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Two Browns among ESPN’s top three rookies

ESPN compiled a list of the NFL’s ten best rookies in 2018 at the mid-season point.

Los Angeles Chargers safety Derwin James sits atop the mountain but two members of the Cleveland Browns are not far behind. Cornerback Denzel Ward is No. 2 followed by quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Ward was thrust into a large role from Day One. He was quickly inserted as a starter after earning the respect of his teammates. The Ohio State product has twice been named the NFL’s Rookie of the Week. He has recorded 40 tackles, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, nine pass deflections, a blocked field goal and three interceptions. The 21 year old suffered a hip injury during Sunday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. He did not practice Wednesday but is expected to be worked back into the equation as the week progresses.

Cleveland can ill afford to lose him for an extended period of time. Starting cornerbacks EJ Gaines and Terrance Mitchell have already been added to the Injured Reserve.

Ward was the No. 4 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft.

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Mayfield has been named NFL’s Rookie of the Week twice as well. He was nominated again this week after completing 29-of-42 passes for 297 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in a Week 9 loss. The No. 1 overall selection out of Oklahoma has completed 159-of-265 passes (60-percent) for 1,768 yards, ten touchdowns and seven interceptions this season.

The Oklahoma product first entered a regular season game in Week 3 during a comeback win over the New York Jets. Veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor had suffered a concussion during the game, which forced the rookie into the game. His leadership and energy has rendered it impossible for Taylor to win the job back.

The Browns are one of three teams to have two representatives. The Denver Broncos (outside linebacker Bradley Chubb and running back Phillip Lindsay) and the Indianapolis Colts (outside linebacker Darius Leonard and offensive guard Quenton Nelson) are the other two teams. The New York Giants (running back Saquon Barkley), Dallas Cowboys (inside linebacker Leighton Vander Esch), Cincinnati Bengals (safety Jessie Bates) and Chargers (James) are each represented with one.

General Manager John Dorsey has offered a lot of optimism in his first draft with the organization. Nine players were taken and many of them have contributed significant minutes. Left tackle Desmond Harrison, running back Nick Chubb, wide receiver Antonio Callaway and outside linebacker Genard Avery have all started in addition to Ward and Mayfield.

Louisiana-Lafayette cornerback Simeon Thomas has already been released. Second round offensive lineman Austin Corbett and third round defensive end Chad Thomas have played very little this season. 

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