Seventh in a series
The Browns are your classic perennial losers on the surface, but if fantasy owners and fans can keep the faith a little while longer, they'll begin to win and produce fantasy stars within one to two years. Let's give the players a chance to develop before giving up on them.
Is Colt McCoy the Browns' quarterback of the future?
McCoy has faults as an NFL QB, and it doesn't help when team president Mike Holmgren doesn't commit to him as the team's franchise QB. Holmgren did state that he hasn't given up on the QB, and right now, McCoy sits atop the depth chart. It's no secret the team will look to either sign a free-agent quarterback or acquire one through a trade or the draft.
McCoy's per-game averages of 210.2 yards and 1.07 TDs with 0.85 interceptions didn't win support from fantasy owners, the fans or his team, but in his defense:
- This was McCoy's first season in the West Coast offense, and it takes a few years to become a quality QB in that system.
- The rushing attack was never fully healthy most of the season.
- The team has to upgrade the WR corps.
- The TE position never developed with Evan Moore and Ben Watson, with a concussion ending Watson's season in Week 14.
Although we've raised some legitimate issues that have hurt his production, right now McCoy has no fantasy value. Even if he wins the starting job, he should go undrafted by fantasy owners.
Does RB Peyton Hillis get his contract or walk?
Hillis ended the season strong for fantasy owners in Weeks 15 and 16, averaging 26.5 utilizations for 110 yards from scrimmage and 0.5 TDs. However, his season-long per-game average of 18.3 utilizations for 71.7 yards from scrimmage and 0.3 TDs were numbers only believers of the "Madden curse" expected.
No one knows if Hillis will return, though most reports project him to sign elsewhere. The Browns need Hillis, as he's a proven player when healthy and is a perfect fit in this offense. The team may be hoping it's a weak free-agent market or he prices himself out of it, based on his asking price of $5 or $6 million per year. I think the team is going to let him explore his options, hoping to re-sign him at a lower cost, but there may be a few suitors. Specifically the Bengals, who would be wise to pursue him based on their offense.
Also on the roster are reserve RBs Chris Ogbonnaya and Montario Hardesty. However, Ogbonnaya is not a serious candidate to start, but Hardesty coming back healthy will be important if the team still believes he has the talent they saw when they selected him in the second round of the 2010 draft. They could pair him with Brandon Jackson, who will return after missing the season with a turf-toe injury. It wouldn't be shocking if they went with an RB-by-committee approach if they find the position too expensive to fill and Hillis doesn't come back. Hillis is a wild card right now depending on what team he's on.
Does the team upgrade the WR corps?
This position was a fantasy nonfactor, with Greg Little needing more time to develop than fantasy owners who drafted him had expected. He ended his rookie campaign with a per-game average of 3.8 catches for 44.3 yards and 0.13 TDs on 7.5 targets. He had 120 targets, with the next-closest receiver having only 67, making him the No. 1 option. Right now, he's the team's only viable WR to look at next season.
There's a chance the team will not bring back Mohamed Massaquoi, who hasn't shown much in his three years with the team. He has a total of seven TDs in three seasons and has not shown the playmaking ability many thought he had. He ends with a per-game average of 2.21 catches for 27.4 yards and 0.14 TDs on 5.3 targets — numbers that make him undraftable to fantasy owners. Joshua Cribbs has not shown the ability to be consistent, with a per-game average of 2.6 catches for 32.4 yards and 0.3 TDs on 4.2 targets. After seven years, fantasy owners have to realize he's not going to turn the corner as a wideout.
Can the Browns improve the production from their tight ends in 2012?
Between Evan Moore and Benjamin Watson, the two combined to post 71 catches for 734 yards and six TDs on 118 targets. If this were one person, he would be one of the better tight ends in the league. However, Moore only went 34-324-4 on 47 targets, and Watson went 37-410-2 on 71 targets, giving neither player any value outside of a matchup play. Watson ended the season with a second concussion, sending him to injured reserve, but it's expected he'll return. This position is dependent on the QB and will not have short-term value, but long term, Moore could gain fantasy value as he ingrains himself into the system. Right now neither player has draft-day value.