QB Tyrod Taylor – Over three seasons as the starting QB for the Bills, Taylor went 22-20 while developing into a very good game manager. His best asset ended up being his ability to minimize turnovers (16 Ints in 42 games) while providing winning plays in the run game (310/1711/15). Tyrod has a respectable completion rate (62.4), especially when considering the weak receiving talent in his career with Buffalo. Even with his ability to run, Taylor did take 88 sacks over the last two seasons. Cleveland has receiving talent at RB and WR with a developing TE. If Tyrod doesn’t win games, the Browns will make a quick switch to Baker Mayfield to help his development. Overall, Cleveland will be much better offensively in 2018 even with a questionable offensive line. If given a full season of games (which I don’t expect), Taylor would be in position for the best season of his career. For now, an upside game manager whose floor is higher than most expect based on his running ability and the improved WR talent in Cleveland.
QB Baker Mayfield – In his last three seasons as a starting QB for the Oklahoma Sooners, Mayfield passed for 12,292 yards with 119 TDs and 21 Ints highlighted by his senior season (4,627 yards and 43 passing TDs). Baker even chipped in at Oklahoma with 893 yards rushing on 316 carries and another 18 TDs. Mayfield plays with vision and accuracy while bringing toughness to the QB position. He throws the ball well on the run while showing the ability to make tough passes in tight coverage. Baker isn’t afraid to let his receivers win jump balls in single coverage deep in the passing game. His feel for play development is a huge asset, and his legs will help extend drives and lower his mistakes. Mayfield could very well hit the ground running in his rookie season leading to 16 starts. His receiving core has enough talent to lead to a top finish in QB scoring if given an opportunity to play all year. Worth a bench flier as a QB3 just in case Baker comes quicker than expected.
RB Carlos Hyde – In 2017, Hyde had the best season of his career (1,288 combined yards with eight TDs and 59 catches) while setting a career high in touches (299). As great as may look, Carlos gained only 3.9 yards per rush and 5.9 yards per catch. His opportunity was almost by default. Last year Hyde only had one game with over 100 yards rushing (15/124) and two other strong games (94 combined yards with two TDs and three catches and 98 combined yards with two TDs and two catches). Last year the Browns’ RBs had 296 carries for 1,224 yards and five TDs. His opportunity in the passing game is pretty much dead in the water with Duke Johnson owing the third down and passing opportunity. I’d also be concerned that incoming rookie Nick Chubb will steal his role at some point of the year. I only see 225 combined touches for 950 yards with about five TDs and 25 catches. Don’t overpay for his 2017 stats.
RB Duke Johnson – In his third year in the NFL, Johnson posted his best season (1,041 combined yards with seven TDs and 74 catches). He finished as the 12th highest scoring RB in PPR leagues. Over his career in the NFL, Duke has 188 catches for 1,741 yards and five TDs, which sets a floor of 8.17 Fantasy points without his early down action. Johnson has never missed a game in the NFL while gaining about 350 yards rushing each year. Last year the Browns’ RBs caught 109 passes for 932 yards and three TDs on 145 targets. The addition of possession WR Jarvis Landry will hurt the RB chances in 2018. I’d lower Duke’s bar to about 60 catches for 550 yards with minimal value in TDs with about 300 yards rushing. When building a Fantasy roster, a Fantasy owner should shoot for more upside at RB2. I would prefer to own Johnson as RB3 with rotational value. He projects to be a back-end RB2 in 2018.
RB Nick Chubb – Over four seasons at Georgia, Chubb rushed for 4,769 yards with 44 TDs on 758 rushes. He gained 361 yards receiving in his career with 31 catches and four TDs. As a freshman, Nick appeared to offer more value/upside as a pass catcher (18/213/2). Chubb runs with patients while waiting to hit second gear through an opening at the line of scrimmage. His power and acceleration work well at the second level of the defense and at the goal line. Nick will start the year behind Carlos Hyde on the depth chart, but he may emerge as the top early down runner by the end of the year. Must handcuff if you draft Hyde.
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WR Josh Gordon – Last season the Browns struggled to get league average QB play leading to Gordon producing below expected value in his five games. Josh finished with 42 targets (8.4 per game) with a weak catch rate (42.9 percent), which falls more on the QB play. In 2013, Gordon was one of the best WRs in the game when he caught 87 of his 159 targets for 1,646 yards and nine TDs. Over his last nine games in 2013, Josh was the best WR in the game when he caught 60 balls for 1,196 yards and seven TDs on 110 targets highlighted by back-to-back 200 yards receiving games (14/237/1 and 10/261/2). The Browns brought in a veteran ball QB who tends to make minimal mistakes while also playing with a weak receiving core in Buffalo plus drafted an accurate young QB (Baker Mayfield) with the first overall pick. Cleveland now has three threats at WR with Jarvis Landry added to the roster and hopefully a healthy Corey Coleman. When you add in a high-volume pass-catching back in Duke Johnson and a developing TE in David Njoku, the Browns should be an explosive scoring offense this year. Defenses will be forced to defend the whole field in 2018, which is a big win for Gordon. I’ll set his floor at 80 catches for 1,200 yards and double TDs while understanding he has the talent to be a top-five WR in the game. His previous baggage will keep plenty of Fantasy owners away, which is only a win for those who believe the future is here for Cleveland.
