Without more from Baker Mayfield, Browns will waste Odell Beckham Jr., talented offense

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The Yahoo Fantasy analysts will preview all 32 NFL teams between now and the eventual start of the 2020 draft season. Here, we’ll tackle pressing fantasy questions, #FantasyHotTaeks, and team win totals. Next up, the Cleveland Browns.

We’ve been waiting for the Baker Mayfield-Odell Beckham Jr. connection to flourish since OBJ got traded. Will 2020 be the year they crack top-10 fantasy finishes at their respective positions?

Dalton: No. Mayfield took a giant step back last season, to the point it’s concerning moving forward. He finished bottom-five in CPOE and struggled from a clean pocket, so I barely have him as a top-20 fantasy QB despite the nice set of skill position players in Cleveland.

OBJ, meanwhile, finished last in RACR (Yards Per Target divided by aDOT) among all wideouts with at least 120 targets in 2019, and while playing hurt can be partially to blame, Beckham’s injury history is lengthy. He’s also past his prime and will be fighting for targets with Jarvis Landry (who led Cleveland last year), newcomer Austin Hooper (especially in the RZ), and Kareem Hunt (while sharing touchdowns with Nick Chubb). OBJ is awesome, and I still treat him as a top-20 WR, but there are many wide receivers who are younger and without the injury concerns and shaky QB play.

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Andy: I can get there on Beckham, because we all know how freakishly talented he is when he's uninjured. Very few receivers can match his hands and separation ability. I've already made the case for OBJ as a rebound candidate. He was playing through a significant injury last season but should open 2020 operating at full capacity. I'm endorsing him at his ADP of 28.8

Mayfield, however, faces a tough climb to reach top-10 status at his position. He was obviously a huge disappointment in 2019, though the dreadful coaching situation did him no favors. This year's Stefanski-Van Pelt partnership should help. His receiving corps is clearly of the highest quality. The biggest issue facing Mayfield in terms of his year-end fantasy finish is the strength of his position; just check the current Yahoo QB ranks. Half of the quarterbacks in our consensus top-10 offer rushing ability, giving them multiple paths to fantasy relevance. And beyond those names, the position is loaded with legends. Even if Mayfield produces the best season of his young career — think 4,000 yards and 28 TDs — he’s no lock to challenge guys like Brees, Ryan, Rodgers, Roethlisberger, Stafford, Goff, Wentz, et al. 

Matt: Will give a quick “no” to Baker Mayfield as a top-10 option. Quarterback is just too deep and there are too many high-ceiling runners to project him to have that dramatic of a rebound. Mayfield can stabilize into a good starter, despite being one of the worst in 2019, but even if he’s a Kirk Cousins-type player in Kevin Stefanski’s offense, he will fall outside of the Top-10 passers. 

However, Odell Beckham jr. is interesting. It is no exaggeration to say he was not only one of the best receivers in the NFL but a legendary talent at his peak. His 2019 results were quite far off that from a statistical and film perspective. When you go back and watch Beckham play last year, it’s clear that he is so far off of his usual standards that the only possible conclusion is he was truly dogged by a sports hernia injury all year, as was reported. On the one hand, it’s easy to write that campaign off as an outlier, and pencil in a rebound.

Yet, it’s fair to ask whether this is just the final straw among a litany of lower-body injuries for Beckham and we’ve already seen the best this player has to offer come and go. The answer is unknowable from the outside. I’ll choose to go down with the ship. Given that he’s going so late in drafts, all the risk is baked in while you give one last chase to the ceiling we knew once existed.

Even with Kareem Hunt alongside him for a chunk of games, Nick Chubb ended 2019 as the seventh highest-scoring RB in .5 PPR. Should we expect an even higher finish in 2020, or is this his ceiling with so many mouths to feed in Cleveland? 

