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We will be reviewing all 32 teams at Rotoballer in our Dynasty Team outlook series. Leading up to the draft, we will break down every team as they currently stand and will review them again after free agency and the draft have concluded. Which players should you buy and which players should you sell? Who will be sleepers this season and who will be busts? We will cover all the positions and all the angles for you.

This is something that we haven’t seen in quite some time. Actually, have we ever seen this? We haven’t even made it to the NFL Draft and the Cleveland Browns look like a legitimate playoff team. But, these are the Browns, so maybe we shouldn’t be too excited. An aggressive offseason in both free agency and the trade market have bolstered the Browns roster with star power than can help bring the team to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Whether you are a fan of the Browns or not doesn’t matter, It’s not fun watching an organization struggle like this. Seven straight seasons of finishing in the basement of the AFC North and only one win in the last two seasons combined.

If the Browns draft well, and that’s a big if, they will be set up to win this season. Here is where it gets tricky though. Do you spend your high draft picks on a QB and Saquon Barkley? Do you spend your high picks on position needed? It will be interesting to see what the Browns do in a couple of weeks, but let’s hope for the first time in a long time, they do the right thing.

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Cleveland Browns Dynasty Outlook

Team Record: 0-16 (4th, AFC North)

Fantasy Leaders

QB: DeShone Kizer- 175.9 (QB25)
RB: Duke Johnson- 216.1 (RB11)
WR: Rashard Higgins- 68.6 (WR88)
TE: David Njoku- 94.7 (TE24)
IDP: Christin Kirksey- 235.1 (LB7)

 

Quarterback

Another season and another circus at the position for the Browns. In all honesty, it’s hard to screw up the QB position any worse then what the Browns have done since coming back to Cleveland. DeShone Kizer was a work in progress. Everyone knew that and even when the Browns took him on draft day, it was popular opinion Kizer would not be successful if thrust into the starting job immediately.

Kizer was the starter, then benched, then started again as Hue Jackson couldn’t seem to make up his mind. The only other team that fumbled the QB situation worse than the Browns was the Buffalo Bills with the way they handled Tyrod Taylor. So it makes complete sense that the Browns would go out and trade for Taylor to be their starting QB. But how long will that last?

The popular opinion is Josh Allen will be the number one pick in a couple of weeks at the NFL Draft, and I will say out loud over and over again, that is a huge mistake. The Browns desperately want to find their franchise QB and they think it will be Allen supposedly. If the pick is Allen, this is excellent news for Taylor, because Allen has a lot of growing to do before he can be a successful NFL QB.

Until we know who that pick will be though, there is no use speculating. Instead, lets focus on what Taylor can bring to the Browns in 2018 and beyond. I think a lot of owners forget that Taylor was the QB8 in 2016. Really the only owners who remember that are his owners. It was a such a quiet top-10 season that he gets almost no credit for it.

However, over his past three seasons with the Bills, he has had some comparable numbers to one of the game’s most dangerous dual-threat QBs. In his last three seasons, Taylor has averaged 3,477 total yards and 21 total touchdowns a season. In comparison, Cam Newton has averaged 4,132 total yards and 32 total touchdowns a season. If you take Newton’s ridiculous 2015 MVP season and bring those numbers closer to his yearly average, Tyrod and Newton would be a lot closer than even these numbers.

Now I am not saying Taylor is Newton or will be, and even reading this you may think those numbers are way off, but what if we give Taylor a team loaded with weapons? Even more weapons than Newton has ever had on one team. Is it outside the realm of possibilities that we could be in store for an exceptional season? When Taylor was the QB8 in 2016, he had 3,603 total yards and 23 total touchdowns. I don’t even think Jackson can be a bad enough coach to screw up the potential Taylor has this season. Give me the over on both of those stats in 2018 and plan on seeing Taylor challenge for a spot in the top five quarterbacks.

 

Running Back

Prior to free agency, I was all aboard the plan to see the Browns use the number one overall pick on Saquon Barkley and then take Bradley Chubb at fourth overall. Since the Browns decided to make a big splash and bring in Carlos Hyde though, I’ve given up on that plan and I am praying the Browns do not take Barkley now. The Browns could either have one of the most dangerous backfields in the league after the draft is finished or they will have a fantasy owner’s worst nightmare.

I will tell you right now, if the Browns take Barkley in the draft, they kill all value for this backfield in 2018. Normally I would say a team isn’t going to spend a top five pick on a running back and not use him, but these are the Browns we are talking about. They have one of the league’s best pass catching running backs and just spent a ton of money on another back that proved to be a threat running and catching the ball last season. All three will get playing time and will severely limit each other’s potential.

With that said though, it’s just speculation like I mentioned above for quarterbacks. I don’t want to spend an entire article on what-ifs, although it would be really easy too. Instead, lets focus on Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson as if those will be the main backs heading into the season. If that happens, this will be the running back tandem to own in 2018 outside of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. If Jackson can commit to running the ball, which he had trouble doing with Isaiah Crowell last season, then both will have value.

Hyde will accumulate a majority of the rushing yards and work on non-passing downs or plays. Hyde will be limited by this, but as long as you operate under the assumption Hyde probably has RB2 upside for your team, you won’t be burnt. Hyde barley broke RB1 status last season as the workhorse in San Francisco under one of the most running back friendly coaches in the league, Kyle Shanahan. Hyde was the RB8 last season, but didn’t rush for 1,000 yards and didn’t have double digit TDs. Now in 2018 he will have Johnson taking away a bulk of the receiving plays. Just tell yourself RB2 upside and you will be fine. If you head into the season with RB1 on your mind though, you could be disappointed. I expect Hyde to fall in line with his career average in rushing yards with less receiving yards than he had in 2017.

