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Thursday Night Football DFS Preview: What to Expect Fantasy-Wise from Broncos at Browns

Previewing the fantasy football and DFS matchups in the Thursday Night Football game between the Denver Broncos and the Cleveland Browns.

Week 7 of the 2021 NFL season starts with Thursday Night Football as the Cleveland Browns play host to the Denver Broncos. Here’s a break down the fantasy football starts and sits and DFS plays for Thursday night’s action.

Denver Broncos

QB Teddy Bridgewater — Bridgewater got a little banged up last week (foot and quad) but has managed practice in a limited capacity everyday this week. Cleveland’s defense is chalk full of standout players but they’ve been tagged for 23 explosive pass plays this year (T-9th most) at a rate of 11% (T-3rd highest), per SharpFootballStats. Bridgewater’s 16.7% deep throw rate (20+ yards downfield, per PFF.com) ranks 2nd in the league through 6 weeks (min. 20 attempts). He’s a borderline top-12 play this week.

WR Jerry Jeudy — The status of Denver’s slot receiver, Jeudy, remains up in the air. He’s been designated to return from Injured Reserve (high-ankle sprain) and looks good running routes in practice but head coach Vic Fangio estimates he’s less than 50% likely to play tonight. Browns slot CB Troy Hill has allowed a healthy 107.0 passer rating-against this year (PFF.com). It’s a good match-up for Jeudy to return to. If he plays, he’d be a volatile WR4 with significant upside.

WR Courtland Sutton — Sutton’s target total will take a slight hit when Jeudy returns but the former has played too well to be demoted from the No. 1 pass catcher spot in Denver. In Jeudy’s absence (Weeks 2-6), Sutton’s targets (48), receptions (32), and receiving yards (457) are all 8th or better at the WR position, per PFF.com. While Sutton may have trouble maintaining his .5PPR WR11 status during that span, managers should not expect him to fall out of the top-24 ranks when Jeudy re-enters the lineup. Sutton is a safe WR2 this week.

WR Tim Patrick — Patrick has been a model of consistency this year, producing double-digit .5PPR results in five of six games. Patrick should be started as a high-end WR3 with Jeudy inactive and a back-end WR3 with Jeudy active.

WR Kendall Hinton — Should Jeudy’s return be postponed until next week, Hinton would once again start as the team’s primary slot receiver. As mentioned above, Browns slot CB Hill is subpar, making Hinton a viable low-end WR4 in redraft and a savvy DFS option.

TE Noah Fant — Albert Okwuegbunam is still on Injured Reserve but his potential return might not matter. Fant actually saw an increase in both snaps and routes run in Week 4, before Albert O pulled his hamstring in practice. Cleveland’s defense of tight ends this year has been commensurate with the talent of the tight end. Travis Kelce and Donald Parham found box score success. Lesser tight ends like Jordan Akins and Cole Kmet did not. Fant’s a mid-tier TE1 this week and he belongs in the company of the former two much more so than the latter.

RBs Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams

PlayerWeekSnaps (TmSnp%)ATT-YDS-TDRZ ATT/Inside 5 ATTRoutesREC/TGT-YDS-TDRZ TGT/EZ TGTPass/Run Blocks
Melvin Gordon430 (49%)9-56-01/0152/3-11-00/06/0
536 (60%)9-34-00/0222/2-9-01/13/1
643 (53%)10-50-01/0303/3-23-00/00/0
Javonte Williams431 (51%)7-48-01/0173/3-11-00/05/0
525 (42%)8-61-01/0133/3-25-01/13/0
638 (47%)11-53-01/0243/3-15-01/02/0

Williams is being trusted with pass blocking work, which is great for a rookie. As mentioned last week though he’s made some mistakes—a fumble in Week 3 and a delay of penalty in Week 5. Both backs are back-end RB2s this week against a stout Cleveland defensive-front. The Browns are allowing just 15.6 .5PPR PPG to opposing backfields, 3rd fewest in the NFL and their NEFF run defense rating of 55.1% comes in as the 9th best on the year thus far. Expect this duo to maintain a near-even split for the rest of the year:

Cleveland Browns

QB Case Keenum — Keenum is Cleveland’s Week 7 starter and we’ve got a good idea as to what to expect. In Week 2 of 2017, Keenum took over as the Vikings starter in place of an injured Sam Bradford, working hand-in-hand with then-quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski—the very same Stefanski who is now head coach of the Browns. The duo stormed their way to a 12-3 record and an NFC Championship Game appearance. Keenum completed 325-of-481 passes for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions with respectable marks in both average intended air yards (7.5) and Completion Percentage Above Expectation (1.7 , 4th best in the NFL).

Keenum’s three most targeted players were then-primary slot receiver Adam Thielen (145, his breakout campaign), downfield receiver Stefon Diggs (95), and tight end Kyle Rudolph (81). The very same trio hoarded targets inside the red zone and end zone that year. Notably, pass catching back Jerick McKinnon was regularly utilized between the 20s but phased out of the passing game in scoring position.

Cleveland’s offensive line is battling a slough of injuries, which is a concern, but tackles Jedrick Wills Jr. (ankle), Jack Conklin (knee), and center J.C. Tretter (knee) all practiced on Wednesday so they should play. Slot receiver Jarvis Landry (Injured Reserve) should also play this week, which is huge for the veteran quarterback. Keenum is a volatile QB2 with a decent chance to finish as a top-15 QB.

WR Odell Beckham Jr. — Josina Anderson reported that Beckham is dealing with a Grade 3 AC joint sprain. Beckham failed to practice all week. He’s not playing in Week 7 and probably needs to be shut down for a while.

Update: Beckham is active but I don’t see how he can play effectively (Grade 3 shown below):

WR Donovan Peoples-Jones — As discussed on Monday’s NerdBall Fantasy Football Show, Peoples-Jones usage has been trending upwards over the last two weeks. The young receiver needs to be rostered across all formats and is a high-end WR4 with WR3 upside this week. DPJ put the league on notice (and Beckham’s 2022 job security in jeopardy) with his Week 6 eruption of 4-of-5 for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns.

WR Jarvis Landry — Landry is an immediate borderline WR2/3 this week. His style of play is a perfect fit for Keenum.

WRs Rashard Higgins and Anthony Schwartz — DFS dart throws.

TEs David Njoku, Austin Hooper, and Harrison Bryant — Too many cooks. Hopefully you were able to sell-high on Njoku after Week 5 if you had him rostered.

RB D’Ernest Johnson — The Broncos are missing edge rusher Bradley Chubb, starting ILB Josey Jewell, fellow starting ILB Alexander Johnson, and rotational edge rusher Andre Mintz. Backup LBs Baron Browning (concussion) and Aaron Patrick (ankle) also kicked the week of with back-to-back DNP practice designations, making them long shots to play. With both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt out this week, Johnson is firmly in the high-end RB2 conversation.

RB/WR Demetric Felton — Felton must be rostered across all formats and can be started as a mid-tier RB3 this week. The do-it-all player should see work both as a rusher and as a receiver this week, while maintaining kick/punt return duties. As evidenced by his 200 punt return yards (2nd most in the NFL, per PFF.com), Felton is no joke in the open field.