The Hall of Fame Game has come and gone – injury-free no less – and the NFL preseason is officially underway. Among worrying about who will start behind center for your team and how rookies will pan out, it’s also time to start getting your fantasy draft strategy ready.
In recent years, little success has been found in drafting Cleveland Browns players. This year, however, there are a number of player to keep an eye on come draft day.
Cleveland Browns Players to Draft in Fantasy Football
It seems every year there is one aspect where Cleveland’s defense thrives, and another that’s downright abysmal. More often than not, the team’s weakness has been in stopping the run. This was addressed by locking up linebacker Jamie Collins to a four-year extension this off-season, and taking defensive end Myles Garrett number one overall in this year’s draft. Along with adding Gregg Williams as defensive coordinator, the Browns front seven could very well be a force to be reckoned with this season.
Behind them, the secondary is no laughing matter either. The team acquired Calvin Pryor in a trade with the Jets in June, and also signed veteran Jason McCourty to a two-year deal. If Joe Haden can stay healthy this season, Cleveland could see the most complete defense they’ve had in years.
Drafted as a safety, Jabrill Peppers poses perhaps the most dangerous aspect of the defense and special teams. Returning both punts and kicks at Michigan his last two years, he averaged 13.1 yards per punt return, taking one back for a touchdown, and averaged 26.8 yards per kick return. Though he is not expected that will see much time on defense, at least initially, he will not doubt help the case for the Browns D.
David Njoku is the second of Cleveland’s three first-rounders, and the one that will likely have the most immediately noticeable impact on the team. As seen last year, Hue Jackson loves to get the tight ends involved in his offense. “Chief” Njoku has great size (6’4″, 246 pounds) and speed, but will need to work on holding onto the ball before the season starts. He totaled over 1,000 yards receiving and nine touchdowns at Miami, and in an offense that will use him regularly, he is absolutely worth a look.
While Njoku is almost assured the number one spot, Seth DeValve, who has received some high praise this preseason, will likely serve as the number two in a twin tight end set. His value is certainly not as high as Njoku’s, but depending on the usage he sees throughout the preseason, he could be worth a late-round flyer.
Isaiah Crowell is probably the player on this list that has the highest ceiling both in fantasy and on the field. Head coach Hue Jackson has said numerous times this preseason that he regrets how little he ran the ball his first year in Cleveland. Despite that fact, Crowell rushed for a career-high 952 yards, and his production is expected to increase in 2017. He also provides a viable asset in a PPR league, as he also saw highs in receptions (40) and receiving yards (319).
Despite Crowell’s success in the passing game, Duke Johnson is the much stronger option in that department. In his two years since being drafted, Johnson has totaled 114 catches for 1,048 yards, but only two touchdowns. Not only will he serve as an option in the passing game as a running back, there have been discussions about using Johnson as a slot receiver as well. Both as a pass catcher and as a handcuff for Crowell, Johnson has serious sleeper potential this season.
Coleman’s status as a fantasy target is contingent on two things: him remaining healthy and the relationship he can develop with whoever is named starter. When he was on the field last season, he showed the ability to produce, averaging 12.5 yards per catch in 10 games. He ended up being overshadowed by the presence of Terrelle Pryor, but should he win the number one receiver job this season and be able to stay on the field for a full 16 games, he should prove to be a solid WR2 option.