3’s a crowd: that’s the expression, right? Ok, maybe it is actually 3’s company, but in fantasy football, sometimes 3 can be 2 crowded (too crowded I know, but let me have some fun with numb3rs). With positional committees all over the NFL, it is important to look at which players can emerge from those situations and have productive fantasy seasons in 2018.

In this article, we will look at the 3 main Running Backs for the Cleveland Browns. There has been an influx of talent on the team this offseason, especially on offence. Newcomers Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield at QB as well as WR Jarvis Landry should all help the Browns be a better team than they were in 2017. RB is another position where high profile players arrived in Cleveland via free agency or the draft. Let us take a look at the state of that group.

 

Profiles

Nick Chbb | 1st season

Chubb was drafted by the Browns in the 2nd round (35th overall) of the 2018 NFL draft. He had a very productive college career, which began with an explosive 1,760 scrimmage yard season as a true freshman. Only a knee injury in his sophomore season prevented him from reaching 1,000 rushing yards in all 4 years of his college career. Chubb was quite adept at scoring with 48 TDs in 44 college games. The only real issue was his diminishing use in the passing game. 18 of his 31 career receptions came in his first season.

 

Carlos Hyde | 5th season

This will be Hyde’s first season with the Browns, after beginning his career with the San Francisco 49ers. Over his final 3 years with the 49ers, he became a workhorse back, averaging over 16 carries per game. Along with that heavy workload, Hyde has a career yards per carry average of 4.2 as well a TD in almost half of the games he played (24TD / 50 games).

 

Duke Johnson | 4th season

Johnson has spent his entire career with the Browns after they drafted him in the 3rd round of the 2015 NFL draft. This offseason, he signed a 3-year extension to remain with the team long-term. Even though he is an RB, Johnson has more career receiving yards (1,741) than rushing yards (1,085). He led the Browns in targets last season, and that type of passing-game usage is likely to continue.

 

In order to predict production from these RBs in 2018, we shall look at their respective roles for the upcoming season.

 

Early Downs

Of those 3 RBs, Carlos Hyde has by far the most career rushing attempts. He has 655, while Duke Johnson, who has played 2 games fewer, only has 259. If these were the only options for Cleveland, I would guess that Hyde would see the majority of early-down carries. However, with rookie Nick Chubb on the roster, it is difficult to foresee that Hyde would get a workload similar to his 49ers days.

Chubb offers the Browns an incredible athlete to put on the field. He has a SPARQ-x (Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction, Quickness) score in the 98th percentile of this year draft class. Neither Hyde nor Johnson offer the same type of physical metrics that Chubb possesses.

Hyde will still probably get the first crack on offense most weeks, especially early in the season, but there is a risk of that role diminishing as the season goes on and Chubb becomes more comfortable in the league.

 

Passing Downs

Both Hyde and Johnson were heavily targeted in 2017. Hyde had 59 receptions on 88 targets, while Johnson caught 74 passes on 93 targets. Now that those two are on the same team, however, it is unlikely that they will combine for 181 targets. Last season, the Browns targeted the RBs 146 times, which includes 6 targets to FBs. With Jarvis Landry being brought in at WR, it is unlikely that the RB targets will increase.

The 3-year extension given to Johnson tells me that the Browns are quite content with the role he plays. He will probably see a similar target share to last season, which was around 16% for the team and 64% of Cleveland RB targets. If we use the exact same amount of targets as last season, that will leave 53 targets for Hyde. Chubb could figure into the mix as well, but with only 31 career receptions in college, Head Coach Hue Jackson will probably put more trust in Hyde and his established pass-catching abilities.

 

Red Zone

Hyde finished 2017 as the RB 8 in PPR scoring (Point per Reception). One factor that led to this was his 41 Red-Zone carries, which were 5th most in the entire league behind Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell, Melvin Gordon and Latavius Murray. Hyde also had 11 Targets to add to his Red Zone workload. If he can is able to sustain that, he will be very valuable.

Isaiah Crowell had 21 RZ carries and 3 RZ targets last season. Those touches need to be replaced and Hyde might be the one to do it. Johnson probably isn’t; he only had 8 runs and 5 targets in the RZ. Chubb, however, showed that ability in college, with 31 RZ TDs. It could be a mix of both Hyde and Chubb getting valuable goal-line carries often this season. If one of them proves to be superior to the other, then we might see those carries tilted towards one player.

 

ADP

According to Fantasy Football Calculator’s ADP (Average Draft Position) for 12 team leagues, Hyde has an ADP of 6.05 in Standard scoring formats. This is quite a jump from the other Browns RBs, with Chubb at 8.06 and Johnson at 10.12.  Their respective ADPs are far closer in PPR formats. Hyde still leads the way at 8.01, with Johnson not far behind at 8.09 and Chubb bringing up the rear at 9.05.

There are several elements in these ADPs that I find flawed. First, there is Johnson. With an expected reprise of the pass-catching role from last season, he should have the highest ADP in PPR, yet he is still behind Hyde. While Hyde might get some targets, I do not believe that he is worth his PPR ADP, and the same go for his standing in Standard. The 6.05 ADP has him going ahead of other RBs, such as Marlon Mack and Kerryon Johnson, who have stronger chances of leading their respective backfields in touches. Hyde is also being drafted ahead of pass catchers who are either potential team leaders in targets, or red zone weapons. Those players are Kyle Rudolph, Corey Davis, Michael Crabtree and Delanie Walker. All of these are players that I would rather have instead of Hyde.

 

Verdict

Let us begin with the easy answer. In PPR formats, Duke Johnson is the Browns RB to target. Yes, Carlos Hyde could eat in to some of Johnson’s 93 targets from last season and put a cap on his production. However, I believe that with the team committing to Johnson long-term (for NFL standards), they like him in the role he has been playing as their primary pass-catching RB. As long as Johnson is going off the board after Hyde, he is a value pick in the 8th round.

In standard scoring, things get a little more complicated. While I believe Hyde can be productive, an ADP of 6.08 is too high for a player that is stuck in a committee. As I mentioned earlier in the article, there is a decent chance that Hyde’s biggest workloads will come early in the season. Once Chubb fully acclimates to the NFL game, he will probably see in increase in touches. Johnson’s ADP is quite low in standard formats and that might make him the best value of all 3 RBs, but I think Chubb’s potential role makes him the Browns runner to get in Standard. It is not out of the question to draft both Chubb and Johnson, if you can stomach taking two Cleveland RBs.

 

Hope is something that Cleveland Browns fans have been lacking for a long time. They might finally have the talent on this team to deliver on the fans wishes. I have hope for the Browns, but I also have hope that this article is helpful. If you have any questions or comments, I can be found on Twitter @nyama_ks. For sports fans, I hope you are checking out Goingfor2 daily in order to satisfy your curiosity.

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