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NFL preseason report: Cleveland Browns

See who’s trending up and who’s trending down throughout Browns training camp and preseason.  

NFL: Cleveland Browns-Training Camp Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

This page will be regularly updated with news and analysis regarding the Browns’ skill position players throughout training camp and the preseason. ⬆︎ ⬇︎ Indicate which way a player’s fantasy value is trending and (R) denotes rookies.

Unfortunately for the Dawg Pound (alternatively G PO DAW UNO), Warren Sharp has Cleveland pegged to face the NFL’s 8th hardest schedule in 2018.

Quarterback

Tyrod Taylor ⬇/⬆︎ -- The Browns set Tyrod Taylor up for success by surrounding him with stables of talent at RB, WR, and TE -- and then they drafted Baker Mayfield. Given Hue Jackson’s penchant for evading responsibility, I can’t imagine Tyrod remains the starter after Cleveland inevitably loses its first two games to the Steelers and Saints. Somehow the losses will be blamed on Tyrod, rather than Hue’s impending awful decision-making.

Baker Mayfield (R) ⬆︎ -- Mayfield is technically trending up, as I project him to be the Browns’ starter by Week 3. However, he’s trending his way into being Hue Jackson’s scapegoat, which could mean shattered confidence and an inability to pull the trigger on open receivers. The duo of Jarvis Landry and Antonio Callaway may keep Mayfield afloat though, as they dice up defenses with their short-field prowess and happy feet.

Running Back

Carlos Hyde Hyde parlayed his breakout season into a team-friendly deal and a crowded backfield… The Browns will lose a little over $2 million if they cut him after this season, but they’d save almost $10 million. This is a one-year deal, designed to ease Nick Chubb’s transition into a feature-back role. He’ll likely open the season as the starter but I expect Chubb to takeover at some point this year and I much prefer Chubb’s 8th round ADP to Hyde’s 6th.

Duke Johnson ⬇ -- Duke Johnson’s in a perplexing situation. His role as a pass-catching back seems secure, however, he recently shared that he’d like to switch to receiver full-time — especially given the recent jettisoning of Corey Coleman. Head coach Hue Jackson quickly shot this smart idea down though. He isn’t even having coaches work with Johnson on his route-running. It’s good to see Hue is still dead set on ruining this team. I like Duke Johnson as a player but I’m concerned about his volume of touches. He’ll be a usable flex play but I think there are too many mouths to feed for him to achieve RB2 status (outside of full-point PPR).

Nick Chubb (R) ⬆︎ -- Even after blowing out his knee, Chubb posted outrageous numbers at the combine and proved that he’s an elite NFL athlete. He’s an NFL-ready runner who will put up solid flex, and potential RB2 numbers once he wins the job.

Wide Receiver

*Update 8/14/18: With Josh Gordon’s status influx, Corey Coleman being traded, and Hue Jackson choosing to put Antonio Callaway in harm’s way the Browns are being “linked to Dez Bryant”. Nothing official yet but it’d be a smart move considering their suddenly shaky depth.

Josh Gordon ⬇/⬆︎ -- On any given Sunday, Josh Gordon can be the best receiver in the league. However, he needs to report to training camp first. The Browns’ are doing the right thing by letting him take the time he needs to prepare himself for the season. It’s still up in the air whether or not he’ll be able to do that though. I have a tough time stomaching his 4th round ADP given the other, safer options available.

*Update 8/7/18: ⬆︎ Gordon could see a substantial target increase with a possible suspension coming for Antonio Callaway.

Jarvis Landry ⬇ -- I like Landry’s skill set, however, I don’t like his current situation for fantasy purposes. He’s a volume receiver with a low Average Depth of Target. He may have relevance (especially in PPR) when Mayfield takes over, functioning as a chain-mover/safety blanket, however, I will not be taking him at his current 6th round ADP.

*Update 8/7/18: ⬆︎ Landry could also see a substantial target increase with a possible suspension coming for Antonio Callaway.

Rashard Higgins ⬇ -- Higgins will not be fantasy-relevant behind Josh Gordon, Jeff Janis, Jarvis Landry, and Antonio Callaway.

*Update 8/7/18: ⬇/⬆︎ I’m still low on Rashard Higgins given the suddenly shaky state of the Browns’ WR room, we should keep an eye on him.

Jeff Janis ⬇ -- The twitter contingent of Janis supporters marches on. He was the hero they wanted as Jordy Nelson’s replacement but he wasn’t the hero they got. He’ll be No. 4 on the totem pole behind Gordon, Landry, and Callaway.

*Update 8/7/18: ⬆︎ The Jeff Janis Twitter Squad’s drumbeat has grown louder with Callaway’s arrest. As of now, his stock is trending up. Janis may actually get a shot to put his elite athleticism to use.

Antonio Callaway (R) ⬆︎ -- Callaway is an immensely talented receiver who carries a ton of off-field baggage. If he can stay out of trouble, and learn from Gordon, the sky’s the limited for him. He’s currently going undrafted but I’d feel very comfortable taking a late round flyer on him, especially in keeper/dynasty leagues.

*Update 8/7/18: Shortly after finishing this piece, Tony Grossi reported that Antonio Callaway was “cited for marijuana possession and driving with a suspended license” after being pulled over around 3:00 a.m. You can’t make this stuff up.

*Update 8/14/18: ⬇ Last Thursday Callaway was forced to play 78 percent of snaps in the Cleveland’s preseason game against the Giants (despite being fatigued and asking for a break), as a punishment for his marijuana infraction. Hue Jackson’s moronic coaching decision inevitably lead to Callaway being injured as he’s reportedly now dealing with sore ribs.

Tight End

David Njoku ⬆︎ -- Njoku is the tight end name to keep in mind for the Browns. The athletic playmaker flashed last year but was underutilized (big surprise). He’s been making plays in camp and will be heavily targeted by both quarterbacks. You could do worse than Njoku in the 13th round.