2020 Fantasy Previews Part 8: Cleveland Browns

Last year was a very disappointing season for the Cleveland Browns. The offense was expected to be amazing with Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Jarvis Landry, and Odell Beckham Jr. This was easily one of the most talented offenses and for whatever reason, they couldn't make it work. The most likely reason for the is the inconsistent quarterback play of Baker Mayfield. Mayfield failed to live up to the lofty expectations set for him last season and so did the Browns. Because of this, they fired their coach, Freddie Kitchens. They hired the offensive coordinator from the Vikings, Kevin Stefanski. Stefanski will bring in his run-heavy, outside zone scheme to Cleveland. The Browns have had first overall pick after first overall pick, yet they are still a mediocre football team. New coach Kevin Stefanski will try to turn this around and lead the Browns to a playoff spot. If he wants to keep his job, Kevin Stefanski will have to find success quickly for a team that really could use some instant success.

Projected Depth Chart

Quarterback: 1. Baker Mayfield 2. Case Keenum

Running back: 1. Nick Chubb 2. Kareem Hunt

Wide receiver: 1. Odell Beckham 2. Jarvis Landry 3. Donovan Peoples-Jones 4. KhaDarel Hodge

Slot receiver: 1. Rashard Higgins 2. J'Mon Moore

Tight end: 1. Austin Hooper 2. David Njoku

Quarterbacks - Baker Mayfield had a solid rookie year in 2018. He passed for 3725 yards and 27 touchdowns on a 63.8% completion with 14 interceptions. He had 240.1 fantasy points and averaged 17.2 fantasy points per game. Baker looked like he was very worthy of the number 1 pick and turned the 0-16 Browns into the 7-8-1 Browns. Going into 2019, a lot of people really liked Mayfield heading into fantasy and were drafting him as a top 5 quarterback.

Mayfield did not live up to this potential in 2019. His numbers went down in almost every statistical category. He had 3827 yards and 22 touchdowns on a 59.4% completion with 21 interceptions. Mayfield finished as the QB19 but was pretty inconsistent. He only had 9 games with over 15 fantasy points. He had 4 games under 10 fantasy points, with one of those being in the negatives.

Going into 2020, Mayfield should be better than he was last year. With a new coach, he should cut down on his turnovers. Mayfield has some of the best weapons in the league that will help him improve. Mayfield is a mini-sleeper because he is going a little under the radar. Mayfield is usually one of the last quarterbacks to be drafted in most drafts. I would consider him in a 10 team, but nothing smaller than that.

Running backs - Before the 2019 season, two of the biggest questions for fantasy were: How will the Browns use Kareem Hunt? and will Nick Chubb remain viable for fantasy? Kareem Hunt was suspended for the first half of the season, but people thought he would just go in and take the job. This was evident in ESPN's rankings as Chubb was ranked in the 35-40 range. The ESPN staff obviously knew how dumb that was, because Chubb was going to be the workhorse until Hunt came back and moved him up to the second round.

Chubb finished as the NFL's second leading rusher with 1494 yards and 8 touchdowns. Chubb also finished as the RB8 in fantasy with 255.2 fantasy points. If Kareem Hunt didn't come back and you took Chubb's average from the first half of the season, he would've finished as the RB5 with 302.8 fantasy points. This did not happen and Kareem Hunt came back and had a pretty good end to the year. He averaged 12.7 fantasy points in the final 8 games of the season. If he was able to keep this pace up for the whole season, he would've finished as the RB18 with 203.2 fantasy points.

Heading into 2020, Chubb is going in the second round and that is way too high. If you took his average over the final 8 weeks of the season, he would've finished as the RB18 with 207.6 fantasy points per game. Hunt outscored Chubb in 6 of the 8 games they played together. If you draft Nick Chubb in the second round, you will be severely disappointed with his output. Kareem Hunt in the sixth round however, is an amazing option at the flex position because of his consistency. Hunt had over 10 points in 6 of the 8 games he played and you can get him as the RB4 on your roster.

Wide receivers - The Cleveland Browns have drastically improved their wide receivers over the last two years by adding Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham. These two players have played together in high school, college, and now the NFL. Both Landry and Beckham had issues with their former situations and wanted to be traded. They are both very talented receivers who form one of the best 1-2 punch combos in the league.

Both Landry and Beckham had decent seasons. Jarvis Landry caught 83 passes on 138 targets for 1174 yards and 6 touchdowns. Landry finished as the WR12 and was a great flex option. He had under 10 points only four times and never scored below 6. Beckham caught 74 passes on 133 targets for 1035 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also dropped 11 passes. Odell finished as the WR25 but only had over 15 points 4 times in 16 games.

Expect similar target sharing between these two in 2020. If Mayfield can improve, a few more of these targets will be catchable. Most of the targets in this offense will be going to Austin Hooper, Odell Beckham, and Jarvis Landry. But, there will still be some left over. Those targets will likely go to Rashard Higgins and rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones. Neither of the two will receive enough volume to be viable fantasy options. Odell Beckham is slightly overvalued this year. He has been going around the 3rd-4th round and I am staying away from him at that price. Landry has been all over the board. I have seen him go anywhere from 5th-8th round. Landry is a great pickup if you can get him in the later rounds.

Tight ends - In 2018, it looked like David Njoku was going to be a good tight end for the Cleveland Browns. He caught 56 passes for 639 yards and 4 touchdowns while finishing as the TE9. Njoku received inconsistent targets that entire season and never had more than 100 receiving yards in a game. His best game was when he caught 7 passes for 55 yards and a touchdown.

Njoku was ineffective in 2019. He played in 4 games, only averaging 3.8 fantasy points per game, while being injured for most of the season. This made the Browns sign coveted free agent Austin Hooper to replace him. Hooper finished as the TE6. If he played the full season and kept his average, he would've finished as the TE2 with 235.2 fantasy points.

Going into the 2020 season, it looks like Hooper could be a big part of this offense. The Browns only have 3 real threats at receiver this year and Hooper is one of them. Over the last 4 years under Kevin Stefanski, Kyle Rudolph averaged 158.1 fantasy points per game. Austin Hooper is a better tight end than Kyle Rudolph and has a more talented quarterback than he did. You can get Hooper around the 8th-9th round as a low end TE1 or a comfortable backup.

Fantasy Analysis:

Sleepers: Baker Mayfield, Kareem Hunt, Austin Hooper

Bust: Nick Chubb

Overvalued: Odell Beckham

Undervalued: Jarvis Landry

Do not draft: Rashard Higgins, David Njoku, Donovan Peoples-Jones

I hope you liked 2020 Fantasy Previews Part 8: Cleveland Browns. The next one to come out will be 2020 Fantasy Previews Part 9: Dallas Cowboys. Comment your thoughts on the impact of the Cleveland Browns offense for 2020 fantasy.

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