Austin Watkins Jr.'s preseason performance is one of the biggest storylines around the Browns right now. The wide receiver has shown he has what it takes to be worth an NFL roster spot, and fans are ready to keep him in Cleveland past cutdown day.
However, there's been speculation that GM Andrew Berry may ultimately release the wideout in favor of keeping players he personally drafted. And that theory may, unfortunately, be right.
According to The Athletic's Zac Jackson, Watkins spent Tueday's practice "only" playing with the second- and third-string quarterbacks. He also didn't earn any first-team reps as a returner, which is another area he's competing for a role in.
At this point, it's difficult to see what the Browns are doing with the wideout. He's been arguably the team's best player during its preseason games so far, regularly making highlight-reel plays and showing he can actually contribute at this level. Considering this promise that he's flashed, it's shocking the coaching staff doesn't want to see what he can do with Deshaun Watson and the other first-teamers.
This is the exact type of scenario an offense in need of help at WR dreams of: discovering an unknown (and cheap!) talent that fills a need. At 6-foot-3, Watkins would add the perfect big-bodied target that Watson is lacking at wide receiver. The UAB product regularly high points the ball and comes down with contested catches, which is a major skill that perfectly complements the likes of Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Elijah Moore.
Simply put, there's no on-field reason anyone outside of that trio should displace Watkins from the roster. Recent third-round pick Cedric Tillman is obviously in after just being drafted, but Anthony Schwartz and David Bell have no advantages over Watkins other than being brought in by Berry.
It very well looks like the Browns are fumbling their chance at keeping a promising wideout around. Hopefully they realize their wrongs and Watkins makes the 53-man roster -- otherwise, they'll have to live with the regret.
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