Cleveland Browns – 2019 A Look Inside

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Contributions from Joshua Hudson, Chris Molina, Chris Tyler, & Joe Zollo
When you’re able to get an established star at wide receiver for your first round pick, you’ve already won the Draft. Acquiring Odell Beckham Jr. to team with former college teammate Jarvis Landry gives second year QB Baker Mayfield one of the best tag teams at the wide receiver position. Because of the trade, the Browns had to wait until the second round before picking, and they snagged another former LSU Tiger — one who should’ve easily been drafted in the 1st round — CB Greedy Williams. They got great value in the fourth (Redwine) and fifth (Wilson) and even drafted a guy who, if he were a Pro Wrestler, already has entrance music in the form of the DJ Snake song “Taki Taki” (Sione Takitaki). Of course, a kicker in the fifth round will never earn kudos from me, but John Dorsey is a genius, and I bow before his superiority. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
On paper, this might be the most dangerous offense in the NFL. Baker Mayfield set the rookie record for touchdown passes last season and now gets a shiny new toy in OBJ to throw to- a perfect compliment to each others’ skill sets. OBJ on one side, deep threat Antonio Callaway on the other, and catch machine Jarvis Landry in the slot — only the Rams can sport a trio of receivers. Second year running back Nick Chubb was fourth in the NFL in rushing from Week 7 through the end of the season. Duke Johnson, while being unhappy with his current role after the teamed signed Kareem Hunt (not eligible to play until Week 10), is one of the best receiving backs in the league. David Njoku was second on the team in targets last season from the tight end position. When I say this offense is stacked from top to bottom, I’m not kidding. Plus, Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator from a year ago, Todd Monken, is now in Cleveland. The Bucs had the league’s top ranked passing offense and third best offense overall in 2018. The cast of The Drew Carey Show told us 21 years ago that Cleveland rocks. I think they were onto something. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
Nick Chubb was on pace to do some amazing things in 2018 if he had a full season’s workload. And yet, for starting only 10 games, he still finished as RB14 on the season. From Week 7 to 17, the weeks he started, Chubb was fourth in the NFL in rushing with 823 yards. If he had started all 16 games and held the same pace, he would’ve rushed for 1,317 yards and 13 touchdowns, which would’ve been second behind Ezekiel Elliott (and ahead of Rookie of the Year, Saquon Barkley). Let’s have some fun predicting what Chubb can (and will) do for an encore. Over the whole season, Chubb saw only 29 targets, catching 20 balls. Not uncoincidentally, all but one target came when Chubb was the starter. It’s because of this that Chubb saw the fourth highest percentage of 8-man fronts (34.38%). And yet, Chubb sported a 5.2 yards per carry average on the year. He led the NFL in yards after first contact per attempt last season (4.47), and had 44 missed tackles forced on rushes (one behind Derrick Henry, Adrian Peterson, and Chris Carson, all of whom had at least 23 more rushing attempts than Chubb). Per NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Chubb was tied for the third highest Time Spent behind the Line of Scrimmage (TLOS) at 3.01. What this displays is his patience as a runner, allowing the line to create holes. All these stats show a player with ascension on his mind. In PPR formats, it would be safe to assume that Chubb’s upside is capped because he doesn’t catch a ton of passes. Over his ten weeks as a starter, he was on pace for 45 targets. With a disgruntled Duke Johnson, maybe Chubb’s market share in the passing game increases. Let’s say it doesn’t and it stays on par with what he was on pace for last year. If we take his catch percentage from a year ago (69%), he would have 31 catches. I’ll decrease his yards per reception a touch to 7.3 (down from 7.45 in 2018), and that would give him 226 yards. He had two TDs, so let’s say he tacks on a third. That would make his receiving numbers 31-226-3. That’s an additional 71.6 fantasy points (excluding any bonus points for 40+ TDs and 100+ or 200+ yard rushing games). He was also on pace for 13 rushing TDs. So 1,543 total yards and 16 total TDs (plus 31 receptions) would give him 281.3 fantasy points last year. That would put him at RB6. He’s currently being drafted as RB12, directly behind Dalvin Cook and Todd Gurley, both with big injury flags planted squarely in their front yards. The biggest mystery is how the team will utilize Kareem Hunt when he’s eligible to return in Week 10. Call me crazy, but if Chubb is humming, why mess with a good thing? Hunt was signed as a bargaining piece to extract value from a team for draft capital. The Browns have a number one RB who can help in the passing game, if needed. Zeke wasn’t a huge pass catching back his first two years, and was consistently a top 5 option in Fantasy (points per game). Then in Year three, he booned with 77 receptions on 95 targets. Chubb is what Zeke used to be. Chubb is a clear RB1 at the price of an RB2. Don’t be scared to pull the trigger on Chubb come draft day. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
