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New Era In Cleveland - Fantasy Impact of Hue Jackson's Dismissal


It seems like the Cleveland Browns are constantly in rebuild mode. While the Twittersphere erupted with applause from the Dawg Pound following the news of head coach Hue Jackson's dismissal, it just doesn't make a lot of sense at this juncture. Yes, he was terrible and led the team to an 0-16 record last season. So why not jettison him in the offseason and not subject the incoming, promising rookie class to another potential mess?

This team has shown signs of life this season, of which we haven't seen in years on the shores of Lake Erie. Two wins might not seem like much, but it's the most Cleveland has had since the 2015 season.

The Browns were starting to show some improvement, and they have already played in a league-high four overtime games. While it can be argued the decision making from the head honcho Jackson could have been better at times, the team was starting to look like an NFL-caliber team rather than the dumpster fire it has been for a good portion of its reincarnation. And technically, they could have a win or two more if not for some missed kicks early in the season by the departed Zane Gonzalez, as well as a strange replay in Oakland which turned what should have been a victory into another OT game and a loss when it appeared ex-RB Carlos Hyde had a certain first down to salt the game away. So where do the Browns go from here and what does it mean in fantasy football terms?

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Questions Remain

Personally, I hate the decision to unceremoniously dump both Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. I mean, what about the kids?!?! Think about the kids, people!

Quarterback Baker Mayfield, running back Nick Chubb, and wide receiver Antonio Callaway, vital cogs in the team's offense, are in their fledgling days of a professional career. Now, they're going to have one coach out the door, a defensive-minded interim coach in Gregg Williams for the rest of this campaign, and a new head coach coming in during the offseason. That's three voices, and perhaps three different ways of doing things, in a single calendar year. That's dysfunction, disorganization and confusion, which isn't great for young players trying to make their way in the NFL. It's something the Jimmy Haslam-owned organization has specialized in, however.

The big question is what will Williams do with the playbook? Will he keep Jackson and Haley's system in place? Why not at least retain one of them to maintain some continuity? Will these moves negatively affect Mayfield's development, first and foremost? He has been one of the more exciting rookie quarterbacks this season, and he actually made it look like the Browns were turning a corner until gas and matches were tossed in the dumpster yet again. Mayfield's growth may be stunted for the remainder of this season, making him a shaky option as a streamer in redraft leagues.

Personally, as a fantasy owner of David Njoku, his having zero targets in Pittsburgh in Week 8 should have caused heads to roll. He is another player on a roster littered with young talent, but all of these changes cannot be good for their growth. Njoku should pick up the pace again but is still a player that could show inconsistency in his second season. Using him as a low-end TE1 is a good idea, but again, expect erratic production. Still, at a position that is rather light across the board in terms of fantasy, you can certainly do much worse than Njoku. In long-term keeper leagues, he is fairly attractive, too.

The Browns need to pound the ball with Chubb while Duke Johnson is used as a change-of-pace back, using his hands out of the backfield to make things happen. Chubb is a player whose value is still up in the air. In his first week as a starter in Tampa, he was good, but he fell back to Earth in Pittsburgh. Play the matchups and set your lineup accordingly. Some weeks he'll have RB2 value, others he'll simply be a flex. Still, he is expected to be the bellcow, so that's a nice spot. And like Njoku, Chubb is an outstanding dynasty option. Johnson should be a decent PPR player when used correctly. Johnson and Njoku should be nice security blankets for Mayfield. And then there is Jarvis Landry, who the team invested big money in. He needs to be targeted in double digits every single week and may very well wind up as a WR2 in PPR leagues when all is said and done.

If new Browns offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens can check off all of those things, the Browns players in place right now might still be solid fantasy contributors. With a matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs on the horizon, the Browns and general manager John Dorsey, formerly of the Chiefs, will get a good long look at what continuity, stability and a rising young quarterback can do for a franchise. This is what they should be trying to emulate. The pieces are certainly in place on both sides of the ball. They just have to find their new leader(s). Again.

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