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Cleveland Browns 2021 Fantasy Football Preview

Trust the Browns backfield as there's enough work to go around. Here's a breakdown of the roster for fantasy this season.

It has been a long time since the Super Bowl, and remembering exactly how things left off last year can be a challenge. So, I’ll be writing up a fantasy preview for each NFL team to give us a quick refresher on what happened last year, and what changes took place in the offseason. All fantasy stats will be in ESPN scoring format unless otherwise noted. 

If I missed any change or left out any big notes, throw them down in the comments for me!

What Did They Do Last Year

The Cleveland Browns went 11-5, bested the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, and then fell to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Round.  They’ll be getting the band back together for another run with Head Coach Kevin Stefanski, Offensive Coordinator Alex Van Pelt, and Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods all coming back for another season. 

Pro Football Focus graded the Browns offense as 4th best in the league, with tier defense coming in 18th. That jives with what we saw from Cleveland last year as they really built a dominating run game, taking pressure off of Baker Mayfield. 

Quarterback
OVR
Rank
PlayerGCOMPATTYDSTDINTATTYDSTDFFPFFP/G
16Baker Mayfield163054863,56326854165124915.6
73Case Keenum151046000001.81.8

Baker Mayfield, fantasy wise, had an unimpressive season. Where Mayfield made huge strides in his 3rd year was cutting down on his interceptions, throwing just 8 picks in 2020 compared to 21 interceptions in 2019

His passing numbers were pedestrian, but his team was much better thanks to his more restrained play. 

In fantasy terms, I wouldn’t expect much to change even with the return of Odell Beckham Jr. Mayfield is a back-half QB only interesting in 2-QB/Superflex leagues. He’s currently ranked our QB21 this year.

Wide Receivers
PPR
Rank
STD RankPlayerGTGTRECYDSTDSTD PTSSTD PTS/GPPR PTSPPR PTS/G
3638Jarvis Landry151017284031097.318112.07
6257Rashard Higgins125237599483.97120.910.08
8976Odell Beckham Jr.74423319363.1986.112.3
111103Donovan Peoples-Jones72014304242.46.156.48.06
143140KhaDarel Hodge717111800182.6294.14
174178Ja'Marcus Bradley1115600661111
216215JoJo Natson100000.30.30.30.3
221221Taywan Taylor110000000

The Browns receiving corps is talented, but for a team so focused on the running game, it is tough to start a pass catcher from Cleveland on a week to week basis. 

Back in April, regarding Odell Beckham Jr’s comeback from an ACL tear, Aditi Kinkhabwala tweeted a quote from Stefanski saying “he’s progressing very well”, which is great news to hear.

So, Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr., and Rashard Higgins are all coming back for another go at it in 2021 it seems. Despite the obvious talent, we shouldn’t expect anything more than WR 2/WR3 production from anyone in the receiver room. Odell is our highest ranked Browns receiver and he comes in at WR34 right now. Landry is our WR42.

Note: Beckham and Landry both rushed for a touchdown.

Running Backs
PPR RankSTD RankPlayerGATTYDSTDTGTRECYDSTDSTD PTSSTD PTS/GPPR PTSPPR PTS/G
129Nick Chubb121901,0671218161500191.716207.717.31
1010Kareem Hunt16198841651383045180.511.3218.513.66
10598D'Ernest Johnson833166043140182.3212.63
138133Dontrell Hilliard29480112052.563
142145Andy Janovich6240521301.70.33.70.62

The Browns scored the fifth most fantasy points from the running back position (per FF Today stats). 

Nick Chubb is slowly getting his due as one of the best in the NFL, and Kareem Hunt would be in play for a top-10 rank if he were the top dog on another team. As it stands, the two eat in to one another’s weekly up-side, but there is so much to go around for running backs in this offense that Chubb is still a first round pick when we know he’ll cede so much work to Hunt. Chubb is currently our RB8 in .5PPR and Hunt is our RB22.

Note that Chubb missed 4 games last year and still wound up with 12 rushing TDs.

Tight End
PPR
Rank
STD RankPlayerGTGTRECYDSTDSTD PTSSTD PTS/GPPR PTSPPR PTS/G
2121Austin Hooper137046435467.55.2113.58.73
4240Harrison Bryant123824238337.83.261.85.15
4745David Njoku112919213233.3352.34.75
108107Stephen Carlson2211101.10.62.11.05

Traditionally, the Mike/Kyle Shanahan (Gary Kubiak) offense that Kevin Stefanski cut his teeth with has a lot of room for the tight ends to shine. I think back to guys like Owen Daniels putting up numbers for the Houston Texans way back when, and I get excited about what could be with an electric talent like David Njoku. 

The Browns, however, have signaled they’d prefer more blocking and fewer dazzling plays by giving Austin Hooper the nod in more single tight-end sets when bother TEs are healthy. 

Hooper is worth a dart throw late in your draft. He’ll be not-the-worst option for a committee/streaming approach. He sits at TE21 in our early 2021 rankings.

2021 Draft

I like what the Browns tried to do in the draft, at least. They snagged Greg Newsom II (corner out of Northwestern) at pick No. 26 and followed that up taking Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (linebacker out of Notre Dame) at pick No. 52.

This team is clearly looking to run the ball and play defense. 

The Schedule

The Browns finished third in their division last year, and so they drew a third place schedule.

According to Warren Sharp of SharpFootballAnalysis, this gives the Browns the third easiest schedule in football (based on forecasted win totals). 

Additional Notes

The Browns appear to be a franchise moving in the right direction. Stefanski’s offense controls the ball fairly well, and they’re making moves I like in the offseason. They brought in Jadeveon Clowney and Takkarist McKinnley to shore up their pass rush, and added Troy Hill and John Johnson to the secondary. 

Cleveland plays in murderer’s row of a division, but the Browns are becoming one of the teams to be feared most in the fabled AFC North.

What Does It All Mean?!?! (AKA – Bold predictions)

Arrow up for everyone in Cleveland. Nick Chubb can finish inside the top-5 at RB, and there could be plenty left over for Hunt to manage a top-12 finish himself. 

Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. are cheap, and so is Austin Hooper. At their deflated prices, they’ll be worth a shot in the middle portion of your drafts.

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Thanks to FFToday.com for hosting such great stats info!

Thanks to TheHuddle.com for their great Coaching Change Tracker