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2016 Fantasy Football Team Outlook - Cleveland Browns

This article continues our team outlook series where we will break down each NFL team from a fantasy football perspective. We will cover the major changes on each roster from this offseason and project what the team will do in the upcoming year. Today we take a look at the Cleveland Browns.

Behold, the barren fantasy wasteland that was the 2015 Cleveland Browns. Last year, the Browns were one of the least useful NFL teams from a fantasy perspective. That should change this year with (another) new coaching regime in place and a brand new analytics-based front office. Will it all work? No one is quite sure, but it is a fact that with Hue Jackson and company in town the Browns have one of the best coaching staffs they've had since returning to the league in 1999. Whether it translates to fantasy success is the true question and what we are going to take a look at here.

Editor's Note: Purchase a full season NFL Premium Pass (including Draft Kit + DFS Premium), and also get MLB Premium + DFS for free through October. Premium DFS lineup picks, expert lineups, tools and more - seven days a week. You can see screenshots of our NFL Premium and MLB Premium and DFS tools. What are you waiting for?

 

Quarterback

On a team where the preseason quarterback battles have sometimes been the most riveting part of the season, the Browns changed tradition by holding an extremely quiet quarterback competition and making a decision well before the first preseason game. Robert Griffin III will be calling the shots for the Browns as he attempts to resuscitate his career after being glued to the bench for Washington last season. It remains to be seen whether Griffin can return to the dominance he showed as a rookie in 2012 as injuries have mounted and his development stalled while with the Redskins. Griffin does have a few things working in his favor. Hue Jackson is an extremely experienced coach, having coached every offensive position group except offensive line and widely being regarded as a skilled coach of quarterbacks. Griffin also has a bevy of pass-catching weapons at his disposal including Corey Coleman, Josh Gordon, Terrelle Pryor, Gary Barnidge, and Duke Johnson. He also has rushing upside, which can mask a lot of quarterback flaws from a fantasy perspective. Griffin shouldn't be drafted standard season-long leagues but he may end up being a useful streamer for those who like to wait on quarterbacks. That being said, his true value is in dynasty leagues where he should be rostered, and as a QB2 in two-quarterback leagues.

 

Running Backs

The arrival of Hue Jackson gives the team's running backs some cause for optimism as Jackson has been a run-heavy coach in the past. This is another position without much mystery as fantasy owners should already have a good idea for how the work will be divvied up in 2016. Expect Isaiah Crowell to be the team's "starter" and handle carries on first and second downs along with goal line work. Crowell has been a heralded talent at the running back position since his days as a high school player but has yet to put it all together in the NFL. Keep in mind Jackson coaxed a career-year from Darren McFadden in his time as Oakland's head coach. Crowell is rather cheap in drafts and could have a career year if he's finally able to reach his potential. Duke Johnson, on the other hand, will be the team's third-down running back. Johnson is an extremely gifted pass-catcher and has a chance to catch a lot of passes this season. He's a great target in PPR leagues, especially for owners who take the zero RB approach. Expect big things from the second-year back.

 

Wide Receivers

My, what a difference a year makes. Last season the Browns had arguably the worst receiving corps in the league. This year they have an explosive, proven talent in Josh Gordon, a star rookie who looks like he's the real deal in Corey Coleman, and a freak athlete still trying to learn the position in Terrelle Pryor. Coleman has been earning rave reviews all training camp and is shaping up as a draft day deal, going in the ninth round in standard 12-team leagues. Keep in mind he will have the first four games of the season as the team's unquestioned top target while Gordon is serving his suspension. While we are on the subject, Josh Gordon can do things very few receivers can do when he's on the field. In case you forgot, in the 2013 season Gordon caught 87 balls for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns in 14 games. The problem is keeping him on the field. He will first be eligible to return to action in Week 5 and is shaping up as a high-upside, high-risk pick. He is currently going in the sixth round in standard league drafts, so forget about getting a deal on him. Terrelle Pryor has been earning praise for his work in camp and is being listed as the team's number two receiver at the time. That is certain to change once Gordon comes back, but Pryor is shaping up as a very interesting dynasty asset. As mentioned above, Hue Jackson is known as a run-first coach. Don't let that scare you off of the Browns' passing game as the team will likely be behind in many games and will be forced to throw often as a result.

 

Tight Ends

Gary Barnidge was an unknown quantity at this time last year, having caught just 44 passes in his six seasons before 2015. Barnidge exploded on the scene in 2015, emerging as the team's top target in the passing game as he caught 79 passes for 1,043 yards and nine touchdowns. There is some concern about his ability to repeat last year's numbers as he will have much more competition for targets this season. Barnidge was mostly utilized last year to move the chains and as the team's top red zone target. Expect some regression, although he should still be a low-end TE1 this season. He's coming off the board in the ninth round as the 10th tight end selected which is shaping up as a solid value.

 

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