By Connor Rigg
The Cleveland Browns had a disappointing season after a hyped-up offseason in which they acquired superstar Odell Beckham Jr. The offense was subpar, and Baker Mayfield was a big reason for that. Odell battled injuries, and while Baker was average, it was the running game that kept the team afloat. They ended the year a disappointing 6-10.
With everyone healthy, and adding Austin Hooper, can this offense tap into the potential to win a fantasy championship? Let’s take a look.
QB: Baker Mayfield
Baker Mayfield’s 2019 campaign was a disaster. He regressed in nearly every passing category, and he hopes to turn it around this season. Baker had 3827 passing yards, which is slightly higher than his rookie season but only completed 59.4% of his passes. He also threw five fewer touchdowns (22) than he had his rookie season (27) while throwing seven more interceptions (21!). His 21 interceptions ranked 2nd only to Jameis Winston. Baker has got to make better decisions throwing the ball. Kevin Stefanski is now calling the shots, which means Baker may see fewer passing attempts in favor of a more run-heavy approach. I still think Baker’s range of outcomes is a borderline QB1 with all of the weapons around him, but he needs to improve his accuracy and decision-making. He’s a solid QB2 with QB1 upside.
RB: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt
Nick Chubb had a fantastic year rushing on a Browns team that disappointed a lot of people. He had 298 carries for 1494 yards (5.0 Y/A) and 8 touchdowns, adding 278 receiving yards. He was 2nd in rushing yards and yards per game only behind Derrick Henry. Chubb was highly efficient with his carries, but the only knock on him is his role in the passing game. Kareem Hunt played in 8 games, and he only had one less reception with more receiving yards and touchdowns. Chubb may have a limited ceiling due to Hunt being so involved in the passing game. Chubb will still receive a heavy workload, so he is a solid RB1, but his ceiling is capped unless something happens with Hunt.
The NFL suspended Hunt for the first eight games, but when he came back, he was a solid PPR player. He rushed for 179 yards on 43 attempts (4.2 Y/A) and 2 touchdowns, but his real calling was his involvement in the passing game. He had 37 receptions for 285 yards and 1 touchdown. If something happens to Chubb, Hunt is a top 5 RB every single week with league-winning ability. Hunt has been working with the wide receivers, so look for the Browns to line him up out wide with Chubb on the field. Hunt is a perfect target for those who want to go WR heavy in the first few rounds in a Zero-RB strategy.
WR: Odell Beckham Jr, Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones
Odell played through a significant core injury in 2019, which needed surgery during the offseason. He had an average season by Odell standards, catching 74 passes on 133 targets and gaining 1,035 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns. Baker’s poor play also contributed to his down season, so it’s not all on Odell. His catch rate was 55.6%, which is nearly 6% lower than his career average (61.5%). Now healthy, and with Baker hopefully taking another step forward, look for Odell to have a rebound season. He will be a top 10 WR again with top 5 upside if Baker can progress. He’s going in the late 3rd round in drafts, which is a steal. You can grab two stud running backs and have Odell as your WR1. Buy OBJ in 2020 drafts.
Jarvis Landry had a very productive season for the Browns. He led the team in targets, receptions, yards, and receiving touchdowns. Landry has always been a very safe WR2 for fantasy purposes. He won’t have weeks where he kills your lineup and has some explosive weeks. I do think he takes a step back to Odell this season, now that OBJ is healthy. His 138 targets will inevitably regress due to the offense changing, and with Odell commanding a more substantial target share. But you can take Landry in the middle of your drafts as a WR2/3.
Rashard Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones don’t hold much redraft value since they won’t command many targets. They might hit 20-30 combined but if something were to happen to OBJ or Landry, one of these players can step up and contribute. They are late round targets in dynasty.
TE: Austin Hooper, David Njoku
Austin Hooper got paid this offseason. He signed a 4-year, $42 million contract and should be a security blanket for Baker. Hooper is coming off his best season in which he set career highs in catches (75), yards (787), and touchdowns (6) in only 13 games. The Falcons offense is a lot more pass-heavy than the Browns, so I expect a drop off for Hooper. However, he should still be a top 10 TE.
David Njoku was limited to four games this past season. He’s a big, athletic TE who has loads of potential. The only problem is that he struggles with drops and has been inconsistent. He’s also playing behind Hooper, so targets could be scarce. I don’t see him playing a substantial role in this offense unless they go 2 TE sets, then he may see more targets. He’s best left on waivers unless we see some positive news about his role this season.
Connor Rigg – Dynasty/Redraft
Ride or Dynasty