Let me start by saying I’m a Miami Hurricanes fan, and I have been ever since I can remember. I lead with that so you get a sense of how little bias goes into this write-up. I’d also like to preface this with sharing how big of a fan I am of David Njoku, a former Miami Hurricane. But with all the additions the Browns have made this off-season to bolster their offense, I’m just not sure there will be enough targets to go around to help Njoku live up to his current draft position. Last season, Njoku had the second highest target share on the Browns (88 targets, 15.6%), behind only Jarvis Landry. There’s a pretty clear hierarchy now that Odell Beckham Jr. has been added to the receiver’s room. OBJ and Landry should easily account for close to, if not more than, 45% of the teams targets in 2019. Last season, 58% of the targets went to the wide receiver position. Second year receiver Antonio Callaway was third on the team in targets a year ago and should see a significant amount of single coverage with OBJ in the fold. Oh, and Callaway led the Browns in receiving touchdowns a year ago. As a rookie. If Callaway maintains his 13.7% market share, that’ll put the top three WRs on the team at almost 59%, higher than last year, and still with Rashard Higgins and others on the depth chart competing for targets. Njoku had only 4 TDs a year ago (same as his rookie season in 2017) and three came on three receptions (five targets) in the 10-zone. I should remind you that Njoku is 6’4” tall. He should be a major weapon in this area of the field, and yet, the team isn’t featuring him when given the chance. This offseason, the team added former Chiefs TE Demetrius Harris, a monster of a man at 6’7” who had three red zone touchdowns a year ago. I’m not 100% sure how the Browns plan to use pass-catching phenom Duke Johnson Jr. this year, but they didn’t even target their running backs 20% of the time a season ago. If that pattern holds, there’s hope that Njoku can hit 80 targets in 2019. If not, there’s little reason to think Njoku comes close to replicating his 88-56-634-4 line from a year ago, which was good for TE9. Unless he breaks out in touchdowns (no sure thing given historical precedent), Njoku won’t be a TE1 this season, and his current ADP on Sleeper (TE10) suggests the general public feels he will. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
Rewind the clock two years. The Cleveland Browns were coming off of a 1-15 season and were set to embark on only the second 0-16 season in NFL history. Times were gloomy in the land. Articles about a fantasy trust fall on the Browns did not exist. Baker Mayfield was still only returning for his senior season at Oklahoma. (Boomer Sooner! But I digress.) Let’s get back to the present. The Browns have gone from a 1-31 stretch to quite possibly the most exciting potential in the league. Freddy Kitchens, Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, and an opportunistic defense set the land on fire. They made a playoff push and nearly finished with their first non-losing season in recent memory. Enter Odell Beckham Jr. This team has fantasy upside all over this depth chart. However, my trust fall begins and ends with the captain of this ship. That’s right. My 2019 Browns trust fall is Baker ‘Magic’ Mayfield. Mayfield started 13 games and had one relief appearance last year. Baker completed 310 of 486 pass attempts for 3,725 yards and 27 touchdowns. That was good for QB16 between weeks 1-16. I know. Why am I trusting last year’s QB16 so much? Well, for starters, Baker only had 13 of them (get it?), twelve of which came before Week 17. Let’s take those numbers instead. Baker started his first game in Week four. From Week 4 to Week 16 he had twelve starts, but he was also QB12 during that stretch. That means, as a rookie, he was a QB1 during the time he started for the Browns. Also, did I mention he set the rookie record for touchdowns in one season in those 13 starts? No? Well he did. Let’s take his twelve starts from weeks 4-16 and break it down even further. Hue Jackson was probably the worst coach of all time- he was fired after 8 weeks in 2019. Freddy Kitchens took over. Baker Mayfield was the QB9 from weeks 9-16 (don’t forget he had a bye week in week 11). After that Week 11 Bye, Baker was QB8 through Week 16. With Freddy at the helm, Baker had 19 touchdowns (only eight before that), his completions percentage soared to 68% (Mahomes had a 66.7%), and Baker threw for 40 more yards a game. Those significant improvements are bound to carry over. Remember, Baker was behind Tyrod Taylor the entire offseason last year. He has the keys to the franchise this off-season with a play caller that Baker flourished under. Did I mention OBJ is in town? Why did I take so much time analyzing Baker’s 2018 season? Two reasons. First, he was a rookie quarterback for a team with the worst head coach in the league (who was fired mid-season) that was 1-33 in their last 34 games before he got into the game in Week 3. That was literally the worst healthy Baker Mayfield we will see in his career. A QB1 while a starter. Second, the hype is real. He is currently going as the fifth QB off the board in the middle of the sixth round. That gives people pause. People think he will be a top 10 fantasy quarterback, but may have doubts he can live up to those lofty expectations as QB5. Those people might be right. However, I don’t care if he ends up as QB10, QB5, or anywhere in the top 10. Because with those numbers from last year, you can trust he will be a top 10 quarterback. Let’s say that Baker Mayfield is QB10 in fantasy this year. Last year, from weeks 1-16, the QB10 had 351.98 points. In the same time frame, the QB5 had 376.54 points. That’s a difference of only 1.64 fantasy points per game over 15 games. If you take a chance