11. Juan Thornhill
Speaking of Thornhill, I have him just edging out McLeod, though I think the gap between them is a lot smaller than people seem to appreciate.
That's not a knock on Thornhill though, and is more about all of those glowing things I had to say about McLeod above.
Thornhill is an outstanding safety in his own right.
He's clearly been a capable ballhawk from the free safety spot since his rookie year in 2019, when he recorded 3 interceptions and 5 pass breakups. But he's evolved into so much more than just a free safety in the years since then.
The 2022 season was his best and most well-rounded as a pro.
He continued to to play plenty of free safety, but he was also in the box on 13.8% of his snaps and covering in the slot on 14.9%. He matched his career high with 3 interceptions and set new career-highs in pass breakups, tackles, TFLs and recorded the first sack of his career.
Jim Schwartz has said that he doesn't plan on having traditional safety roles, and Thornhill's versatility meshes perfectly with that plan.
The Browns got an absolute bargain on Thornhill's contract ($7 million per year ranks No. 21 among safeties), and Thornhill will be a cornerstone of this secondary for the forseeable future.
10. Deshaun Watson
Deshaun Watson is the hardest player on the roster to rank right now, because we have no idea what version of him we'll see in 2023.
If we get the 2022 version of Watson? Well then he should probably go much lower than 10 on this list, and honestly probably wouldn't even land on a top-15 list for the team.
But what if we get the 2020 version? Well then You're probably looking at a guy who deserves a top-five ranking.
I've gone ahead and split the difference a bit, because I suspect Watson is going to be much improved from what we saw last year, but also that he's far from a lock to return to his peak form from 2020.
His debut last season came after going almost two full years without playing football and trying to pick up a new offense and build chemsitry with new teammates who had been mainly focused on meshing with Jacoby Brissett. That's not a situation that many quarterbacks would thrive in, no matter how good they are.
But it was enough to get Watson back into the swing of things and shake off some rust. Now he's had a full offseason to prepare as the QB1 and to build chemsitry with his offense, and he'll have a strong supporting cast around him.
Is Watson going to be back to leading the NFL in passing? That's probably a stretch, but I do expect that he'll be able to do enough to get another Pro Bowl nod.
Watson has a real chance to be the best quarterback the modern Browns have ever had, and this season is going to set the stage for whether he can reach those heights or whether he ends up being just another bust of a Browns QB.