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Browns Mailbag: Which 2nd-year player is ready to make biggest leap?

A day late but never short on words, let's dive right into this week's Browns Mailbag.

Which second-year player do you see making the biggest impact under the new coaching staff? -- Jake C., Erie, Pennsylvania

There are a lot of layers to this question because it involves projecting a role for a number of these players and defining the always intangible term "impact." A player such as nose guard Danny Shelton, for example, can have a massive impact on a game without registering many tangible stats.

With that in mind, we're going to assess how each of these players could be in the conversation as the second-year player who made the biggest impact by the end of the season.

Shelton - Make an impact as a lineman who is on the field more than he's off it.

This has been the biggest goal hovering above Shelton since defensive coordinator Ray Horton's introductory press conference. He's challenged the former first-round pick to put himself in the kind of shape where that'd be possible, and Shelton has responded.

"They brought my weight down, kept my muscle up. I feel even stronger than college," Shelton said earlier this month. "It's really something that I can proudly say that I'm proud to work with these guys."

OL Cameron Erving - Rise to the challenge that comes with being a team's starting center

After a season in which he bounced around the offensive line, Erving has been locked in at center, the position at which he finished his college career. It's one of the NFL's toughest positions, and Erving is filling the shoes of one of the NFL's best, Alex Mack, who is now with the Falcons.

No pressure, right? Erving, though, has seemed to embrace the challenge and the early returns have been promising.

"He has stepped up," associate head coach - offense Pep Hamilton said Wednesday.

LB Nate Orchard - Ride the momentum from his strong finish to the end of 2015

Orchard was inactive for the first game of his rookie season, but his progress throughout the year showed just how much on-the-job training can impact a player's development. Thrown into the fire after a series of injuries at the position, Orchard rose to the challenge and eventually found his way to the quarterback, picking up two sacks against the 49ers and another against the Chiefs in December.

The game is coming easier to Orchard, and that's letting him play with more ease and comfort.

RB Duke Johnson - Continue to thrive as both a pass-catcher and runner

Johnson was electric as a pass-catcher last season, racking up 61 receptions for 534 yards and two touchdowns to go along with 379 rushing yards. He wasn't regularly called upon as a rusher, getting double-digit carries just twice during the season, but that could change with Hue Jackson at the helm.

Johnson is ready for the challenge, whatever it may entail.

"There were a lot of opportunities that I had last year that I didn't make that I want to make sure I capitalize on this year," Johnson said, "both running the ball and receiving."

DL Xavier Cooper, S Ibraheim Campbell and DB Charles Gaines - Win the battles you face

All three of these second-year players are competing for significant roles on the 2016 team. Nothing will be handed to them, but they're each in a better situation than they faced at this time last year.

The Browns took to the field as a part of the team's Organized Team Activities.

What are the key dates this year for roster cuts? -- Jeff R., Topeka, Kansas

Those dates have not been finalized but, traditionally, teams pare their rosters down to 75 shortly after the third preseason game -- Browns face Tampa on Aug. 26 -- and 53 a few days after the final preseason game -- Browns face Chicago on Sept. 1.

Which Browns player will have the best fantasy season - Carl W., Cincinnati

Considering my, umm, fantasy football track record, you probably don't want my take on this. So I consulted with in-house fantasy guru Nathan Zegura, and he gave me his three best.

TE Gary Barnidge

WR Corey Coleman

RB Isaiah Crowell

And a bonus fourth: Duke Johnson

Will Connor Shaw get a fair chance to make the team? -- John H., Zanesville

Certainly. He's one of five quarterbacks on the roster at the moment, and the Browns will go with the best two or three when the season begins. Shaw's back in the fold after missing all of last season with an injured thumb and he's been able to show what he can do to a brand new coaching staff.

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