2020 Cleveland Browns Fantasy Team Preview: The Poster Child For Post-Hype Risk & Reward

2020 Cleveland Browns Fantasy Team Preview: The Poster Child For Post-Hype Risk & Reward
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Coaching Staff

The forward momentum of the Cleveland Browns ended at one season. Freddie Kitchens looked overmatched as the head coach in 2019 while failing to make significant growth on either side of the ball. Cleveland brought in Kevin Stefanski to take over as the head coach. Over the previous 14 seasons, he worked in the Vikings’ system with various coaching jobs. Last year he ran Minnesota’s offense for the first time.

The Browns slipped to 22nd in points scored (335) while having the same finish in yards gained. Since 1988, Cleveland ranks in the top ten in scoring only once (2007 – 8th).

Alex Van Pelt spent the last six seasons as the quarterbacks’ coach for the Packers and the Bengals. He’s been a coach in the NFL since 2006. Van Pelt has one season of experience as an offensive coordinator.

Cleveland improved to 22nd in yards allowed. They allowed 393 points (22nd), which was one point more than they allowed in 2018.

Joe Woods takes over as the defensive coordinator. Last year he held the defensive back coach and passing game coordinator for the 49ers after running the Broncos’ defense in 2017 and 2018. Woods worked in the Vikings’ system from 2006 to 2013.

Quarterbacks

Baker Mayfield (RANK – ADP)

Equifax issued a fraud alert on Mayfield after his step back in play his sophomore season. He threw an interception in 13 of his 16 games with five of those contests resulting in two or more Ints (13 combined). His first game with two passing TDs didn’t come under the 9th game in the second week of November. Mayfield had a completion rate below 55 percent in six games. He passed for over 300 yards in two games (342/1 and 327/3).

The Browns added an upgrade at TE (Austin Hooper), but the jury seems hung on the new ceiling of Odell Beckham. Overall, Cleveland has talent at RB, which will temper the overall chances in the passing game for Mayfield. His accuracy (68.5 percent) was elite in college, which will need to be corrected to be considered a top 12 QB in the NFL or the fantasy world. The gambler in me gives him a chance at beating his rookie season in TDs with over 4,200 passing yards.

His conservative projections are 4,176 combined yards with about 28 TDs and 15 Ints. 

Running Backs

Nick Chubb (RANK – ADP)

Chubb finished second in the NFL in rushing yards after faltering over his final two games (15/45 and 13/41). Over his first eight games, he gained 964 yards (121 per game) with six TDs and 25 catches. After RB Kareem Hunt returned to the field, Chubb gained 808 yards with two TDs and only provided 11 catches. In essence, he lost over half of his role in the passing game. Due to his failure in rushing TDs. his value took a hit with more responsibility falling on the team’s playmaking when at the goal-line.

Overall, Chubb had 334 touches (20.9 per game) with strength in his yards per rush (5.0) and runs over 20 yards (11). This season with Hunt in the mix all year, Chubb won’t make any progress in the passing game, and Hunt will undoubtedly steal some rushing TDs on passing downs in close.

Talented player, but I have to lower his projections to 1,457 combined yards with 11 TDs and 28 catches.

Kareem Hunt (RANK – ADP)

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Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham Jr. (RANK – ADP)

Beckham lost the bounce in his step over his last 32 games, which came after an explosive start to his career over three seasons for the Giants (288/4122/35 on 157 targets). His catch rate (55.6) in 2019 came in well below his rookie season (70.0) percent). Beckham finished 12th in WR targets (133), but 25th in WR scoring (203.0) in PPR leagues with only one impact game (Week 2 – 6/161/1). He scored between 10.0 and 16.10 fantasy points in nine of his 16 games. Over his first 43 games, Beckham had 20 catches for 20 yards or more and 35 TDs compared to eight catches over 20 yards and 13 TDs over his last 32 games. The decision here is between the chicken (Baker Mayfield) and the egg (Beckham).

He failed to gain over 90 yards over his final nine games while offering only one impact game (6/161/1) on the year.

The first run of his projections came to 73 catches for 1,026 yards and nine touchdowns. His talent screams value, and the offseason changes at head coach, and on the offensive line should turn the tide on the Browns’ passing game in 2020.

Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins & Donovan Peoples-Jones

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Tight Ends

Austin Hooper

Hooper improved every year in the NFL, and he was on pace for 92 catches for 969 yards and seven TDs in 2019 if he didn’t miss three games with a left knee injury. Even with growth in his game, Hooper remains more of a short area target (10.1 YPC over the last three years) while showcasing strength in his catch rate (78.0).

Last year the Falcons led the NFL in pass attempts (686) while finishing 30th in rushing attempts (362). In comparison, Cleveland came in 22nd in rushing attempts (394) and 19th in passing attempts (537). In essence, the Browns threw the ball 22 percent less than Atlanta.

His best play last year came over his first eight games (52/591/5 in 62 targets), highlighted by three games (6/66/2, 9/103, and 8/117/1).

Hooper will undoubtedly improve on the Browns’ 2019 TE stats (41/497/8 on 67 targets), but His ceiling is much lower this year. At best, 65 catches for 650 yards and less than five TDs. He looked overpriced in the early draft season (ADP of 94), but his draft value fell to 105 over the next month after the 2020 NFL Draft. I have projected 57 catches for 563 yards and about four touchdowns, which pushed him outside the top 12 tight ends this year.

As the summer moves, his projections will change based on any news coming out of Cleveland. For the record, the difference from the 18th projected tight end in 2020 to the tenth is only 22 fantasy points in PPR leagues.

David Njoku & Harrison Bryant

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Defense

Cleveland slipped to 30th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (2,315) with 19 TDs and 14 rushes over 20 yards. They allowed 5.0 yards per rush with opponents attempting 28.9 rushes per game. They climbed to 7th in passing yards allowed (3,470), but they allowed 25 passing touchdowns with 14 Ints. The Browns had 38 sacks with QBs gaining 7.3 yards per pass attempt.

In the premium outlook, on defense you’ll find write-ups for DE Myles Garrett, DE Olivier Vernon, DT Sheldon Richardson, DT Larry Ogunjobi, LB Mack Wilson, CB Denzel Ward, CB Greedy Williams, S Karl Joseph & S Grant Delpit.

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Team Defense Outlook

This defense has talent at two levels, but the lack of edge players at linebacker can lead to many first downs and big plays by their opponents. I’d like to see more playmaking skills from their cornerback before considering them a viable fantasy starter. It all starts with DE Myles Garrett. If he turns into a beast, the passing window will shorten, making the whole overall defense better.

Free Agency, Draft, Offensive Line, Offensive Schedule & Defensive Schedule

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