Update: 7/27/18 > Last week I (Shawn Childs) had Josh Gordon listed in my grouping as a breakout player, but a couple of days later he checked himself into a treatment center. The reports suggest he didn’t have a setback in his recovery from drugs and alcohol, which would be a huge positive for him in life. Over the last week, the Browns have mentioned they could be interested in signing Dez Bryant as well. Hopefully, this news isn’t tied to Gordon’s issue. For now, Josh will slide in Fantasy drafts until we have a clearer outlook on his situation.
I’m going to list my breakout paragraph below with the hopes that Gordon is full go in 2018:
Gordon looked like a beast over his short playing time in 2017 even with boring stats due to poor QB play, which sets up a second breakout season in his career. He has WR1 talent while being expected to be drafted as a WR2 in most PPR leagues (before his recent news in July). The key for his upside would be a huge step forward in the Browns’ passing attack. He’s my number one choice as the 2018 comeback player as well. His overall package gives him a chance at being a top-five WR this season.
WR Jarvis Landry – The move to add Landry to the Browns’ receiving core should be a big win over the next five seasons. Jarvis is a great possession type WR with the ability to beat a defense deep if given the opportunity. He has two seasons with over 110 catches and two years with over 1,100 yards receiving. In his first four seasons in the NFL, Landry has 400 catches for 4,028 yards and 22 TDs on 570 targets. His yards per catch (8.8 in 2017 and 10.1 in his career) fall more into a game plan issue than his true skill set. Last year Jarvis scored a career-high nine TDs, which shows his value as a receiver in the red zone if given scoring chances. For Landry and Gordon to offer productive seasons, the Browns will need to be committed to passing the ball. If Cleveland’s coaching staff plays now to lose with a ball control approach, there won’t be enough passing chance to fill all the receiving buckets in the Fantasy world. Talent dictates opportunity, and Landry has the talent and skill set to catch 100+ passes. I’ll lower his bar to 90 catches for 1,100+ yards with a handful of TDs while understanding his catch opportunity may be brighter than my narrow-minded vision.
- ADP: June 7 – Pick 44 | July 1 – TBD | August 1 – TBD
- Position Rank (PPR): June 7 – WR18 | July 1 – TBD | August 1 – TBD
- Position Rank (Non-PPR): June 7 – WR24 | July 1 – TBD | August 1 – TBD
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WR Antonio Callaway – Over his freshman and sophomore seasons at Florida, Callaway caught 89 passes for 1,399 yards and seven TDs while returning 55 punts (653/2) and six kickoffs (176/1). Antonio has elite speed with open field ability plus a winning release at the line. His route running needs better tempo to take advantage of his speed and quickness out of breaks. He missed 2017 due to a suspension (credit fraud) while also having a couple of other off the field issues in college. Upside talent for sure, but he needs to focus on playing the game if he wants to have a long career in the NFL.
Update: 8/11/2018> Callaway looks to be the favorite to win the WR3 job after the Corey Coleman trade. He did an incident with the law involving marijuana, which isn’t a great sign early in his career.
TE David Njoku – Over two seasons at Miami in college, Njoku caught 64 passes for 1,060 yards and nine TDs. His game has elite upside with a unique combination of athletic ability, speed, and strength. David’s route running needs to show growth while improving his pass blocking. He’ll offer big-play ability while understanding how to sit down in zones. Njoku may not hit the ground running, but he’s going to be a future top 10 TE while having enough talent to be one of the best players at his position in the game. In 2017, he caught 32 of 60 targets for 386 yards and four TDs while never delivering an impact game. The Browns’ TEs caught 68 of 119 passes for 817 yards and five TDs in 2017. The change in offensive structure with Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry in the mix for targets limits the TE opportunity in 2108 while giving Njoku time to develop. With a 75 percent share of TE snaps, possible 50 catches for 500+ yards and a handful of TDs.
TE Seth DeValve – Last year I dismissed DeValve as a possible option at TE, which was a mistake. Seth was the Browns fourth pick in the 4th round in 2016. Seth played wide receiver in college at Princeton where he offered plus size (6’4” and 245 Lbs.). The Browns move him to TE where he needs to improve his strength and his route running ability. In 2017, he caught 33 passes for 395 yards and one TD on 58 targets. DeValve played well enough to compete for snaps at TE, which will be the case again this year. Seth tends to be a liability in blocking.
2018 Fantasy Football: Positional Team OutlooksFantasy Football Rainman Shawn Childs, a six-figure high-stakes career earner and one of the most accurate rankers in the industry, previews the most relevant players at each skill position on all 32 NFL teams! Use these team previews to DOMINATE your competition as we approach the 2018 Fantasy Football season!