TE David Njoku: Despite inconsistent hands, his 56 catches, 639 yards and four receiving touchdowns ranked second on the team. He seemed more reliable when covered than open.

15. LT Greg Robinson: You can make the case that he had more to do with turning around Mayfield’s season than anyone other than Freddie Kitchens. His career has been salvaged, and his future may wind up at right tackle.

16. WR Antonio Callaway: His roller-coaster season was presaged in the first preseason game. Played through ups and downs and finished on a high note to lead club with five receiving touchdowns.

17. LB Jamie Collins Sr: Unofficially, he led in tackles and was fourth in sacks. That's not enough production from the highest-paid defensive player, making his future on the team uncertain.

18. CB T.J. Carrie: Signed as a projected starter, he evolved as the team’s best nickel back, but led the team with 10 penalties.

19. WR Breshad Perriman: Came out of nowhere to produce pass plays of 66, 31, 63 and 28 yards over the last 10 games. With a 21.3-yard receiving average, he made a strong case for returning with a new contract.

20. SS Jabrill Peppers: Repositioned closer to the line of scrimmage as the strong safety, he should have led the team in tackles but was almost 30 less than the top spot. His biggest play was the sack that preserved the win in Denver.

21. LB Genard Avery: Originally a designated pass rusher, he was forced into regular linebacker duty in Game 7 and held his own. A relentless pursuer, he was second with 4.5 sacks but showed he may have a future as an every-down linebacker.

22. WR Rashard Higgins: His chemistry with Mayfield was undeniable but did not result in enough targets. Still, his solid 14.7-yard receiving average was second among regular receivers and his four TDs matched Landry and Njoku.

23. RB Duke Johnson: Receptions and total yards were at four-year career lows. What happened? The rest of the offensive roster got a lot better.

24. DE Emmanuel Ogbah: He’s the Dikembe Mutombo of the defensive line – a fly-swatter at the line of scrimmage. But the sacks and edge containment in the running game never materialized.

25. LB Christian Kirksey: The team’s Man of the Year nominee missed nine games with a hamstring injury but not before he turned in the first two interceptions of his career.

26. RT Chris Hubbard: An atypical, sub-300 pound right tackle who hung in there and got better as the year went on.

27. DE Chris Smith: He had some flashes as a pass rusher and was a decent rotational end.

28. CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun: A scrappy player – 10th in tackles – versatile as a nickel back and backup safety.

29. TE Darren Fells: He added experience to the tight end room and his receptions-to-touchdowns ratio of 11-to-3 was the best on the team.

30. QB Tyrod Taylor: He deserved a winning fate in New Orleans in Game 2, and then lost his job after a concussion in Game 3. Never complained about losing the opportunity to improve his free agency prospects.

31. DT Trevon Coley: Seemed to lose his edge as interior penetrator, but held his starting position for 14 games.

32. SS Derrick Kindred: Given the opportunity to challenge for the starting spot, he gave way to backup and special teams duty.

33. LT Desmond Harrison: An athletic tackle who was forced in prematurely and gained some playing experience. He’ll need to bulk up and gain strength in the offseason to challenge for the starting spot again.

34. PK Greg Joseph: He missed four PATs and three field goals and never instilled the confidence that he could try and make a long field goal to win a game.

35. WR Damion Ratley: Above-average size and speed give him a chance to be a factor down the road.

36. LS Charley Hughlette: On the mark on 83 punt snaps and 59 placements.

37. RB Dontrell Hilliard: He caught nine passes but didn’t carry the ball as the third running back.

38. TE Orson Charles: Forged a role as a hybrid lead-blocker and special teams contributor.

39. TE Seth DeValve: A groin injury wiped out his preseason and hamstring injuries followed. Somebody up there liked him, though, as he was carried on the main roster through the season despite minimal production.

40. QB Drew Stanton: He didn’t play a down, but his contribution as a mentor to Mayfield was seen as invaluable. He could transition into a coaching role soon.

Not rated: LB Ray-Ray Armstrong, TE Pharaoh Brown, DB Justin Burris, OL Austin Corbett, DL Carl Davis, DB E.J. Gaines, DB Phillip Gaines, LB D’Juan Hines, OL Kyle Kalis, DL Brian Price, DL Chad Thomas, DB Tavierre Thomas, LB Tanner Vallejo, OL, Earl Watford, DB Jermaine Whitehead, WR Patrick Willies, LB Xavier Woodson-Luster, DL Anthony Zettel.