Shark Bites

Browns WR Jarvis Landry (hip) has been placed on the active/PUP list. He's eligible to be removed at any time and play Week 1. Landry is still recovering from February hip surgery, which was expected to sideline him for 6-8 months. He's just about at the 6-month mark now. Landry has only said that he's hoping to be cleared in time for Week 1. We'll continue to keep a close eye on his status.

Browns TE David Njoku has requested a trade, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports. We're frankly surprised it took this long after Cleveland handed TE Austin Hooper a big 4-year, $44 million deal in free agency (and added Florida Atlantic TE Harrison Bryant in the 4th round of this spring's draft). Njoku's 2019 campaign was ruined by a broken wrist in September. But the former 1st-round pick turns just 24 later this month and compiled 88 catches, 1,025 yards and 8 TDs over his first 2 NFL seasons. He should garner plenty of interest on the trade market. Now might be a good time to buy Njoku in your dynasty leagues.

Browns WR Odell Beckham is back to 100% after January sports hernia surgery, HC Kevin Stefanski said Thursday. Beckham disappointed with a 25th-place fantasy finish last year. But he played the entire season with a core-muscle injury, was operating in a new offense with a new QB and dealt with a questionable coaching staff. Stefanski's run-heavy history is a slight concern, but Beckham is still a prime bounce-back candidate in 2020.

Browns RB Kareem Hunt has been "cross-training" with the WRs this spring, Pass Game Coordinator and WR coach Chad O'Shea said. Hunt was heavily involved in the passing game in his 8 games last year, tallying a 37-285-1 line on 44 targets. He ranked 10th in yards per route run among 30 RBs with 20+ targets over that span. Hunt ran a pass route on 61% of his snaps last year and actually lined up at WR on 31% of his snaps. So it's not crazy to project him to spend a bunch of time there again in 2020 -- especially since the Browns don't have a clear-cut #3 WR behind Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. Hunt has obvious RB1 upside if Nick Chubb misses time this season, but he could also be a fantasy option alongside a healthy Chubb.

New Browns OC Alex Van Pelt this week called RB Kareem Hunt's role "something we have to keep growing," according to Cleveland.com. Van Pelt added: "We have to find a way to put the best players on the field and the matchups that will come with that each week, and it will change weekly. Kareem is an extremely talented runner ... and he is exceptional out of the backfield. He is just a football player who loves to play. We have to find ways to get him the ball." Hunt ranked 3rd among all Browns in targets after taking the field last season, trailing only Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. He saw just 20.9% of carries, though, vs. Nick Chubb's 69.9% rushing share. Obviously, any further growth to Hunt's opportunities would likely hurt Chubb's, though there's room for these Browns to go more run-heavy overall. Last year's offense went about 60-40 in pass-run split, ranking 18th in the league in passing share. Hunt is intriguing at his current RB30 ADP, going around the 5-6 turn in best-ball drafts. Chubb carries much more risk at his late Round 1 ADP.

Browns WR Jarvis Landry (hip) suggested in a Zoom call with the Cleveland media on Wednesday that he's not a lock to be ready for Week 1. “Right now, I’m a little bit ahead of schedule," he said. "But the most important thing right now is just taking it day by day. You know, I can’t predict when exactly I’ll be on the field, whether that’s July, August or September." Landry went on to say that his "anticipated" return date is "sometime in August." He was originally slapped with a 6-8 month timetable for return after his February 4 hip surgery. The short end of that timeline would have Landry back in early August, but the long end would run into October. We'll continue to monitor Landry's rehab.

The Browns have re-signed WR Rashard Higgins to a 1-year deal. His 2019 season was derailed by a knee injury, but Higgins went for 572 yards and 4 TDs on 39 catches in 2018. Consider him the early favorite for Cleveland's #3 WR job this year -- with Taywan Taylor, Damion Ratley, KhaDarel Hodge and rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones as the competition.

The Browns selected Michigan WR Donovan Peoples-Jones in the 6th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. DPJ was a major disappointment for Big Blue. The 5-star recruit totaled just 103 catches, 1,327 yards and 14 TDs across 3 years on campus. In his defense, he dealt with crappy QB play. Michigan ranked 111th, 80th and 50th in passing yards per game the last 3 seasons. Peoples-Jones turned heads with his Combine performance: a 4.48-second 40 time and 44.5-inch vertical at 6’2 and 212 pounds. He earned a 99th percentile SPARQ score. And you see flashes of that athleticism on tape. Peoples-Jones waited a long time to hear his name called, though, and will have to battle for #3 WR duties in Cleveland behind Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. He’s just a deep dynasty stash.

The Browns selected Florida Atlantic TE Harrison Bryant in the 4th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Bryant improved his numbers each year at Florida Atlantic, culminating in a big 65-1,004-7 line in 2019. He faced lower-level competition for the most part — but he did catch 6 balls for 79 yards vs. Ohio State this past season. That game included a nice grab when lined up outside against 1st-round Lions CB Jeff Okudah. Bryant’s 3.04 yards per route run in 2019 was best among 18 of this year’s top TE prospects. He’s also considered a solid blocker. Bryant disappointed at the Combine with a 15th percentile SPARQ score but looks more athletic on tape. This is a rough landing spot, though, after Cleveland just handed TE Austin Hooper a big contract in free agency. TE David Njoku is also still on the roster, but perhaps he’s on the outs.

The Browns picked LSU LB Jacob Phillips in Round 3 of the NFL Draft. Phillips joins an LB corps that returns only Mack Wilson among 2019 starters. That presents immediate opportunity to the guy who took over play-calling duties for LSU's defense. Phillips' 113 tackles led the Tigers by 21 last season.

