Heath offered a great Green Bay article 2 weeks ago and I reached out and said, well I'm a fan of the Cleveland Browns, the mecca of fantasy football assets, perhaps I can provide a similar in depth analysis of the bounty of options that are available for fantasy owners looking to build up the many Cleveland players that could be available for them (there is a bounty of sarcasm in this, I think you can figure out where it is).
As we now find ourselves about 6 weeks out from Week 1 and just a week and a half out from the Hall of Fame game, I want to do a deep dive into the Cleveland Browns and what players (if any) you should look into drafting on your team.
Let's start with the QB situation and oft cited stat that the "Browns have started 500 quarterbacks started since Tom Brady joined the league" yada yada. I will preface with this as I think it's really simple - it appears that Brock Osweiler has the starting gig won given his play in camp thus far. He will be pedestrian at best, often turning the ball over on throws beyond 15 yards but willing to be risky and move the ball around. Cody Kessler, the only risk at taking the starting gig, is quite the opposite, making safe and calculated throws, not turning the ball over nearly as often but not making giant strides forward. I like Cody, I think he was great to watch last year but in either case, unless you are in a deep 2 QB league, you aren't drafting them unless they breakout in weeks 1-3 and surprise everyone (myself included). DeShone Kizer could be a nice dynasty target if you believe (as I do with my admiration for the team) that they have built a good core and are headed in the right direction over the next 2-3 years. Draftable? Only in very deep 2 QB leagues.
There is a major x-factor both Brock and Cody that I will cover next which could allow them to have a moderately successful year.
I am placing this section after the QB's but before the WR's and most importantly RB's as a definitive line to notate that while it improves all three and could make the Quarterbacks play vastly improved, the WR's and RB's are more likely to get drafted and thus I highlight them after this paragraph. In short the further we go the more draftable the position (until you get to defense and kicker) The Cleveland Browns offensive line is arguably the most improved offensive line in the NFL year over year. During the off season, the Browns acquired oft injured by also "oft-talented" JC Tretter (previously with the Green Bay Packers) as well as Kevin Zeitler (previously with the Cincinnati Bengals). JC was ranked the ninth best Center by PFF and Kevin Zeitler was ranked the 7th best guard last season. These two could create an enormous improvement and allow other talented players like Shon Coleman (2nd year vet out of Auburn) to go over to the right tackle position where Auston Pasztor had a rough go last year. Joel Bitonio will sit at left guard and Joe Thomas will of course be left tackle amidst the best offensive line that the Browns have had in his tenure. I reiterate, this is the best offensive line the Browns have had in 10 years.
Left Tackle - Joe Thomas
Left Guard - Joel Bitonio
Center - JC Tretter
Right Guard - Kevin Zeitler
Right Tackle - Shon Coleman
There isn't a ton to be excited about here, the Browns did not sign Terrelle Pryor who had 1,007 yards across 77 receptions last year to go with 4 touchdowns. They also released Gary Barnidge, the 2nd highest Brown in receiving yards - 612 yards across 55 receptions and 2 touchdowns. Third in receiving yards was Duke Johnson Jr who had 514 yards across 53 receptions. We have to go all the way down to 4th in reception yards to find a WR who is still with the team:
-Corey Coleman 2016-2017 season: 33 receptions, 74 targets, 413 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Corey looked great last year when he played. The issue is injuries where a broken hand knocked him out of 6 games limiting his play last year. I would brush it off as a one time situation if it weren't for him falling on a football during OTA's knocking him out until training camp. Surely these are fluke situations but it begs the question, are their concerns with Corey staying healthy?
Next up in receiving yards- Andrew Hawkins (released), Isaiah Crowell (covered later) and Ricardo Louis.
-Ricardo Louis 2016-2017 season: 18 receptions, 36 targets and 205 yards with 0 touchdowns last year. Ricardo will be entering his 2nd year out of Auburn. Ricardo has receptions in 7 games, many of them in the second half of the season. I would like to target Ricardo in the deep leagues as someone who should see a bump in targets, receptions, yards and touchdowns. I would anticipate his 2017-2018 season to look more like 35 receptions across 60 targets with 350 yards and 2-3 touchdowns. Ricardo should be drafted in deep leagues.
Finally - Kenny Britt who I'm sure is very talented but the organization feels that he can backfill Terrelle Pryor's production; however, I'm skeptical for two big reasons.
First - Terrelle is 6'4 with a wingspan that allowed him to hug sidelines and bring in catches to the outside that cornerbacks could not cover, something that Kenny won't be able to replicate. Terrelle became a vital 3rd down and 7 yard solution for the team that rarely misfired.
