Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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Browns Fantasy Preview

Thursday, June 14, 2018


Browns Offensive Profile Under Hue Jackson

2016-2017 Pass Attempts Rank: 18th, 9th
2016-2017 Rush Attempts Rank: 31st, 28th
2016-2017 Play Volume Rank: 28th, 16th
2016-2017 Yards Per Play Rank: 27th, 24th
Unaccounted for Air Yards from 2017 (Rank): 981 (20th)
Unaccounted for Carries from 2017 (Rank): 295 (3rd)

Projected Starting Lineup

QB: Tyrod Taylor
RB: Carlos Hyde
WR: Josh Gordon
WR: Jarvis Landry
WR: Corey Coleman
TE: David Njoku
LT: Shon Coleman
LG: Joel Bitonio
C: J.C. Tretter
RG: Kevin Zeitler
RT: Chris Hubbard

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Passing Game Outlook

Even after the Browns used the No. 1 overall pick on Baker Mayfield, coach Hue Jackson vowed to start Tyrod Taylor for all of 2018. “That will not change,” Jackson insisted after the draft. The Browns did concede the No. 65 overall pick for Taylor, whose rushing value and low turnover rates contributed to a 22-20 record in three seasons as the Bills’ starter. Taylor’s mobility is a boon to any run-game unit, and the Browns’ 2018 offensive approach should be run heavy, even if Jackson’s teams the past two years finished 31st and 28th in rushing attempts.

Baker Mayfield comes from Oklahoma’s Air Raid spread offense and is new to some pro-style concepts, but he is the oldest of this year’s five first-round signal callers by over 13 months, and 20-of-27 quarterbacks drafted in the first round over the last decade made at least eight rookie-year starts. An aggressive downfield thrower with plus mobility in his own right, Mayfield led the nation in passer rating under pressure in each of his final three seasons (PFF College) and completed a highly efficient 70.7% of his throws in 2016-2017, also scoring 21 career rushing TDs. As Cleveland is likely to rack up losses against the NFL’s eighth-toughest schedule, pressure will inevitably mount for Mayfield to start. Taylor would do well to last until the Browns’ Week 11 bye.

Josh Gordon finally returned from his years-long substance-abuse suspensions for Weeks 13-17 to average 67.0 yards per game and 18.6 yards per reception with confidence-shot DeShone Kizer at quarterback. Josh Hermsmeyer’s Game Speed data showed Gordon’s jets were nearly all the way back, especially at 25-45 yard route depths. After so many violations and time away from the game, Gordon’s “trust” factor is low, but his ceiling is high on a Tyrod-quarterbacked team. Before Taylor regressed in a 2017 Buffalo offense all-but designed to minimize his strengths, Tyrod recorded top-15 passer ratings on 20-plus-yard throws in back-to-back years and has proven to be a superior vertical to short-pass thrower. Worries include Gordon’s unreliable past and volume in a suddenly crowded Browns pass-catcher corps. Gordon is a classic boom-bust pick with a top-five WR1 ceiling but basement-low floor.

 

Editor's Note: The 2018 Rotoworld Draft Guide provides more than 500 extensive player profiles, tiers, projections, Evan Silva’s Sleepers and Busts and much more. Get the NFL Draft Guide now.



Jarvis Landry thrived on volume the last three years in Miami, averaging 9.5 targets per game but only 10.5 yards per reception with one season above 5 TDs among four. New GM John Dorsey landed Landry with the No. 123 pick ex-EVP Sashi Brown acquired for now-Cardinals P Andy Lee. Dorsey then signed Landry to a five-year, $75.5 million deal that made him the NFL’s fifth-highest-paid receiver. Cleveland’s commitment to Landry is large, but his fit is suspect with “bridge” QB Taylor, whose teams ranked 31st, 32nd, and 31st in pass attempts in three years as Buffalo’s starter. No Bills player exceeded 60 receptions in a season during that three-year stretch. I expect Landry to break that trend with an 80-90-catch season, but Landry’s volume dependency would still place him in precarious fantasy position. It’s likely that the sooner the Browns bench Taylor for Baker Mayfield, the stronger Landry’s statistical outlook will be.