on Baker, the absolute worst-case scenario is that he costs you two points fewer per game than what you were expecting. Baker’s numbers next year will have him finish closer to QB5 than QB10, though. Let’s make some predictions for the last part of my lengthy article (I’m sorry but I’ve had this circled on my calendar since Day 1). Baker averaged 35.6 passing attempts per game last year. That was in his 13 starts. Extrapolate that data into 16 games, and you get 107 more pass attempts, 823 more yards (using last year’s Y/A), and six more touchdowns (5.6% TD rate). That means 593 attempts, 4533 yards, and 33 touchdowns if he started all 16 games last year. That would have been good for a QB8 rookie campaign without any contributions on the ground. This year, if you use 600 pass attempts as your line and give Baker a slight increase in completion percentage (to reflect a full season of Kitchens and OBJ), a slight increase in touchdown percentage, and average yards per attempt, it is within the realm of possibilities to see Baker at 4,700 yards and 36 touchdowns. Hello top 5 QB season. If you don’t think his touchdown percentage will increase, then let me give you one final stat: Baker had 50 fewer red zone attempts than the top of the leader board (twentieth) yet had 20 red zone touchdowns (ninth). OBJ had 20 red zone targets in 12 games with Eli Manning, tied for eleventh (He played in 12 games). If you like Baker Mayfield, don’t hesitate to pay his price in the sixth round. If he falls to the seventh round, even better. You know you will likely get a top 10 QB, with top 5 potential. You can leave him in all year and just enjoy Bakermania. Baker and the Browns will be must watch games. Don’t miss getting a piece of the pie because of a rigid late-QB code. Give this one some thought – minimal risk for a fun season ahead of you. Baker. Magic. Mayfield. – Chris Molina
Am I really going to talk about a kicker from a fantasy perspective? Yes, I absolutely am. The Browns have a loaded offense that features former first overall pick and Heisman trophy winning quarterback Baker Mayfield (who also set the rookie record last year for TD passes), Pro Bowl wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr and Jarvis Landry, studs Nick Chubb and pass-catching Duke Johnson at running back, and uber-athletic TE David Njoku. Some might say that’s a scary lineup on paper (it is). The Browns have so much faith in their offense that in 2019 they went the more defensive route on Draft day. In the fifth round, the Browns finally selected an player on offense — kicker Austin Seibert from Oklahoma. Hardly all that exciting, but he’s different than many kickers. One aspect is the fact that he will run down the field to make a play as a tackler. Come on, how many kickers do that?! Another is his accuracy. During his 2018 season at Oklahoma, he made 17 of 19 field goals and 87 of 88 PATs. I know drafting a kicker isn’t exciting, but Fantasy Football is a numbers game. He can be a difference maker in winning and losing close games, for both the Browns and for you. (If your league still employs kickers, that is.) – Chris Tyler
A troubled youngster who had many question marks coming into his rookie year last season, Antonio Callaway put everyone at ease when he made his mark with his lightning speed and good behavior throughout the season. It was never a matter of talent, just a matter of if he can keep that talent on the field due to his various off-the-field issues. Those off-field issues caused him to drop into the fourth round of the 2018 draft, which allowed the Browns to take a chance on a first-round talent.  Callaway finished with 568 yards and five touchdowns on 43 receptions in 2018- not a bad rookie campaign for a guy who is considered a one-dimensional player. With Odell Beckham joining the squad, he will be slotted behind him, Jarvis Landry, and arguably Rashard Higgins. I believe Callaway is the true WR3 on the team and will have no competition with Higgins for targets. But understand he will not see as much volume as he did last season due to the presumption that Beckham takes an exorbitant amount of targets away from him. Callaway is WR76 right now, which puts his value through the roof considering he can produce, but is being taken in the latter rounds of the draft. He has boom written all over him, and he can be the guy to take the pressure off Beckham and Landry. – Joe Zollo
“The Browns defense” and “viable fantasy football players” don’t normally go together in the same sentence, but Cleveland has changed the view on their franchise over the past years. The emergence of their offensive talent is clear, but the defensive side of the ball tends to be overshadowed in today’s high-scoring and fast-paced games. The clear example of defensive excellence, especially in fantasy, is Myles Garrett. Garrett, a former number one overall pick, made his mark in the Top 15 this past fantasy season among defensive linemen and, by my prediction, will crack the Top 10 this season.  Cleveland has more incredible talent outside of Garrett, but sadly none can consistently produce in fantasy football. Damarious Randall had a fantastic 2018 season, but he hit career highs in every category. I just do not see him doing that again as the previous two seasons in 2017 and 2016 were lackluster, at best. Keep your eye on Linebackers Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey. Both had a shortened season due to injury, but placed LB6 and LB7, respectively, in 2017. They compliment each other very well and could have big seasons if they can stay healthy.– Joe Zollo