2017 Fantasy Football Preview: Cleveland Browns

Michael Kelley

I have been playing fantasy football since 1991. My first draft I had the first pick and the first player I ever drafted was Randall Cunningham. I remember that because he broke his leg in the first series of the season. Since then I have been hooked on fantasy football and I have not and will not ever draft a QB in the first round again.

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2016 Fantasy Recap

The Browns had the first pick in the 2017 NFL draft and not because they traded for it. That should pretty much summarize 2016 for the Browns. If I recall the Browns used something like 5 QB’s in the first six weeks, and the changes were due mostly to injuries not performance. Their top WR was a converted QB and their breakout TE regressed to irrelevance. Not all is bad news form 2016 though. Isaiah Crowell only added 13 more carries from the year before but added almost 250 more yards. He increased his average by a whole yard per carry and almost doubled his TD production. Duke Johnson also had a fine year out of the backfield. I would have liked to have seen more receptions, but his number were good enough to make him a RB3, which gave him value as a bye week filler or flex play many weeks. I know that is not a lot to brag about, but it is something for the Browns to build on going into 2017.

 

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Key Additions and Losses

Additions:

  • Brock Osweiler – QB
  • Kenny Britt – WR
  • David Njoku – TE (Draft)
  • DeShone Kizer – QB (Draft)
  • Myles Garett – DE (Draft)
  • Jabrill Peppers – S (Draft)

Losses:

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QuarterBack Fantasy Outlook

I am probably in the minority here, but I think Brock Osweiler can survive in Cleveland. Don’t get me wrong he is not a QB1 or even a solid QB2 play. He will be more of a low end QB2 to non rostered. Last year the QB position was a cluster and this year with Brock they took a small step forward. The reason I think Brock can manage in Cleveland is because he has a deeper
supporting cast. I know, I know Lamar Miller and DeAndre Hopkins are some of the best in their position, but after that it is a pretty big drop off. In Cleveland he has two solid running backs at his disposal, one of the top tight ends, his favorite position to throw to, from this deep rookie class. While wide receiver is the weakest position he does have a big target in Britt and big play ability in Coleman. Throw in a much improved defense and that should take enough pressure of Brock to help him succeed. To be clear non of these are reason why you should be draft Brock, but it is enough of a reason why some of the other guys have more value this year.

Grade: D

Running Back Fantasy Outlook

The best offensive weapons the Browns have is their running game. Isaiah Crowell is entering his fourth year and every year he has improved. Last year he finished with 198 carries, 952 yards and 7 touchdowns. I think we can see similar numbers again this year. Including receptions he averages 15 touches a game. That is enough to make him a lock for RB2 status with possible low end RB1 as long as he maintains his TD ratio. I do not think he gets enough fo an increase in his touches to get him over the 1,000 yards rushing mark though. The other fantasy option out of the backfield is Duke Johnson. Most of his value is dependent on PPR formats where roughly 35% of his points have come from receptions. Duke could probably handle a larger role in the running game, but with Crowell why would they bother. Regardless both guys should be drafted, especially in PPR formats, and Crowell should be an every week starter for your team.

Grade: B

Wide Receiver Fantasy Outlook

The Browns lost their best receiver this past off season, and while Terrelle Pryor had a good season I was not overly impressed with him. 12th in targets and 21st in receptions to me shows he benefited from high volume of opportunities. To replace Pryor the Browns went out and signed Kenny Britt who is almost the identical build as Pryor. I know it seems like Britt has been playing forever, but he is only 28 years old, one year older than Pryor by the way. With 29 less targets Britt had nine less receptions, five less yards and one more TD than Pryor. So I actually think this is a step up for the Browns. The problem is after Britt you have Corey Coleman who had an up and down rookies season, and than a whole bunch of unknowns fighting for likely three open receiver jobs. Bottom line Britt and Coleman are draftable as WR3 at best, and the rest of whoever makes the team is undraftable.

Grade: C-

Tight End Fantasy Outlook

In this same article last year I warned you about Barnidge. I said at best he would be a low TE1 and I was wrong, he actually finished as a low TE2. He was in 2015 what Pryor was in 2016, a guy cashed in on an opportunity. Just like Pryor too he is no longer on the team. The reason why he is not on the team is because the Browns used the 29th overall pick in this years draft to select David Njoku. I loved this pick and I think he is actually what the Browns needed. I am already on record for saying I think Njoku goes over 60/650/6 this season. I will be honest here, those numbers will greatly depend on who ends up under center. If Brock starts those number are a lock for me, because he loves targeting TE’s. Just look at C.J Fiedorowicz last years line 54/559/4 and Njoku is much more talented and could easily improve on those numbers. Now if a different QB gets the job those numbers are in danger, but he should still be an important part of their offense regardless. Either way I would be targeting him as a low TE1 with potential to be a mid level TE1.

Grade: B

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Defensive Fantasy Outlook

Good news for the Browns is that they really get much worse on defense so there is a good chance they actually improve it.  They did not do much in free agency to improve the defense but they certainly used the draft to do so. With the first overall pick they took Myles Garrett an absolute stud on the d-line and later in the first round they were able to get hard hitting safety Jabrill Peppers. Those two additions alone make their defense much better. I don’t think this makes their defense draftable yet, but I will be keeping a close eye on the Browns because I think they are making good moves and moving in the right direction, just not their yet.

Grade: C-

Michael Kelley is a member of the Going For 2 team. You can check out his website Dynasty League Problems for more writings or find him on Twitter @mikekelleydlp spreading fantasy knowledge for the masses.


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I have been playing fantasy football since 1991. My first draft I had the first pick and the first player I ever drafted was Randall Cunningham. I remember that because he broke his leg in the first series of the season. Since then I have been hooked on fantasy football and I have not and will not ever draft a QB in the first round again.

Michael Kelley

I have been playing fantasy football since 1991. My first draft I had the first pick and the first player I ever drafted was Randall Cunningham. I remember that because he broke his leg in the first series of the season. Since then I have been hooked on fantasy football and I have not and will not ever draft a QB in the first round again.

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