Juggernaut Index No. 31: The Cleveland Browns

The Juggernaut Index is our annual ranking of NFL teams for fantasy purposes. Repeat: FOR FANTASY PURPOSES. We're interested in yards and points here. We begin at No. 32, the NFL's least useful franchise, and we'll work our way toward the elite teams. These ranks are astonishingly accurate and highly collectible. Please enjoy them responsibly.

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31. Cleveland Browns

Quarterbacking the Browns can't be as painful as Brady Quinn(notes) is making it look in the photo on the right, but it won't be a picnic this year.

The team finished 30th in the NFL in scoring last season (14.5 PPG) and dead-last in passing yardage (158.6), and this year they'll be without Kellen Winslow(notes) (traded to Bucs) and Donte' Stallworth(notes) (suspension, no great loss). Rookie receivers Brian Robiskie(notes) and Mohamed Massaquoi(notes) have relatively clear paths to playing time -- David Patten(notes) and Mike Furrey(notes) offer only token pressure -- but neither profiles as a star in '09. (Scouting details: Robiskie, Massaquoi). Braylon Edwards(notes) returns after one of the worst seasons by a pro receiver in recent memory. He was tenth in the league in targets (138) but just 49th in receptions (55). Of the 23 players who were targeted at least 120 times last year, only Edwards failed to reached 900 receiving yards.

And who will throw all the passes that Edwards won't catch in 2009?

The battle between Quinn and Derek Anderson rages on. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Browns are "preparing both quarterbacks to play and have no intention of naming a starter until a few games into the exhibition season." The job seems to be Quinn's to lose, but recall that Anderson led the Browns to a 10-win season in 2007, throwing for 3787 yards and 29 TDs. Both quarterbacks have accuracy issues -- Quinn's completion percentage was 50.6 last year while Anderson's was 50.2 -- but when they're going right, both can make the necessary throws. Anderson has excellent arm strength and prototypical size (6-6, 230), but he's also prone to recklessness (19 INTs in '07) and he appears to believe that check-downs are for cowards.

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The Cleveland running game produced just six touchdowns in '08, the lowest team total in the NFL (tied with Cincinnati). Jamal Lewis(notes) enters his age-30 season having averaged 3.6 YPC or less in three of the past four years. He's No. 32 in the Yahoo! preseason running back ranks and coming off another ankle surgery. If you draft him as a fantasy starter, then you've got at least one glaring weakness.

Jerome Harrison(notes) has impressed in limited action (7.2 YPC in '08), but he's a smallish back (5-9, 205) who's unlikely to take on a serious workload. James Davis, a sixth-round draft pick, is a sneaky dynasty play. He's not really a high-upside talent and he lacks elite speed (4.60 at the combine), but Lewis is clearly in the decline phase and Cleveland's offensive line is not without talent.

In fact, the Browns' line -- led by Joe Thomas(notes) and Eric Steinbach(notes) on the left side -- enabled the team's unexpected offensive success in '07. That year, Anderson was sacked just 14 times, Lewis averaged 4.4 YPC and Edwards managed to catch things. But the O-line seemed to regress in '08, like everything else. Rookie center Alex Mack(notes) should help. That's good news, because Porkchop Womack can't fix the line all by himself. (Sounds like a Depression-era bank robber; actually a right guard).

Other Browns notes: Return specialist/experimental receiver Joshua Cribbs(notes) "doesn’t plan to play a game for the Browns under the terms of his current contract," according to NFL.com. He's hoping the new regime will honor the old regime's commitments. ... Tight end Steve Heiden(notes) injured both his right ACL and MCL in Week 15 last year, and his recovery timeline isn't yet known. The Browns signed Robert Royal(notes) to a $10M/4Y deal in March, but second-year TE Martin Rucker(notes) is the more interesting bye-week/spot-start fantasy option. ... If you're IDPing, you'll want linebacker D'Qwell Jackson(notes). He led the NFL in tackles last year with 154. ... Romeo Crennel used to coach games as if he owned Phil Dawson(notes) in nine fantasy leagues. Will Eric Mangini do the same?

And did you like all those Browns trade-downs on draft day? Did you like any of them? How does Kerry Wood's contract look to you now? Will Candace Parker's brother put the Cavs over the top? Are the Pistols the only band who've treated the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with the respect it deserves? Honestly, is anyone better than Joe Tait? Please share your Cleveland opinions in comments.

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Photo via Getty Images

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