Two UDFA's that should make Browns 53-man roster

Two UDFA's that should make Browns 53-man roster

Mac Blank
6 months ago
3 min read
Cleveland Browns' Ronnie Hickman celebrates making play during game

The typical path of most NFL players is being selected in one of the seven rounds of the NFL draft. According to NFL draft diamonds, last year only 23% of total players on an NFL roster were undrafted free agents. 

That number becomes even lower when considering the UDFA's that are rookies. To put this into perspective, only one UDFA rookie has made the Browns roster in the past four years, which was D’Anthony Bell last year. This year there is a real chance we could see not one, but two rookie UDFA's make the final 53-man roster. 

Safety Ronnie Hickman

Browns fans who root for the Buckeyes down in Columbus are all too familiar with this name. Hickman is a big safety at 6’1, 209 pounds and thrived playing in the box for the scarlet and grey. In 2021 he led his team in tackles with 100 and intercepted two passes earning him 2nd team all-conference. 

While he didn’t play awful his last year in Columbus, the defensive coordinator chose to move him to free safety and he saw his production literally cut in half with only 53 tackles and 1 interception. 

The knock on Hickman and the reason he went undrafted was because of his poor coverage skills. Ironically he’s done his best to put that narrative to bed. In four preseason games he has not only had three pass breakups but three interceptions, as well as seven total tackles. 

Hickman is currently playing in his natural strong safety role and has a real chance to make this roster, as the Browns are looking for someone to fill that fourth safety spot behind Thornhill, McLeod, and Delpit.

It truly is a 1-on-1 competition for that last safety spot. Ironically the person competing with Hickman was the UDFA mentioned above, safety D’Anthony Bell. While Bell has proved in the past he can play the role of the downhill safety and contribute on special teams, he didn’t have a strong finish in the last preseason game. Bell missed a crucial tackle in coverage, took a bad angle to give up a long run, and gave up a TD in the second half due to a lapse in coverage. 

If Hickman has earned the trust of special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone, he will most likely make this roster.  

Linebacker Mohamoud Diabate

Prior to the preseason game against the Eagles, not many people knew who Mohamoud Diabate was. It is hard to fly under the radar, though, after getting both a safety and forcing a fumble in the same game. 

The linebacker room is far from being filled out with guarantees considering both Sione Takitaki and Anthony Walker are both coming back from injuries and Jacob Phillips is now out for the season with a torn pec. 

Diabate spent three years at the University of Florida before transferring to Utah. He was a very productive player stopping the run and pressuring the QB as he had 27 run stops, seven sacks and 24 QB pressures. The reason why he slipped was due to not logging a single pass breakup and allowing a passer rating of over 110. At 6’4 225 pounds, he is too small to play on the ball, but lacks the coverage skills to cover as an off-the-ball linebacker. 

Of course, none of these negatives will matter as there is always room for a player that plays downhill with urgency and can rush the passer. Players of his caliber usually thrive on special teams as well so if he continues to make plays there is opportunity for Diabate to shine. It does hurt him his skillset is limited for the time being, but when a player is maximizing their opportunity, they usually end up on the final 53.

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