Cleveland hasn’t exactly been known for its offensive greatness the past few seasons, and in fantasy football it’s been no different. Last year Terrelle Pryor and Isaiah Crowell were the only two viable fantasy starts in Cleveland, and with Pryor moving to the Redskins the Browns fantasy potential is looking bleaker than ever.
How different is 2017 to 2016 then? Is Cleveland still a fantasy wasteland, devoid of any kind of consistent fantasy success?
It comes down to the kind of player you are. If you’re the kind of player who carefully evaluates the matchups and the numbers, on paper Cleveland isn’t much better (fantasy wise) than they were last year. The question mark at the quarterback position seems like it’s going to go unresolved until much closer to the regular season and until it gets resolved, drafting any of Cleveland’s wide receivers seems like a fairly hefty gamble.
The one constant in this Browns offense is Isaiah Crowell, who is going to be rushing behind an improved offensive line and a young quarterback, both good signs for his fantasy potential. If he stays healthy, Crowell should receive a ton of carries and after averaging 4.8 yards per carry last year, the signs are looking good for Crowell to be a top ten fantasy back if he sees the red-zone touches.
Last year he was given the ball 198 times, ran in seven touchdowns and even caught 40 passes for 319 yards. We know he’s going to get the opportunities in the run game this season.
The big gamble with Crowell is where you draft him. He’s a back that’s been going in the late second round/early third in a lot of mock drafts right now, so it’s up to each player to determine what you think he’s worth. Currently NFL.com has him going around pick 28, around the middle of the pack for running backs. Lamar Miller, Leonard Fournette and Marshawn Lynch are all currently valued ahead of him.
Aside from Crowell, the Browns fantasy future is extremely hazy. If you’re a player who plays conservatively and by the numbers, then the Browns may be a team to avoid this year. However, more risk-oriented players may find a lot to like in this Browns offense.
For starters, they’re cheap. If you’re in daily fantasy leagues, going after a guy like Kenny Britt or David Njoku is not going to break the bank and if you’re drafting in traditional leagues, you can snag Njoku off the waiver wire without even needing to draft him (that might change the closer the regular season gets, but for now he has the potential to be an under the radar fantasy TE).
Britt is currently on the edge as far as receivers go, hovering in the sixties in many fantasy WR rankings. Last year he did have 68 catches for 1,002 yards with some subpar quarterback play, but because of the questions at quarterback for the Browns it’s hard to predict whether or not he’ll repeat it. If Kessler starts, Kenny Britt may be a more reliable start, especially in PPR leagues. If Kizer starts it’s difficult to predict how he’ll do, because as of now we’ve yet to see Kizer play in any kind of NFL action.
He’s currently ranked 97th on NFL.com for fantasy players, in the range of receivers like Eric Decker, Cameron Meredith and Jeremy Maclin.
Personally at that level Eric Decker seems like he’d be a higher value pick. Even with an injury prone Marcus Mariota and a rising star in Corey Davis, Decker has shown that he can get it done time and time again and with his red zone prowess he feels like a pick with higher potential at that level.
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Corey Coleman feels like a boom-or-bust player for the 2017 fantasy season. The broken hand last year kept him from getting some valuable rookie experience, but fantasy owners may still remember his Week 2 performance against the Ravens where he caught five passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns.
With Terrelle Pryor gone, Corey Coleman has the option to be a feature receiver in this corp, but it’s hard to tell whether or not he’s ready to take that next step. The questions at the quarterback position don’t help, nor does the addition of the veteran Britt who is surely to take away from a chunk of Coleman’s targets, but if Coleman is sitting there in late rounds (around 8+) he’s worth a pick just for the raw potential.
Coleman is currently at 109th on the NFL.com fantasy draft board. He’s around guys like Adam Thielen, Marvin Jones and Quincy Enunwa.
If you need a receiver around that range, Corey Coleman is a gutsy pick to make and one to choose if you’re looking for that boom-or-bust player. If you’re just looking for a player to plug in when you don’t like a certain match up, Adam Thielen might be a better pick. He was a pleasant surprise last year and displayed some good chemistry with Sam Bradford.
David Njoku is also a player that sits on the fantasy fringe. I’m personally a big fan of his potential because his size and athleticism should make him a valuable red-zone target for whoever is playing quarterback, but because we’ve yet to see him play we also don’t know who he works better with. Last year Barnidge was much more productive in games when Josh McCown started, so this year we’ll have to see whether or not Cody Kessler is going to go to his tight ends more.
Njoku is currently going undrafted in every fantasy mock draft I’ve witnessed, so for now there’s no rush to evaluate him and his potential until the regular season gets closer. Don’t waste a draft pick on him, if you’re drafting anytime soon you can still easily get him off waivers in the majority of leagues.
Barring an injury, Crowell is a fairly secure pick in the late second (especially if you draft RB-RB) or third round, but as for Coleman, Britt and Njoku it’d be best to wait and see how the quarterback situation unfolds before you jump on any of these players. Njoku likely won’t be drafted, but Coleman and Britt are being taken in the later rounds in most drafts. Without knowing who’s throwing the ball and how consistent they are, it’s hard to put a firm judgment on their value.
Britt is the safer choice as far as fantasy football goes, but Coleman has the potential to be Cleveland’s number one wide receiver this year. If Coleman does make that leap, he has the potential to be a WR 2 range player and given how deep in the draft he’s going that’s great value.