Vying for Browns third receiver duties are third-year underachiever Corey Coleman and 2018 fourth-round pick Antonio Callaway, for whom Dorsey traded up as a player the former Chiefs GM envisions as his next Tyreek Hill. Like Hill, Callaway came with immense off-field baggage after missing the entire 2017 college season for drug violations and credit-card fraud. On the field, freshman- and sophomore-year Callaway looked like Santonio Holmes. Two hard-luck hand fractures and abysmal quarterback play stunted Coleman’s growth before he dropped the Week 17 pass that sealed Cleveland’s 0-16 fate. Neither player projects for heavy targets behind Gordon and Landry.

The Browns balked at carving out regular playing time for 2017 first-round TE David Njoku, who shared snaps with Seth DeValve. Whereas fellow first-rounders Evan Engram (72%) and O.J. Howard (56% with two missed games) earned near-full-time roles, Njoku was allotted just 46.9% of Cleveland’s offensive snaps, even as Njoku graded out respectably as PFF’s No. 36 of 72 run-blocking tight ends and flashed field-stretching ability up the seam. DeValve did average a sturdy 6.81 yards per target to Njoku’s 6.43 and deserves a role, but the Akron Beacon-Journal reported after the draft Njoku will take over as “full-time starter.” A freak athlete with 97th-percentile SPARQ results, Njoku offers second-year breakout potential. I think his odds would be better with Mayfield at quarterback.

Running Game Outlook

The Browns strangely gave Carlos Hyde top-ten running back money, then drafted Nick Chubb with the 35th overall pick. Presumptive Week 1 starter Hyde finally played 16 games in 2017 and totaled a career-best 1,288 yards from scrimmage, yet managed a career-worst 3.91 yards per carry and 44% Success Rate that ranked 27th among 47 qualified backs. Chubb is a cross between Jamal Lewis and in-his-prime Jonathan Stewart with 227-pound tackle-breaking power and house-call long speed. Chubb caught only 13 passes in his final three college seasons, however, and has minimal experience in pass protection. Even with limitations, Chubb’s running ability is superior to Hyde’s and renders both shaky mid-round investments. It’s conceivable Hyde opens as Cleveland’s lead back but is supplanted by Chubb before midseason.

Duke Johnson has been frustratingly underutilized all three years in Cleveland, topping 50 catches in all three but averaging just 10.3, 7.9, and 9.8 touches per game, the latter two under Hue Jackson. Johnson's career yards-per-carry (4.19) and yards-per-reception (9.26) averages are well above par. Hyde and Chubb’s additions strongly suggest the Browns will continue to pigeonhole Johnson as a low-volume passing-game back, however, and Landry's addition further threatens Johnson's receiving share because their targets occur in similar areas of the field. The Browns' three-year, $15.6 million investment into Johnson should lower him in Dynasty ranks. Johnson has been egregiously overdrafted in the middle rounds of best-ball leagues.


2018 Vegas Win Total

The Browns’ Win Total opened at 5.5 with -130 odds to the over. Warren Sharp deemed Cleveland to have this year’s eighth-toughest schedule, including by-far the NFL’s most-difficult slate of opposing offenses in Weeks 1-10. Outside the AFC North, Cleveland draws the imposing NFC South and uneven AFC West, plus the Jets (home), and Texans (away). Regression to the mean does suggest the Browns are a good bet for significant W-L improvement after going 0-6 in one-score games with two overtime losses and an inexcusable 0-11 record in games differentiated by one score at halftime. Still, the return of the NFL’s worst coaching staff, still-rebuilding state of Cleveland’s roster, an unforgiving schedule, and top-to-bottom organizational dysfunction have me leaning toward the under on 5.5 wins.



Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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