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Cleveland Browns Fantasy Football Preview

By Jared Smola 10:07am EDT 7/11/16

Despite ranking 25th in total yards and 30th in points, the Browns produced a top 24 RB, a top 30 WR and a top 5 TE last year.

There will be fantasy value in Cleveland again this season, especially with the arrival of a strong offensive mind in new HC Hue Jackson.

What will happen: Corey Coleman leads rookie WRs in fantasy points

His primary competition figures to come from Minnesota’s Laquon Treadwell, New York’s Sterling Shepard and New Orleans’ Michael Thomas. But Treadwell will battle Stefon Diggs for the #1 WR role in an offense that’s ranked 22nd and 32nd in pass attempts the past 2 years. Shepard will be the clear #2 behind Odell Beckham and might need to fend off Victor Cruz. And Thomas is part of a deep Saints pass-catching corps in an offense that spreads the ball around.

Coleman, meanwhile, should immediately emerge as Cleveland’s top target. The rest of the WR corps comprises Andrew Hawkins, Taylor Gabriel, Terrelle Pryor and a few late-round rookies. TE Gary Barnidge and RB Duke Johnson will remain significant parts of the passing attack, but neither should out-target the guy the Browns spent the 15th overall pick of this year’s draft on.

Coleman was a stat-piling machine at Baylor and won the 2015 Biletnikoff Award as the top receiver in college football. He blew up the pre-draft testing, earning a SPARQ (athleticism) score in the 94th percentile among WRs.

Although his route-running needs some work and his hands can be inconsistent, Coleman has the raw ability to make an instant impact. And he figures to get the volume to do just that.


What won
t happen: Robert Griffin will start 16 games

Griffin is the favorite to open the season under center. Cleveland handed him a 2-year, $15 million contract in March, and HC Hue Jackson is reportedly all-inon RG3.

We’ll see how long that lasts, though. Griffin was a broken QB when we last saw him in 2014. He spent all of last year on the bench, which may or may not help his development. Bouncing back won’t be easy on a Browns offense with 1 of the worst supporting casts in the league.

And then there’s the durability issue. Griffin has torn his right ACL twice, dislocated an ankle and sustained a concussion. Now he’ll be playing behind an offensive line that finished last year 30th in sacks allowed and 26th in Football Outsiders' adjusted sack rate and lost 2 of its best 3 players this offseason in C Alex Mack and RT Mitchell Schwartz.


What might happen: Duke Johnson leads all RBs in receptions

He came close last year, ranking 4th with 61 catches. That was the 8th most in NFL history by a rookie RB.

And Johnson was efficient. He posted an 82.4% catch rate and 8.8 yards per catch. Those marks ranked 4th and 13th, respectively, among the 32 RBs who saw 40+ looks last year. That’s not only good news for his fantasy production; it also means the Browns should continue to make him a big part of their passing attack.

Cleveland lost WR Travis Benjamin in free agency after he tied for the team lead with 125 targets last year. First-round rookie Corey Coleman figures to assume most of that volume, but Johnson could also see a bump up.

New HC Hue Jackson has a promising history of getting his RBs the ball in the air. Darren McFadden’s 2 highest catch totals (47 and 42) came with Jackson as his OC in Oakland. And Bengals RB Gio Bernard totaled 92 catches under Jackson the past 2 seasons.

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