Matt: Nick Chubb is one of the best pure runners in the NFL. His range of outcomes includes a 2019 Derrick Henry-like eruption that propels him to a Top-3 finish, despite a lack of passing game work. But that is an extremely unlikely event. Make no mistake, Kareem Hunt is an issue for Chubb. In five of the eight games Hunt played in last year, Chubb finished with two or fewer targets. His carries and snap rate continued to go down throughout that stretch. The scheme and likely passing game rebound will make Chubb an efficiency bet but volume is going to be a problem. He isn’t a hard fade for me, but he’s not a priority target either. 

Andy: Chubb is just so damn good. (How's that for #analysis?) He's averaged better than 5.0 YPC in each of his first two seasons and he's been spectacular in terms of yards after contact, ranking near the top of the league in consecutive years (3.8 YCO/A in 2019 per PFF). I have nothing bad to say about him. He's such a fun watch. I mean, c'mon:

Chubb is gonna win a rushing title someday (see below). That said, the one potential weakness in his fantasy game is likely to be receiving volume. He caught only 11 balls over the final eight weeks last season, so Kareem Hunt's presence was clearly a factor. If Hunt wasn't in the team picture, Chubb would rank among my top-5 backs in every format. His projected reception total bumps him down a few spots, but I can only drop a ~1,500-yard back so far. I still like him as a top-7 or-8 fantasy back. 

Dalton: Chubb is a talented enough back to finish a season as the No. 1 overall fantasy player (he was PFF’s highest-graded runner last season), but the safer bet is a lower finish in 2020 thanks to his situation. He’ll be sharing the backfield with Kareem Hunt (ceding most of the passing down work), which ultimately limits Chubb’s upside. Mayfield also now presents a giant question mark at the quarterback position moving forward too. Chubb is legitimately one of the best running backs in the NFL right now, but I’m fading his situation in 2020.  

The Browns now have two gifted tight ends in tow with David Njoku and Austin Hooper. The coaching staff has stated they plan to use both on offense. Is this a situation worth trusting in fantasy, or staying away completely?

Andy: Stay away. No need to embrace this group. Hooper is a nice player coming off a terrific season (on another team), but there are far more talented receiving options who need to be fed in Cleveland. Browns tight ends combined to see just 69 total targets last year, for what it's worth. 

[2020 Draft Rankings: Overall | QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | DST | Kickers]

Dalton: Staying away completely. Hooper left an ideal situation in Atlanta to a crowded one in Cleveland that’s also outdoors and provides a huge downgrade at quarterback. Few players saw their fantasy stock drop more during the offseason than Hooper, whom I don’t have as a top-20 TE (while Njoku is completely off the radar at a suddenly deep TE position).

Matt: I’m out, unless there is a steep discount available. Austin Hooper would need to go outside of the first 10 rounds for me to consider. David Njoku is an ultra-deep best ball option only. While I buy that 12-personnel will be the base package for this offense, there isn’t enough volume here to love this tight end duo’s outlook. Beckham and Landry should both push for 120-plus targets and this offense isn’t going to throw enough for much more after that.

Cleveland Browns Projected 2020 Lineup
Cleveland Browns Projected 2020 Lineup


Andy: This is not even a little bit of a hot take, but let’s roll with it anyway: Nick Chubb is winning the 2020 rushing title. He’s also going to average better than 100 rushing yards per game for the first time in his career. He’s on the shortlist of the absolute best ball-carriers in today’s game and he’s likely to average close to 20 rush attempts per week. Draft and enjoy.

OVER/UNDER on 8.5 Win Total from BetMGM

Dalton: The Browns should see improved coaching with Freddie Kitchens gone and a better offensive line with the addition of Jack Conklin, but Mayfield was essentially Josh Allen as a passer last season without the rushing ability. The Browns will likely play better in 2020 without the hype and with less pressure, but Mayfield has gone from likely future star to huge question mark. They’re also in a division that arguably has them facing two top-five teams (Baltimore and Pittsburgh) 25% of their schedule, and Cincinnati is vastly improved as well, so especially at +105, I’ll take the UNDER.

Follow Matt: @MattHarmon_BYB

Follow Dalton: @daltondeldon

Follow Andy: @AndyBehrens

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