The Juggernaut Index is our annual attempt to rank every NFL team for fantasy purposes. We're not concerned with real-life wins and losses here, only fantasy potential. These rankings rely entirely on hard, incontrovertible math. They are not to be questioned.
We should probably begin by mentioning that all the interesting Browns are injured. Except Phil Dawson, who's obviously feeling great. He accounted for all six Cleveland points in Saturday's preseason loss.
Derek Anderson is concussed, Braylon Edwards has a cut on his foot, and Jamal Lewis has a pulled hamstring. Kellen Winslow and Donte Stallworth have each dealt with hamstring issues, too. Pro Bowl kick returner Joshua Cribbs has a high ankle sprain.
So it has not been an ideal preseason for Cleveland. And they're 0-3.
Still, there's no reason to severely downgrade any Browns for fantasy purposes. They're all expected to play in Week 1, and Winslow and Stallworth were both active over the weekend. The biggest question mark is Anderson, the No. 7 quarterback in our preseason ranks. (You'll note that all five of us have him seventh. That never happens). Check the Rotowire note on Anderson's player page:
Coach Romeo Crennel said Monday that Anderson hasn't passed tests performed to determine whether he's returned to normal brain function. There's still time for Anderson's cobwebs to clear up before the 9/7 season opener, so thus far, Crennel is not prepping Quinn for a possible Week 1 start.
The 6'6" Anderson was, of course, one of last season's great waiver adds. He threw 29 touchdown passes and finished as the seventh-highest overall fantasy scorer (262 points). Anderson has a big arm and no reluctance to go downfield. Accuracy has been an issue, but you clearly have to like the weapons he has at his disposal.
Lack of normal brain function can be problematic, though. It puts Brady Quinn on the radar. But the Browns face a tough early schedule (DAL, PIT, @BAL), so if Anderson isn't lucid and functioning properly by Week 1, look elsewhere.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that every Cleveland skill position player outperformed their pre-draft projections in 2007 (Charlie Frye being the exception, whatever his projections were). Credit the Browns' vastly improved offensive line, led by LT Joe Thomas and LG Eric Steinbach. Cleveland allowed only 19 sacks in 2007 after giving up 54 the previous year; Jamal Lewis improved his yards-per-carry from 3.6 to 4.4.
As a result, Lewis enters 2008 as our No. 11 running back. He reached the end zone 11 times last season while rushing for over 1300 yards. He definitely has some mileage, but he's only 29, and he's unchallenged atop the Cleveland backfield hierarchy. Lewis gained over 120 total yards in six of the Browns' final seven games last season, and in that off-game he still had 86 and a TD. Jason Wright is the appropriate handcuff, but he disappears when Lewis is healthy.
Despite his effectiveness last season, Lewis isn't actually the first Brown selected in an average draft. That semi-honor goes to Braylon Edwards (ADP 18.9). You might have noticed that he's also helping us sell the game this season. Edwards had one of the all-time third-year receiver breakouts in 2007, catching 80 passes for 1289 yards and 16 TDs. He's a deep threat, a red zone threat, an intermediate threat ... he's threatening, period. Edwards is fourth in the receiver rankings, and it could be a few years before he leaves the top-five.
But Kellen Winslow, not Edwards, actually led the Browns in receptions last season. He also narrowly edged Antonio Gates for No. 2 in the tight end ranks, and he's talked a very good game this offseason:
Winslow also thinks he can improve on his Pro Bowl season of 2007, one in which he ranked third among NFL tight ends with 82 catches and 1,106 yards.
"I left a lot on the field last year," he said. "I watched the film and saw things that I could've done better. I probably could've caught 100 balls. Touchdowns, I only had five, so I can get a lot better in each category."
The delicate-yet-talented Donte Stallworth is 37th in our WR ranks. He figures to scorch single coverage occasionally, and reside somewhere between "doubtful" and "probable" for most of the season. You can find solid pro-Stallworth video propaganda featuring Michael Silver here. Veteran red zone threat Joe Jurevicius is recovering from knee surgery, and he'll begin the year on the PUP list. You're not drafting him.
The Cleveland defense has its uses. For example, when you're looking for a bye-week replacement for a quarterback or receiver, just check to see who gets to face the Browns. They allowed 359.6 yards per game in 2007. Only two NFL teams allowed more. Cleveland upgraded their line, adding Corey Williams and Shaun Rogers, so they aren't likely to be worse in 2008. Still, the schedule is rarely kind to them (see below). The best Cleveland IDP options are DB Sean Jones (96 tackles, 5 INT) and LB Kamerion Wimbley (51 tackles, 5.0 sacks, 4 FFum).
And with that, the Juggernaut Index is down to five. We thank you for your patience. As we've mentioned before, at this point in the rankings it's more of a barroom argument. The player names will be familiar.
2007 Cleveland team stats
Rushing: 118.4 Y/G
Passing: 232.9 Y/G
Points per game: 25.1
Red Zone possessions and TDs: 55, 30
'08 Schedule strength: .547
The rest of the Index...
32) Chicago, 31) Tennessee, 30) San Francisco, 29) Miami, 28) Baltimore, 27) NY Jets, 26) Oakland, 25) Tampa Bay, 24) Atlanta, 23) Houston, 22) Kansas City, 21) Buffalo, 20) Carolina, 19) Detroit, 18) Seattle, 17) Denver, 16) Washington, 15) St. Louis, 14) Minnesota, 13) Arizona, 12) Jacksonville, 11) Cincinnati, 10) Philadelphia, 9) Pittsburgh, 8) Green Bay, 7) NY Giants, 6) Cleveland
Photos via Getty Images
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