The Browns offense looks loaded this year. They have weapons all over the field with guys like Odell Beckham Jr, Jarvis Landry, Austin Hooper, and Nick Chubb, as well as a reinforced offensive line with 2020 first round draft pick Jedrick Wills Jr, as well as Jack Conklin, and standout guard Joel Bitonio. Plus, if Baker Mayfield is able to elevate his game next season, throwing fewer interceptions and becoming more efficient with the football, look out for the Browns offense.
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Yet, for fantasy owners, is the Browns offense an offense you can trust in fantasy? Can you take one player and know that they’ll perform? In my eyes, there are simply too many weapons in Cleveland. In the passing game, there are at least three legitimate targets in Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr, and Austin Hooper, meaning that having high hopes for any one of these playmakers may be foolhardy.
Even in the run game, things appear to be murky. Yes, Nick Chubb was absolutely excellent last season rushing for just shy of 1500 yards, and 8 touchdowns; however, with Kareem Hunt ready for a full season in Cleveland, Chubb may no longer be able to keep up his hot streak. If Chubb gets injured and Hunt steps into the starting role, I’m afraid that Chubb may no longer find a starting role in Cleveland’s backfield. Don’t forget that when Hunt was in Kansas City, he was one of the best dual threat running backs in the NFL, rushing for over 1300 yards and 8 touchdowns, while adding 53 catches for 455 yards in his rookie season.
Also, Baker Mayfield is not exactly a reliable quarterback that fantasy owners can trust to get the ball into his playmakers’ hands. Not only was his completion percentage below 60 percent in 2019, but he had 21 interceptions, while only throwing for 22 touchdowns. However, Mayfield is not the entire problem.
As I said above, there is too much competition for targets in Cleveland, which will hamper Landry, OBJ, and Hooper’s fantasy impact in 2020. Landry was Cleveland’s best fantasy wideout in 2019, bringing in 83 catches for 1174 yards, and 6 touchdowns. Yet, out of PPR leagues, I’m worried that Landry, who is basically a glorified slot receiver, will struggle to keep up his Pro Bowl numbers.
In PPR leagues, Landry is still a suitable WR3 option, as Landry is known for catching a lot of footballs. In fact, Landry has never had less than 80 catches in a season during his 6 year career, which makes it promising that he will keep that level of production up. At the end of the day though, bringing Austin Hooper into the Cleveland offense, as well as a high likelihood that OBJ bounces back in 2020 will make Landry’s yardage totals and red zone target share decrease.
Odell Beckham Jr. is where things get interesting. In PPR leagues and even in standard scoring leagues OBJ is a legitimate WR2, even after struggling to be Cleveland’s WR1 a season ago. Yet 1035 receiving yards, 74 catches, and 4 touchdown catches are still promising stats for OBJ’s first year in a brand new environment with a questionable starting quarterback. OBJ during his heyday was one of the league’s most promising and dominant wideouts after fully establishing himself on the national stage following a crazy one handed catch against the Cowboys back in 2014. Yet, OBJ still presents a lot of risk as a WR2 in fantasy. His stats last season barely scratched the surface of what he has done in the past, but what if OBJ is past his prime?
OBJ’s appeal in fantasy is his high upside due to his former production. In his first three NFL seasons, Beckham Jr, had just shy of 300 catches for over 4100 yards, and 35 touchdowns. Those are WR1 kind of numbers, but if you think that OBJ will be able to get back to those numbers with Landry and Hooper in town, think again. Not often do you see former top producers reignite their fantasy careers three or four years after their All Pro like production. Just think of guys like David Johnson or Jimmy Graham who are still fantasy relevant players, even though they have not made a significant impact in the fantasy world for at least three seasons. With that said, be cautious about drafting OBJ if you still think he is his former self.
Finally, Austin Hooper is a hard player to make a decision on. For starters, most peoples’ distaste of Hooper in fantasy this season is due to the competition for a healthy target share in Cleveland with the aforementioned Landry and OBJ. Even David Njoku, who missed a lot of time last season may take a tiny bit of Hooper’s playing time too. However, that is not the issue. Last season in Atlanta, Hooper excelled even with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley in town, hauling in 75 catches for 787 yards and 6 touchdowns while missing three games last season. But there are two problems with Hooper now playing in Cleveland.
Firstly, Baker Mayfield is a downgrade to Matt Ryan. Not only is Ryan a fringe top ten NFL quarterback, but he threw for more yards and touchdowns than Mayfield did in 2019, while throwing for less interceptions and a higher completion percentage. That means that Hooper will have worse quarterback play to build off of in 2020.
Plus, Atlanta’s running game struggled last season. Devonta Freeman only rushed for 650 yards and two touchdowns in 2019, which made Matt Ryan have to throw the ball a lot more on second and third down. Yet, in Cleveland, Nick Chubb keeps the offense on track, and behind a new and improved offensive line in Cleveland, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cleveland very dependent on the run, further stifling any hope that Hooper could continue to be a top ten tight end in fantasy next season.
Hooper is a low ceiling TE2 in fantasy this year due to being in a worse situation than he was in in Atlanta a year ago. Yet, where he is being drafted, there are tight ends who are less established but potentially more likely to boom in 2020, like Mike Gesicki or Hayden Hurst, who replaces Hooper in the Falcons offense.
As an offensive unit, I’m excited for what the Browns are going to be able to accomplish next season; however, as an avid fan of fantasy football I’d be wary of drafting any of Baker Mayfield’s supporting cast in 2020. Maybe Nick Chubb is a good option, as a high end RB2, but even he comes at a decent amount of risk with Kareem Hunt in the backfield. When drafting Landry, OBJ, or even Austin Hooper, don’t expect them to be breakout fantasy players in 2020. Yes, you can expect for Beckham Jr. to rebound next season after acclimatizing to his new environment, but I’m not so sure if the same can be said about Landry and Hooper. With that said, the Browns offense is certainly going to be entertaining to watch in 2020, but fantasy wise, be prepared to stay away from Cleveland’s offense.