2018 Team Preview: Cleveland Browns
Photo by Mark Alberti/ Icon Sportswire
Tyrod Taylor (QB 1/2)
First off, I want to say that yes I am a die hard Browns fan. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to be biased here. Tyrod Taylor has played for a Bills team for the last several seasons with few weapons to speak of at WR and finished as QB 19, 19, and 20. Nobody is expecting much from him except mediocrity, but let me make my case. Tyrod Taylor is going from throwing to Zay Jones to Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, David Njoku, and Duke Johnson, Jr. Behind Gordon and Landry at WR, there’s Rashard Higgins and rookie Antonio Callaway who have both looked great this preseason. That is an incredible receiving corps. Add to that new OC Todd Haley and you have the makings of one of the most dominant passing games in the league. Under Haley, Ben Roethlisberger threw for over 4000 yards last season. So while the Browns have been lackluster in the past few years (understatement of the year, I know), they are poised for a huge breakout. Don’t worry, Taylor will be on the WW when everyone starts to see how amazing he is. Just don’t be surprised, you heard it here before the season even started. Just look at this tasty jam to see what I’m hyping:
Baker Mayfield (QB 2/3)
If Taylor cannot get the job done or gets injured, the party will continue with rookie QB sensation Baker Mayfield. Mayfield has a 120.6 passer rating in a clean pocket which leads all rookie QB’s, has great pocket presence and has impressed just about everyone in the preseason. If Mayfield does get to see playing time in the regular season, he might make mistakes but it looks like he will ultimately be more of an Andrew Luck than a Johnny Manziel.
Jarvis Landry (WR 2)
Landry is coming off an incredible 2017 season where he posted an incredible 112 receptions and nearly 1000 yards. He is a catch machine and makes a great compliment to the rest of the receiving corps. Landry also had 9 touchdowns last season, and I see that total being about the same with the Browns. I do think his yardage total will rise as the 2018 Browns look much better than the 2017 Dolphins.
Josh Gordon (WR 1)
It’s been a while since Gordon blasted the league away with an incredible 1600+ yard season in 2013, but when he came back briefly following a suspension at the end of 2017, he immediately returned to form, burning one of the best CB’s in the league in Casey Hayward of the Chargers. So with a full off season to prepare, and finally returning to practice, I have every expectation that Gordon can return to the height of his glory days. Much remains to be seen of Flash, but if you can draft him in the 4th, consider it a steal. Here are his 2013 highlights, in case you didn’t know.
David Njoku (TE 2/3)
David Njoku is a dark horse candidate to be a top 12 TE, but I think more often he’ll be a 2 or even a 3. He had a great rookie campaign in 2017 with the Browns, survived the culling of the off-season, and has looked incredible in the preseason. If you need a TE late, Njoku is your man.
Carlos Hyde (RB 2/3)
Carlos Hyde, recently of the SF 49ers, is not a great pass-catcher. However, he is pretty good between the tackles, and with a such a great receiving corps around, he won’t have to worry about stacked boxes. The Browns run blocking looked pretty dang good in the Preseason, especially weeks 2 and 3, but Hyde’s lack of pass-catching limits how good he will be.
Duke Johnson, Jr (RB 2 with upside in PPR, RB 3 in standard)
Duke Johnson, Jr is one of the league’s premier pass-catching backs. He ended 2017 with 74 receptions for just shy of 700 yards, and I can see him repeating that if not more. The Browns offense was a mess in 2017 and looks so much better this season it’s like night and day. With a better offense, comes better opportunity. If you are in a PPR league, he’s your man. In standard he probably won’t be more than a bye-week filler or FLEX for deeper leagues.
Before I wrap this up, I want to say that WR’s Rashard Higgins and Antonio Callaway have looked great this preseason. You can’t really trust preseason performances, however, so it’s hard to gauge accurately how good they will be in the regular season. Callaway is a rookie and Higgins has been OK previously with flashes of greatness. It won’t matter much unless there is injury, but keep your eyes on them. Also, RB Nick Chubb should be a great change-of-pace to Carlos Hyde and will see a lot of opportunity should Hyde go down to injury.
The Browns do look better this year on defense, and much of the offseason and draft was used to plug holes in their secondary, but I would play wait and see with the Browns defense. It could be good right off the bat, or could take some time for the young guys to gel. Anyway, they face the Steelers in week one, and no defense should be picked against that O-line with Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown fully healthy.