Now on to Johnson who finally had that breakout season that owners had been waiting for, finishing as RB11 in PPR leagues. This season was fueled by 74 catches and 693 receiving yards, but would you call me crazy if I said I expect even better in 2018? Well go ahead and do it then. If Johnson would have had the same amount of carries as Crowell last season, with no change to his receiving stats and the same yards per carry, he would have finished right behind Kamara in PPR leagues. Let that sink in for a second. Johnson and the wonder boy Kamara mentioned in the same breath. It can’t be. I fully expect Taylor to use Johnson has his safety net while he builds a better report with his receivers. If only Johnson is able to build on his 82 rushes in 2017, he could climb into legit RB1 conversation. I feel I have to mention one more time that all of this is irrelevant if the Browns take Barkley in the draft. A little piece of me may die on the inside if that happens.

 

Wide Receiver

Alright Josh Gordon truthers, I need you to raise your hand high in the air. From the front row all the way to the back, stand up and be proud that you have stuck with Gordon this long. Through all of the ups and downs, you never gave up on him and you are ready to reap the rewards. Now put your hand down because you will need to wait another year.

The talent is there and the Browns finally have a competent QB, plus Gordon seems to have regained his focus on football. But, 2018 won’t be the year he puts together a monster season though. I don’t think Gordon even sniffs WR1 status in 2018. When he finally returned last season, his 18.6 yards per reception were only .3 yards short of his breakout 2013 season. He looked really good, which is amazing within itself. I just don’t see that Taylor connection growing in the first season. Taylor seems destined to rely on using Johnson, which I already mentioned, and two other weapons I will bring up shortly. The good news is that Gordon has the ability to take the top off the defense at any point, so some big plays will be in store. He just won’t offer the desired consistency each week.

Newly acquired Jarvis Landry could be the guy Taylor looks to as often as Johnson. You can hate on Landry for being the first receiver in NFL history with 100 receptions and failed to reach 1,000 yards. He is going to have a ton of room to make plays in 2018 however. While playing in the slot, he will find plenty of room for some big catch and runs while defenses focus on Gordon, and fingers crossed that Corey Coleman can be healthy enough to at least put pressure on defenses to cover him. I don’t think Landry reaches WR5 in PPR leagues again though, because the touchdowns won’t be there in 2018. If I had to guess, Landry reaches 75-80 receptions for 1,000 or more yards and five touchdowns. He will offer a WR2 season with WR1 upside some weeks.

Speaking of Coleman, he seems to be the missing guy in all of this. The former first round pick out of Baylor has yet to put together 500 receiving yards in a season and has not been the consistent weapon the Browns hoped for. He will continue to play supporting cast though as he will be the forgotten piece in this offense. He will be on the field, and may help out with a touchdown catch here or there, but he’s going to run a lot of routes with little production to show for it. This may be an interesting stash to hold onto incase of injuries, but he will be hard pressed to find targets in an offense loaded with talent and potential.

 

Tight End

The Browns will have some depth at tight end in 2018, but the only one that will matter to fantasy owners is David Njoku. Tight ends always take some time to develop in the NFL. Evan Engram was one of the exceptions to the rule last season because there was no one else to target in New York last season. Njoku is on a slower path that will see some progression in 2018.

Njoku only finished as the TE24 in PPR league last year, which was driven by four touchdowns. He wasn’t great last season, and he won’t be great in 2018, but he will get much better with every year and has top five TE written all over him. His best asset in 2018, will be the ability to lineup all over the field. Personally, I would rather see Njoku on the field more than Coleman, even if that means lining Njoku up inside and putting Landry outside for certain plays, or putting Njoku on the outside on plays as well. I foresee some fade routes in the corner of the end zone with Njoku this season and also see the possibility of six or more touchdowns. It’s not very difficult to be a TE1 in fantasy, so Njoku will crack that this season.

 

IDP

Christian Kirksey has now led the Browns in tackles for back to back seasons, although he hasn’t broken that 100 tackle mark yet. Kirksey won’t get a whole lack of sacks, but he is the prototypical linebacker you want in IDP leagues. He plays sideline to sideline and doesn’t take plays off. The one factor you will want to be careful of in 2018 and beyond is Jamie Collins. Collins is good enough that he will take same tackles from Kirksey when he is back and fully healthy.

Myles Garrett will also be a top defensive option soon. Garrett was able to rack up seven sacks in only nine starts last season. If the Browns add Chubb on the other side of him and let Garrett wide open in 2018, he will easily surpass double digit sacks and will be an elite defensive end in fantasy football. You may still be able to get him cheap since he didn’t rack up a ton of stats last season. That window won’t be open much longer though.

 

Off-Season Outlook

The Browns have won the off-season so far. High profile free agency signings and great trades will do that for you. All of it could disappear though, if the Browns screw up the draft. They have a chance to solidify their roster for several more years if they make all the right moves. Missing on another QB could be a disaster and failure to add key parts to win this season could slow the hype in Cleveland.

You have to ask yourself, what is better: drafting to win this season or drafting to possibly win in future years? Yeah, a top QB and Barkley could look amazing for the future. But what about adding defensive players like Chubb and Minkah Fitzpatrick at the top of the draft instead? The Saints saw immediate returns from drafting very well on the defensive side of the ball. The Browns will have all eyes on them in a couple of weeks, so hopefully this front office does a better job in the draft then years past.

 

More 2018 Dynasty League Strategy