The Cleveland Browns are in rebuilding mode, and their rookies will play a vital role in determining their success. The Browns traded up to acquire running back Trent Richardson with the third-overall pick and then took quarterback Brandon Weeden 22nd-overall. They'll start right away, but the learning process could be rough, having to face the likes of the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and an improving Cincinnati Bengals team twice a season. The Browns do not have much to offer when it comes to fantasy.
Colt McCoy was supposed to become the team's savior, but it's looking like his time as the Browns starting quarterback has come to an end. Barring injury, 28-year-old rookie Brandon Weeden is expected to start in Week 1. Weeden has intriguing potential. He had a well-decorated college career, and should adjust quicker to the NFL than a typical rookie quarterback given his age. However, he'll be facing professional defenses every Sunday, so there will be a learning process that he must go through. To add to that, the Browns lack proven receivers and their best player on offense is a rookie running back. Weeden should not be owned in seasonal fantasy leagues.
Trent Richardson is Cleveland's most talented player and is the only Brown worth coveting in the early rounds of fantasy drafts. He's their focal point and will touch the ball as many as 20 times a game. That's a major advantage when starting a running back in fantasy football. Regardless of how skilled a player is, opportunities are the key to success. When you combine Richardson's skill-set with his workload, there's reason to believe he could be a productive player. On the other hand, opposing defenses know that he'll be the primary ballcarrier, making it easier to slow him down. With no receiving threat on the outside, Richardson will constantly face eight-man fronts. But looking at the second and third tier of running backs, each of them has a fault. Overall, Richardson presents great upside despite the team's shortcomings. If he is available in the second or third round, don't let him slip by. Backups Montario Hardesty and Brandon Jackson won't see much action, so leave them on waivers.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
Greg Little is Cleveland's most talented receiver. That's not saying a whole lot considering he's just entering his sophomore year and had the second-most drops (12) in the NFL last season. However, posting 61 receptions for 709 yards in an offense that struggled to move the ball is worth taking into account. Weeden and Richardson are upgrades over McCoy and Peyton Hillis, so Little's numbers could see a slight boost with the attention off him. Treat him as a No. 5 receiver. Mohamed Massaquoi is entering his fourth year and has not shown any signs of development. In three seasons, he averaged nearly 34 receptions for 497 yards. Josh Cribbs is more valuable in real life than in fantasy. He's an elite kick returner, but is not featured enough on offense.
Evan Moore scored a career-high four touchdowns last season, but only had 34 catches. Benjamin Watson's numbers declined in part of their offense while missing three games due to a concussion. He had 68 receptions in 2010, but fell to 37 last year. Unless they see an increased role, leave both of them on waivers.
Having to kick in harsh climates for a struggling offense severely hurt Phil Dawson's value. Despite those factors working against him, he was very accurate last season from 40-yards plus, going 14-for-16. Still, Dawson is not worth adding because points will be hard to come by.
The Browns defense is not a desirable fantasy unit even though they were ranked in the top-10 in yards allowed per game and points per game in the NFL. They have difficulty getting after the quarterback and don't force enough interceptions. The Browns did not make any noteworthy transactions to improve their defense, so they will likely rank in the bottom tier.
Travis Chan is a fantasy sports enthusiast and contributor for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. You can follow him on Twitter @Travischan1.
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