As we edge closer to draft season it’s time to start assessing teams for overall fantasy value. Some teams are made up to support a full cast of fantasy relevant players, while others may excel in one area while lacking in others.
For this article, we are going to take a look at the Cleveland Browns for fantasy purposes and try to identify where fantasy production would be strongest.
Cleveland Browns Fantasy Football Outlook
Tyrod Taylor – Quarterback
For fantasy purposes, Tyrod Taylor has maintained a safe floor due to his legs. In 2017 he finished as the 16th ranked quarterback. He’s the only quarterback in the top 20 that threw for less than 3,000 yards. He threw for 14 touchdowns and only four interceptions and rushed for four more scores.
While not flashy, Taylor typically manages to be a fantasy relevant option each year. This may be the year that changes.
Taylor’s career high in passing is 3,035 yards in the 2015 season. While he joins a Browns roster that is deep with weapons, it may be too deep to foster multiple fantasy relevant players. His receiving corps is solid with Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, and Corey Coleman. He’s also known for targeting his tight end heavily and has an extremely athletic option in David Njoku. If there weren’t enough options at receiver, we can’t forget to mention scat-back Duke Johnson as someone who garners a share of targets as well.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Browns dropped a number-one pick on Baker Mayfield who will be waiting in the wings for his chance under center. Head coach Hue Jackson has no problem trotting a rookie out there to see how they fare or pulling a quarterback who’s struggling. So while we can expect Taylor to begin the season as the starter, how long he remains in that role is the big question for potential fantasy owners.
Bottom line, Taylor is typically a sustainable fantasy option. This year, however, temper expectations. Assuming he starts all 16 games, he’s not going to throw for 4,000 yards and can’t sustain viable fantasy production for multiple pass-catchers in what looks like a run-heavy game script for the season.
Jarvis Landry – Wide Receiver
Jarvis Landry led the league in receptions last season. His 112 receptions were good enough to land him as the fifth best wide receiver for fantasy last season. His nine touchdowns were a career best, and most likely an outlier based on his previous three seasons of work.
Landry is a good receiver, especially when peppered with targets. His target volume over the last several seasons: 111, 165, 131, and 160 for last season.
Assuming Taylor remains the starter for the immediate future, Landry will probably see the lower end of that target spectrum. He’s got a career average of 10.1 yards-per-reception, making a 1,000-yard season with four to six touchdowns as a realistic possibility.
If there’s a reliable weekly starter at the receiving position on this team, Landry is the front-runner.
Josh Gordon – Wide Receiver
No wide receiver over the last several years has created as much hype, disappointment, speculation, and roster moves as Josh Gordon. Let’s get down to real numbers for statistical purposes.
Since entering the league in 2012, he’s only played 40 games. He’s averaging 77 yards-per-game through the games he’s played and has 15 total touchdowns. Only once has he seen more than 100 targets and that was the 2013 season that made him a household name.
He played the last five games of the 2017 season and finished with 335 yards and one touchdown.
Despite the real numbers and the untrustworthy off-the-field issues, Josh Gordon is currently going as the 12th wide receiver off the board. We all know that Gordon is a specimen, capable of being a true WR1. However, one quarterback is not a heavy volume passer, and the other is an untested rookie. Gordon represents a high-risk, high-reward pick that could very well leave fantasy owners disappointed in the draft capital they drop on him.
Corey Coleman – Wide Receiver
Corey Coleman has battled injury in his first two NFL seasons. He’s a competent receiver capable of stretching the field. However, he’s buried behind a cast of pass-catching options and paired with a starting quarterback that does not throw a lot of passes.
Coleman will probably have a few games where he’s fantasy relevant, but outside of injury or suspension, he is probably not a draftable prospect at this point in seasonal leagues. He may prove to be a last-pick stash for best ball formats.
David Njoku – Tight End
Entering his second season, David Njoku may be in for a breakout type of season. He’s a big target, capable of pass-blocking and is a very athletic receiver. In his rookie campaign, he finished with 386 yards on 60 targets and four touchdowns.
Njoku couldn’t have asked for a better quarterback to start the season than Tyrod Taylor. Taylor targets his tight end often enough to make them fantasy viable, and Njoku is athletic enough to succeed with a higher target share.
No one is expecting Njoku to finish within the top-five tight ends this season, but at his current ADP in the early 14th round, he could be a nice value pick in redraft leagues or an absolute steal in dynasty formats.
Carlos Hyde – Running Back
Carlos Hyde is a good running back that seems to keep being buried on bad teams. There was some excitement when the Browns landed him during the flurry of free agency moves they made. He represents an improvement over Isaiah Crowell, who massively disappointed owners last season, despite a preseason run on the hype train. Then, they drafted Nick Chubb and most of the excitement surrounding the move dispersed. Now, there’s a crowded backfield where it’s going to be difficult to ascertain who remains fantasy relevant from week to week.
Hyde finished as the RB9 with 940 yards on 240 carries last season and had eight touchdowns. He also had 59 receptions on 87 targets, both career highs, and finished with 350 receiving yards.
Hyde remains a solid running back but will be fighting for carries in this crowded backfield. Until we’ve seen some preseason action to see how they plan on using the three-headed monster they have, it’s difficult to project which back has the best probable fantasy output.
Nick Chubb – Running Back
Nick Chubb was drafted in the second round of the 2018 NFL draft. In his four years at Georgia, he amassed 4,769 yards and 48 touchdowns. He’s a solid finesse runner who’s capable of picking up extra yards. He’s got good vision and patience to find the hole and churn yards after initial contact.
He will be competing with Hyde for the early down work. He wasn’t really utilized in the passing game in college. As stated with Hyde, Chubb will be one to watch during the preseason to monitor how their roles play out.
Duke Johnson – Running Back
Duke Johnson finished the 2017 season as the 11th running back in PPR scoring. He finished with 1,041 total yards from scrimmage and seven total touchdowns. Johnson excels as a scat-back, similar in style to Danny Woodhead and Darren Sproles. His 93 targets last season were the fourth highest of any running back. He added 693 receiving yards which was the third-best total among players at the position.
The Browns seem to value Johnson’s role in this offense and signed him to a contract extension during the off-season.
Johnson should remain the third down and passing back specialist for this overhauled offense. Of the three backs, Johnson’s role remains the most trustworthy for fantasy purposes. He’s never rushed for more than 379 yards in a season, so his value is almost strictly tied to PPR scoring leagues. Johnson should remain a solid RB3/flex play in PPR formats.