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Correctly predicting how the Cleveland Browns’ new offense will look

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The Browns have made some big moves this offseason and I attempt to predict stat lines.

USA TODAY/Getty Images/Peter Rogers Illustrations

Let’s start things off with a round of applause for John Dorsey and the Cleveland Browns.

Tired of being the NFL’s punch line, the Browns have come at this offseason with a sense of purpose and a clear game plan as to how to improve. Granted, one single victory in 2018 would be an improvement but given the moves the Browns have made this offseason, they might be in line for, dare I say, THREE wins in 2018. Another round of applause please.

They made headlines trading for Dolphins’ receiver Jarvis Landry then pulling off another AFC East trade, this time for oft-ridiculed Bills’ quarterback Tyrod Taylor. In free agency, they’ve added offensive tackle Nate Hubbard as well as just recently signing running back Carlos Hyde. They’ve also improve their defense by trading for Packers’ cornerback Damarious Randall.

Currently, here’s the Browns’ starting lineup on offense:

QB: Tyrod Taylor
RB: Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson
WR: Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman
TE: David Njoku

Ummmm yes please! I like that very much.

Gordon and Coleman are the exact receivers that pair well with Landry: deep threats that can take the top off a defense. This will just open up oodles of space for Landry to operate in underneath the defense. And I already know I’m going to overdraft Carlos Hyde. I was bullish on Isaiah Crowell last year since he’d flash potential in the past and was playing behind a much improved offensive line. Sadly, that didn’t come to fruition but Hyde is a better back and I don’t like learning my lesson. Don’t let me down Cleveland! (That easily is the dumbest sentence I’ve ever written.)

But how will this new and improved offense look in 2018? What can we fantasy heads expect from all these new pieces in Cleveland?

That’s what I’m here for.

It’s time to use stats and data and science and math and stats to correctly predict exactly what this new Browns offense will look like and what kind of fantasy production we can reliably expect out of all these new pieces.

Now, a few notes before we get into it all. First, it’s almost certain that the Browns will draft a quarterback first overall and it’s almost certain that the front office won’t have the cajones to not start him Day one, especially when Tyrod does what Tyrod does, which is wins games but not flashy enough for the masses. However, I’m operating under the assumption that Tyrod Taylor will be the Browns starter for the entire season. Second, this is science people and as such, the results are 100% correct. Because of, science. So don’t just treat this as a fun exercise and wave the results off come draft time. LIVE AND BREATH by this article when draft time rolls around because it WILL win you a championship (or at least as many games as the actual Browns win).

I promise.

The Running Game

In the two years Hue Jackson has been the head coach of the Browns, the team has been one of the worst in the NFL in terms of rushing attempts. In 2016, the Browns were 31st in the league with 350 attempts and last year they were 28th with 384. Now, this likely has more to do with the Browns sucking those years and always playing from behind, forcing the team to pass rather than run, than Jackson purposely taking the focus off of the running game. If you look back to 2015 and 2014, when Jackson was the offensive coordinator for the Bengals, the team was top 10 in rushing attempts both years. Which numbers can we expect in 2018?

The Browns aren’t suddenly going to be a team playing with the lead and able to lean on the running game next year. Even I’m not crazy enough to predict that. But I would be surprised if they again populated the bottom five in rushing attempts, especially with either Taylor under center (since, ya know, he can run) or a rookie quarterback (I’ve heard a strong running game is great for rookie signal callers).

Putting all this data and stats into my official SCIENCE-MATH-DATA-O-TRON 3000, the machine spits out 415 total rushing attempts for the Browns in 2018. That number would’ve put them 19th in the league this year. Sounds good to me. Good job SCIENCE-MATH-DATA-O-TRON 3000.

Now, let’s shift our attention to the actual running backs who’ll be taking those attempts.

As a starter (three out of his four years in the league), Hyde is averaging 15.9 attempts per game. Assuming he plays all 16 games—he’s done that once as a starter and it was last year—Hyde would be inline for 254 carries in 2018. Hyde has a career average of 4.2 yards per attempt and has scored a touchdown on 3% of his touches. Thus, on 254 carries, Hyde would tally 1,067 yards and 7.6 touchdowns. I’m going to round that number up to a nice clean eight. I don’t think I’m taking a crazy big risk there.

This leaves 156 carries for really just Duke Johnson and Taylor to split. If we’re just adding up averages, Duke has averaged 78 carries per season with Hue Jackson at the helm and Taylor has averaged 94 carries per season since becoming the Bills’ starting quarterback. Those two total to 172.

QUICK, recalculating!

2018 Browns rushing stats (it’s science, so it’s right):

Carlos Hyde: 245 carries, 1,053 yards, 7 touchdowns
Tyrod Taylor: 82 carries, 418 yards, 4 touchdowns
Duke Johnson: 73 carries, 335 yards, 3 touchdowns
Everyone else: 15 carries

The Passing Game

Since I expect the Browns to have a little more of a ground attack, that would indicate that their passing game would take a slight step back from Hue Jackson’s first two years in Cleveland. The Browns were 18th in pass attempts in 2016 with 567 and ninth last year with 574. NINTH. The Browns were in the top 10 of pass attempts with DeShone Kizer and Kevin Hogan throwing balls. The other teams in the top 10?

  1. Giants
  2. 49ers
  3. Buccaneers
  4. Dolphins
  5. Cardinals
  6. Steelers
  7. Patriots
  8. Chargers
  9. Browns
  10. Lions

This is actually a pretty sad reminder of the quarterbacks we had to watch throw the football a lot this past season. Jay Cutler. Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard. Geno Smith for a brief period of time. Yikes.