Second - Here is Kenny Britt's career:
- 2009 (Ten) - 42 receptions; 75 targets; 701 yards and 3 touchdowns
- 2010 (Ten) - 42 receptions, 73 targets, 775 yards and 9 touchdowns
- 2011 (Ten) - 17 receptions, 26 targets, 289 yards and 4 touchdowns
- 2012 (Ten) - 45 receptions, 90 targets, 589 yards and 4 touchdowns
- 2013 (Ten) - 11 receptions, 35 targets, 96 yards and 0 touchdowns
- 2014 (Stl) - 48 receptions, 84 targets, 748 yards and 3 touchdowns
- 2015 (Stl) - 36 receptions, 72 targets, 681 yards and 3 touchdowns
- 2016 (Lar) - 68 receptions, 111 targets, 1,002 yards and 5 touchdowns
Now at age 28, Kenny joins the Browns in hopes of duplicating his 2016 season. I think he can get a healthy amount of targets but he averaged 15 yards per catch last year and the Browns aren't the kind of team airing the ball out the way others were, in addition to this, he's in Cleveland weather where the final 2.5 months of the season, snow and cold weather stop deep fly balls from going the way they do in Tennessee, St. Louis and Los Angeles. I really think we are looking at more of a 45 reception, 600-700 yard 3-4 touchdown season, which is respectable, just don't get too carried away with last year. Kenny should be drafted in most 10+ team leagues but late in the draft.
First - thank you Gary Barnidge for your service. I still don't fully understand this move, fresh off back to back 500 yard, 50+ reception seasons, he was released. Clearly the Browns believe that David Njoku (1st round, 29th overall pick) will excel as a rookie out of "The U". Gary had 43 receptions and 698 yards with 8 touchdowns last year at Miami. Last year 14 tight ends had over 500 yards (including Gary Barnidge), six had over 800 yards. I highlight this difference as I think this is where an oft used David Njoku lies (playing a Tight End used as a Wide Receiver role) - 500 -800 yards. That means he should sit this upcoming year in the 7-14 range. Three of the 7-14 wide receivers had 6+ touchdowns and I think Njoku is looking at more like 4-5 which narrows it down further. I think David Njoku can be taken in the 10-14 range of tight ends with potential upside but also risk mitigated as its deep enough at that point. David Njoku should be drafted in 12+ team leagues.
Welcome to the Jungle, we've got fun and games. We've got everything you want honey, we know the names. The Browns have both Isaiah Crowell (Crow) and Duke Johnson (Duke) who both finished in the top 70 in yards rushed (Crow at 15th and Duke at 48th) as well as touchdowns (Crow at 15th and Duke at 62nd) . The Cleveland Browns as a whole finished 19th in yards (1,712) and 16th in touchdowns (13). None of these along are overtly flashy, until this:
"We've got to run the ball more. I will be the first to tell you that...I beat myself up about that. I'm a coach that likes to run the ball. We all recognize where we were in games last year, and trying to play from behind is hard, and understanding what our team was last year, feeling that you had to get off to a fast start to get ahead of a team because you knew how somethings would unfold." Hue Jackson
- Coach openly admits he regrets not running more, it's something he likes to do and he wants to run more
- The offensive line gets completely revamped and improved
- Isaiah Crowell averaged 4.81 yards per carry, good for 9th in the NFL last year. Crow was a beneficiary of a nice 85 yard run against Baltimore that likely won't duplicate in week 2 of last year but the sheer added volume of carries and improved offensive line should allow him to mitigate that.
- Duke is a two-way threat (PPR) he will likely receive more rushes behind a better line but also because he had the 6th most receptions by a RB last year for 514 yards.
If you retain nothing else from this article (hopefully you've made it this far) take this away: Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson should both be in for a very dominant year. A lot has been discussed about Isaiah as a sleeper, I feel that not enough is also complementing Duke as a beneficiary of this situation as well. Duke should be drafted in all PPR leagues. Crow is a top ten RB this year.
Not a whole lot to see here. I'm very pleased with the additions of Myles Garrett (injured) and Jabrill Peppers (still unsigned) as well as Jamie Collins signing a new contract. I think the defense is improved but it would be hard not to be as the team allowed 28.2 points per game last year (2nd highest only behind San Francisco who allowed 30) and they allowed 392.4 yards per game last year 2nd behind only...San Francisco who had 406.4 yards per game. Improvements factored in I think we are looking at the 10th worst defense instead of the 2nd worst defense. Defense should not be drafted.
As the media loves to remind us, being a Cleveland fan means accepting (or trying to accept) heartache. The tone of the 2016-2017 season was set when Cody Parkey showed up on one days notice for a game in week 3 against Miami went 3 for 6 missing a 46 yard field goal as time expired (we went on to lose in overtime). Ironically, after that pain staking performance, he would go a perfect 7-7 on field goals in October (including 3-3 in 40+ yards and 1-1 in 50+ yards), 4/5 in November and 5/5 in December. The 3 for 6 performance might be what I remember most but he went 16 for 17 through the remainder of the season on field goals. I don't feel that the Browns will be scoring copious amounts of points but I think Cody Parkey could be a top 20 kicker next year. The interesting story to watch here will be Zane Gonzalez the Arizona State kicker, drafted in round 7 who holds the NCAA Division 1 record for most field goals made in a career (89). Some deviation of these two could be a sneaky kicker in deep leagues (pending the Browns can get past the 50 yard line!). Whichever kicker wins out should be drafted in 14+ team leagues.
No matter how bad that end up being, I will be watching each game belting out "we'll get them next year!"