Kickoff: Sunday, November 15th at 1:00 PM ET
Location: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, OH
Betting Odds: CLE -2.5, 55.5 total via Oddsshark
Deshaun Watson (Start, QB1)
Deshaun Watson is on a tear; four straight games of at least 27 fantasy points, and six straight multi-touchdown games. Last week Watson also rushed the ball 10 times for 50 yards, both season highs. Fantasy managers will need that extra production moving forward as Watson’s schedule gets increasingly more difficult after this week’s solid matchup against the Browns. This will be Watson’s last positive fantasy matchup till Week 16, based on fantasy strength of schedule. With a running game in question, Watson will be forced to throw the ball this week and the Browns have allowed more than 400 yards passing in two of the past five games. Watson is a top-5 option this week.
David Johnson (Start, Flex, Concussion), Duke Johnson (Start, Flex if David is out)
David Johnson exited last week’s game with a concussion and is now in the protocol. Managers are not likely to hear news on his status until Friday afternoon’s final injury report is published. The Browns are a neutral matchup for backs but can be exploited by pass-catching back like Johnson. His replacement will be Duke Johnson and Duke should slide right into the role and both as a rusher and receiver. 100 total yards is likely for whoever is the starter but don’t expect an easy touchdown. The Browns have been solid defending the goal line against the position and with Johnson will be fortunate to find the end zone. A flex play is about all managers can project this week.
Wide Receivers/Tight End
Will Fuller (Start, WR2), Brandin Cooks (Start, WR3), Randall Cobb (Sit), Jordan Akins/Darren Fells (Sit)
Will Fuller sits just outside the top-12 receivers at WR14 on the season, and his season so far has reflected his boom or bust nature considering he has finished as a weekly top-12 wideout just twice in eight games. He has also yet to drop a multiple TD game in 2020. Managers should remain patient and start Fuller this week. Cleveland has struggled to contain primary receivers, including 100-yard performances by Amari Cooper and Tyler Boyd in recent weeks. Brandin Cooks needs to be starting again this week; Cooks has produced top-24 weeks in three of his last four outings. This consistency is coming from an increased volume of targets, 39 in the last four weeks, and three touchdowns in that span. In the slot, Randall Cobb has been hard to figure and tougher to recommend. Cobb is proving he has plenty left in the tank but his target share and touchdown production is hit or miss. The Browns have been tough against slot receivers, and Cobb should only be started if you are desperate. At tight end, neither Jordan Akins nor Darren Fells are consistent enough parts of the offense to recommend, even with the state of the position.
Baker Mayfield (Start, QB2, Covid-IR), Case Keenum (Start, QB2 if Mayfield is out)
On Sunday the Browns placed quarterback Baker Mayfield on the reserve/COVID-19 list after he was in close contact with a staffer who tested positive. The good news for Mayfield is that the team was on a bye. Mayfield is likely to come off the list before his Week 10 game but there is a possibility that he could miss this week’s game. And that is a shame because the Texans are allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to the position, allowing QBs an average of 270 yards and multiple touchdowns per week. The matchup is a positive but Mayfield has underperformed all season, so even if he does suit up a QB2 play should be expected. If the Browns have to start back up Case Keenum he can also be used in 2QB or Superflex leagues against this suspect defense.
Nick Chubb (Start, RB1), Kareem Hunt (Start, RB2)
Fantasy managers rejoice, the Browns have designated Nick Chubb to return from IR. All signs point to Chubb returning to fantasy lineups this weekend after missing four games with a knee injury. He should immediately be inserted into your lineups against one of the worst rush defenses in the league. Do not worry about the team easing him into action, teams seldom limit carries for players given the all-clear to play given the nature of the sport. Teams just wouldn’t risk him taking the field should he not be ready. Kareem Hunt remains a viable RB2 despite Chubb’s return. Hunt has finished as a weekly top-24 option in six of eight games, including four straight alongside Chudd to open the season. This could be an explosive afternoon for the Browns rushing attack.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Jarvis Landry (Start, WR3), Rashard Higgins (Start, Flex), Donovan Peoples-Jones (Sit), Austin Hooper (Start, TE2)
Managers should be cautious with the entire receiving corps in Cleveland this week. On paper, the matchup couldn’t be any better, the Texans have a bottom ten pass defense. But the Browns are also a low volume passing attack, missing a start receiver and Jarvis Landry has been disappointing with just one weekly finish inside the top-24 receivers. Landry has a chance to bounce back but his ceiling is capped and should be considered a WR3 with a bit of upside this week. Rashard Higgins could be a sneaky play this week, the team has had an extra week of practice getting him integrated into the offense. He has a chance to come up big as the team’s number two receiver and managers in need of a solid flex play should feel good taking the risk. Rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones should be owned but his production will come from big plays, which are hard to project. Bench him until his role clarifies.
Austin Hooper is expected to return after missing two games and a bye week with an appendectomy. In his stead, both Harrison Bryant and David Njoku split time and production with neither player separating themselves. Bryant and Njoku both return to backup status and can be dropped to waivers for most managers. Hooper however should continue right where he left off with three straight games of 50+ yards or a touchdown. With the state of the position, we will take it and hope Hooper finds the endzone.
-Marc Salazar (@dingwog on Twitter)