The Browns selected S Grant Delpit in Round 2 of the NFL Draft. The LSU alum dealt with a high-ankle sprain in 2019 and saw his performance and production slip. Delpit posted his best season as a 2018 sophomore, including 74 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 9 passes defensed and 5 INTs. Delpit defensed 7+ passes in each of his 3 seasons. Cleveland provides him the opportunity to start right away. Delpit will be worth a look in dynasty rookie drafts and could land inside the top 36 when our 2020 IDP rankings come out.

The Browns agreed to a 3-year, $18 million deal with QB Case Keenum on Monday, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. The deal includes $10 million guaranteed and likely locks Keenum in as Baker Mayfield's backup for at least the next couple of seasons. Keenum played for new Cleveland HC Kevin Stefanski in Minnesota in 2017, when Stefanski served as the Vikings' QBs coach.

TE Austin Hooper is set to sign with the Browns, according to The NFL Network. Terms haven't been disclosed and the deal won't be official until Wednesday, but Ian Rapoport hears that Hooper will be the league's highest-paid TE. The 25-year-old has posted 71-660-4 and 75-787-6 lines over the past 2 seasons, ranking 6th among TEs in PPR points both years. After finishing 17th among 28 TEs with 40+ targets in Pro Football Focus' 2018 receiving grades, Hooper climbed to 6th among 35 last year. He improved from 15th to 12th in yards per route run. Hooper certainly benefitted from playing on Falcons teams that ranked top 5 in pass attempts and pass rate in both of the last 2 years. New Browns HC Kevin Stefanski's 2019 Vikings ranked 30th in both pass attempts and pass rate. Now factor in the presence of WRs Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, and it's tough to bank on Hooper getting the 6.4 targets per game he averaged in Atlanta over the last 2 seasons. Our snap call is to expect a decline in Hooper's fantasy production in 2020 -- although he shouldn't have trouble sticking in TE1 territory.

Update: Hooper's deal is for 4 years and $44 million with $23 million guaranteed. That $11 million average annual salary does indeed make him the league's highest-paid TE.

The Browns placed a 2nd-round tender on restricted free-agent RB Kareem Hunt. That pays Hunt $2.9 million this season and would net Cleveland a 2nd-round pick if another team offers Hunt a contract that the Browns choose not to match. In short, expect Hunt to be a Brown in 2020. It's a significant ding to RB Nick Chubb's fantasy stock. Chubb averaged 19.3 carries, 4 targets and 18.9 PPR points in 8 games without Hunt last season. Those numbers sunk to 18 carries, 2.1 targets and 13.0 PPR points in 8 games with Hunt. Hunt averaged 5.4 carries and 5.5 targets in his 8 games with Cleveland, scoring as the PPR RB16 over that span.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports that the Falcons plan to let TE Austin Hooper reach free agency when the new league year begins in March. We'd bet on that meaning a new team for Hooper, unless Atlanta knows that the TE will find a softer market than he expects. Hooper will still be just 25 when the 2020 season begins, and coming off consecutive seasons of 71+ catches. He enjoyed a career-best TE6 finish in PPR scoring for 2019. The uncertainty of his 2020 offense, however, adds risk to Hooper in early best-ball drafting. Hooper sits TE6 in ADP in both FFPC and BestBall10s drafting so far.

The hip surgery that Browns WR Jarvis Landry had on February 4 is expected to sideline him 6-8 months, according to Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot. The short end of that timeline would have Landry back in early August. But the long end would run into October. "He is expected to make a full recovery for the 2020 season," the team said in a statement on Thursday. Landry's surgery removed 2 pieces of bone embedded in the labrum of his left hip and shaved down some cartilage. It was obviously a major procedure that adds risk to Landry's profile in early best-ball drafting.

Browns WR Jarvis Landry announced this week that he had hip surgery on Feb. 4, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. He's expected to be fully recovered in time for the upcoming season. Scott Petrak of The Chronicle-Telegram reports that the issue nagged Landry throughout the 2019 season. The WR said the fact that even the light work at the Pro Bowl bothered the hip helped push him toward having the surgery. We'll keep an eye on Landry this summer to see if there's any reason for concern. Landry has been a strong value in early best-ball drafting.

The NFL has reinstated Browns DE Myles Garrett. The 24-year-old had, of course, been suspended since he hit Steelers QB Mason Rudolph in the head with Rudolph's helmet near the end of their Nov. 14th (Week 11) game. Garrett lost 6 games plus money to the suspension, but nothing about his history suggests that fantasy owners need to worry about behavior issues going forward. Garrett remains a top-shelf fantasy D-lineman, who was on pace for 16 sacks at the time of his suspension.

The Browns have named Alex Van Pelt their OC. The former NFL QB has spent the past 14 seasons coaching in Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Green Bay and Cincinnati. He was an OC for just 1 of those years, though: for a 2009 Bills squad that ranked 30th in total yards and 28th in points with QBs Ryan Fitzpatrick and Trent Edwards. It's unclear whether Van Pelt or new HC Kevin Stefanski will call plays in Cleveland.

Browns RB Kareem Hunt was cited for speeding this week, and police found small amounts of marijuana during the traffic stop, according to multiple reports. Hunt avoided drug charges in the situation, which seems minor given that he didn't even get arrested. It's more notable, however, because off-field issues got Hunt booted from Kansas City. We'll see if this impacts his run at restricted free agency this spring.

 
 
 

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