The Yahoo Fantasy analysts will preview all 32 NFL teams between now and the end of July as training camps open. We’ll tackle pressing season-long fantasy questions, Best Ball tips (new on Yahoo for 2019) and team win totals. Next up, the Cleveland Browns.
If there is one word to describe the Cleveland Browns of 2019, that word would be “Hope.” Hope that Baker Mayfield can be the end to the incessant, painful search for a quarterback. Hope that with a weapon like Odell Beckham Jr., together with Nick Chubb, David Njoku, and Jarvis Landry, the Browns can field a fearsome offense. Hope that the playoffs won’t remain a distant dream, but an expected reality.
This is an enticing team for fantasy purposes, and the hype is very real — but is that all it is?
With Kareem Hunt, who is suspended the first eight games of the regular season, lurking in the background, is Nick Chubb OVERVALUED, UNDERVALUED or PROPERLY VALUED at his 20.2 ADP (RB12)?
Andy: Chubb is just a bit UNDERVALUED. I’d be thrilled to land him at 20.
I’m not going to downplay the potential impact of Hunt’s arrival — he’s certainly going to have a role — but let’s remember that it won’t actually happen until November. He’s gonna miss the first eight games and nine weeks of the fantasy season. NINE WEEKS, people. That’s forever. It’s worthless to make fantasy plans so far in advance. Whoever drafts Hunt in your league is pretty much guaranteed to drop him before he sees the field.
Chubb was exceptional last season (5.2 YPC, 10 TDs) and he’s tied to an offense that looks, at least on paper, as if it’s going to be great. Hunt is no significant threat to Chubb’s goal-line role, either. If Chubb can simply remain healthy, he’s a sneaky-good bet to lead the NFL in touchdowns. Again, I’ll take him all day at pick 20. That’s too late.
Liz: UNDERVALUED. As the brilliant Scott Pianowski always says, you draft to win now… not in November. Chubb is a stud and while Hunt may eat into his volume come Week 10, that’s no reason not to roll with the team’s current workhorse. Furthermore, once Hunt returns he’s not expected to take over the starting duties.
Chubb avarged 17 rushes and 2.25 catches per contest after Freddie Kitchens took over the play-calling duties. Not only was his volume spectacular, but what he did with those touches was incredible. Posting top-10 stats in yards created (24.3/game), breakaway runs (.9/gm), and evaded tackles (4.0/gm), the Georgia product proved why the Browns selected him with the No. 35 pick. If Cleveland’s defense takes the step forward that many are anticipating, then Chubb’s dominance figures to continue. He’s currently the Yahoo Consensus RB9.
FACT or FICTION
Baker Mayfield (94.5 ADP, QB5), Public Enemy No. 1 to Colin Cowherd and NFL DBs, sneaks inside the QB top-five come year’s end.
Andy: My ranks force me to say FICTION here, but, just for the record, I feel bullish on Baker. I have nothing negative to say about the player or his set-up. He was fantastic as a rookie, clearly ready for the degree-of-difficulty jump, and his team added one of Earth’s best receivers to the roster. Again: I’m a fan. I’d be happy to draft him. He’s my QB8, which is a strong endorsement for a second-year pro.
But the quarterback position is loaded, so a top-five finish isn’t a layup for anyone — not for Luck, not for Mahomes. Not for anyone. Mayfield doesn’t have a meaningful rushing component to his game, so he’d likely need to top 35 TD passes to threaten a top-five positional finish. And it might happen. Hopefully those who draft him can be satisfied with a 4,000-30 season.
Brad: FICTION. Similar to Behrens’ sentiment above, there’s much to like about “The Touchdown Maker” this season. For good reason, we all should feel a little dangerous. His dead-red accuracy (top-10 in red-zone and deep-ball cmp% in ‘18), continuity with Freddie Kitchens and upgraded supporting cast point to a top-seven line in range of 4,300 passing yards and 31-34 TDs. However, unless he can unpredictably pad the bottom line with a few TD scrambles, it seems unlikely he’ll penetrate the elite tier.
No, I’m not some grudge-holding Hue Jackson supporter (Do those even exist?). Simply, at his QB5 price tag, he’s unlikely to break even. Best advice: Lasso Kyler Murray roughly 30-40 picks later.
Predict The Line
No longer tethered to Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr. (14.7 ADP, WR5) possesses immense upside tied to a more competent Mayfield. In his first season with the Browns, project the wideout’s stat line (REC-YDS-TD) and finish among wide receivers in .5 PPR.
Brad: Through all of the kicker net proposals, sometimes abrasive commentary and Eli wounded ducks, Odell, when healthy, steadily and consistently dominated the competition. He finished WR7 or higher in each of his first five seasons in fantasy points per game. And many of those efforts were accomplished with bland success rates (e.g. 51% in ‘18).
It will be difficult for Beckham to mirror his 28.5 target percentage from last fall, but with a more efficient QB spinning him passes, he’s in line for at least 85 catches, 1,250 yards and 9-11 TDs. He’s my WR5.
Liz: 83-1,172-10, WR5. It’s no secret that Eli Manning’s arm has devolved over the past few years, as evidenced by a true completion percentage of barely 70 percent in 2018 (QB21) and 67 percent in 2017 (QB19). Clearly, Peyton’s younger brother has been bailed out by his weapons. And OBJ has been chief amongst them, which explains the stud receiver’s hearty target share of 28 percent. (WR5). Converting 77 of 91 catchable targets, OBJ managed a true catch rate of nearly 85 percent in 2018. Given the upgrade in arm talent he’ll receive in Cleveland, Beckham’s efficiency should improve even if his number of looks decreases.
Best Ball Bargain Bin
Andy: Gimme DAVID NJOKU. Targets will be an issue for Njoku, in all likelihood, but it won’t be much of a surprise if he produces two or three huge stat lines in this offense. He’s a strong candidate to finish as a top-10 TE, with like 40 percent of his fantasy production in three games.
Brad: ANTONIO CALLAWAY. Truth be told, if the sophomore receiver reaches his personal goal of 1,000 yards and 10 TDs, O.J. Simpson’s “gettin’ even to do” is sure to end well. It’s ... lofty. But OBJ’s presence matched with an established Mayfield chemistry suggests there’s plenty of upside Callaway. He could be a poor man’s Robby Anderson (14.7 average target distance in ‘18), an explosive downfield threat who will make the occasional splashy catch. With a 185.2 ADP (WR72), he’s a terrific end game buy.
Mad Bets (From FanDuel Sportsbook): Cleveland 9.5 wins OVER (+125) or UNDER (-150)
Andy: Cleveland’s division is no cakewalk, but this team has extraordinary talent at a bunch of key spots. I’m buying. I’ll take the OVER. Put me down for 11-5.
Brad: Unquestionably, the Cleveland OVER is my favorite wager of any team total. The Browns added talent on defense should vault it well ahead of its No. 30 total D standing last season. Combine that with a nuclear offense and third-easiest schedule according to projected Vegas win totals and a double-digit output seems very reachable.
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