Anyways, if we take league average total offensive plays in a season—1,000 in 2017—and subtract the 415 rushing plays, we’re left with 585 plays. Last year the Browns gave up 50 sacks but that was with the great Joe Thomas protecting the blind side (even if it was just for seven games). They gave up 66 sacks in 2016. Let’s pack in a little regression along the O-line, sprinkle in Taylor’s escapability, add it all in our SCIENCE-MATH-DATA-O-TRON 3000 and we get: 52 sacks in 2018. Boom.

So that leaves us with 533 pass attempts. Let’s say 40 of those passing attempts go somewhere else, because chances Tyrod will get banged up—we are in Cleveland after all—and I’m sure he’ll miss some time. So that leaves 493 attempts for Taylor, a career high. It pays to play on a team that needs you to pass the ball.

With the attempts figured out, everything else falls into place. Taylor has a 62.6 completion percentage, 7.2 yards per attempt, a 4.1 touchdown percentage and a very nice 1.3 interception percentage throughout his starting career. (That 1.3 interception percentage is second best in the NFL between 2015 and 2017. Only Tom Brady has thrown fewer interceptions per attempts in that time frame. So Cleveland, you know Taylor ain’t turning over the football. That’s a win.) Put all that data into our machine, and here’s Taylor’s 2018 stat line:

Tyrod Taylor: 309 for 493, 3,550 yards, 20 touchdowns, 7 interceptions

Fun fact: if this stat line where to happen—and I say if when I really mean when—it’ll be the first time since Derek Anderson in 2007 that a Browns quarterback has thrown for 15 or more touchdowns. My goodness the Browns have sucked.

The Receiving Game

Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman, David Njoku and Duke Johnson have 493 targets to share between them. Let the fun begin!

Obviously the first person to start with is Landry. Since entering the league, Landry has been one of the most productive wide receivers in the NFL, averaging 142 targets and 100 catches a season. Will that kind of production keep up in Cleveland? You better believe it will. The Browns didn’t trade for Landry and likely are set to give him a ginormous contract just for him to be a role player. My feeling is that Landry is going to quickly become Taylor’s favorite target and is going to get the ball early and often. That being said, I don’t see Landry racking up another triple digit catch season given the other weapons in Cleveland (what am I writing?). 140 targets with a career catch percentage of 70.6 would give Landry 98 catches. Approved.

353 targets to go.

Last year Duke Johnson emerged as the top receiving option for the Browns, leading the team in targets, receptions and yards. While I don’t see that carrying through to 2018 (because, Jarvis Landry), I think Johnson is going to be the team’s second option. Given his breakout season, I’m expecting stats closer to 2017 than 2016, so tossing the career average out the window. Sign him up for another 90 targets.

263 targets to go.

I see Gordon, Coleman and Njoku as the same in terms of targets, in fact, I’d put Coleman at the bottom of that list. If you were to just add the targets between the three of them last year, you’d get 160 targets. Don’t see that happening this year given that Gordon had 42 targets but played only five games. Expand that out across a 16 game season and you’re talking 134 targets at that rate. Again, not happening.

Here’s how I see the target playing out:

  • Gordon with 70 (50.2% career catch rate)
  • Njoku with 63 (53.3% career catch rate)
  • Coleman with 50 (42.2% career catch rate)

Let’s do some full stat line calculations, shall we?

Jarvis Landry: 140 targets, 98 catches, 989 yards, 6 touchdowns
Duke Johnson: 90 targets, 68 catches, 646 yards, 2 touchdowns
Josh Gordon: 70 targets, 36 catches, 623 yards, 3 touchdowns
David Njoku: 63 targets, 35 catches, 424 yards, 4 touchdowns
Corey Coleman: 50 targets, 22 catches, 281 yards, 2 touchdowns
TOTALS: 413 targets, 259 catches, 2,963 yards, 17 touchdowns

That leaves 50 catches, 587 yards and three touchdowns for other people on the Browns to deal with. I can get behind that.

Fantasy Outlook

So, what was the purpose for all that, other than just for fun and because I was bored and wanted to talk about the Browns?

Well, other than perfectly predicting the 2018 Browns’ offense, I wanted to come up with all these random numbers scientific stat lines to see what kind of fantasy value the Browns’ offense might have in 2018, because on paper, I feel like it should have a lot.

If we translate Taylor’s passing and rushing numbers into fantasy points, he’d wind up scoring a total of 294 in your standard ESPN league. This is easily the most fantasy points Taylor has ever scored in a season and it would’ve placed him QB5 this year. Alright, alright, alright! Now that’s some fantasy production.

Per my calculations, Carlos Hyde is already setting a career high in both attempts and rushing yards so I can only assume he’ll also set a career high in fantasy points. Just based on his rushing stats, Hyde finishes 2018 with 148 total fantasy points which is low because I’ve completely ignored him in the passing game. If I toss him 200 yards and two touchdowns through the air, he now totals 180 fantasy points, which would’ve made him RB8 in fantasy this year.

Duke Johnson’s fantasy value actually takes a hit between 2017 and 2018. Johnson finished this real year of football RB21 scoring a total 142 fantasy points, however in my 2018 world, Johnson finishes with 128 total fantasy points, putting him RB24. That’s what happens when you’re battling with other talent for touchdowns and yards.

Jarvis Landry also take winds up with 135 total fantasy points which would put him WR15 this year, just below.... himself. Until Landry starts making real plays downfield and/or scoring a butt load of touchdowns, he’s value is always going to be in PPR leagues, not standard.

So there you have it: an accurate and scientific prediction of the entire Browns’ offense in 2018 as well as fantasy football advice that will be so dead on next year, it’ll be scary. But in all honesty, this was just a fun experiment to see what we could maybe see out of Cleveland this season. Likely nothing like the numbers here will come true but I’ll definitely be curious to see how everything plays out.

I’ll still be drafting Carlos Hyde to early, I can promise you that.