INSIDE THE NUMBERS
After catching 68 balls for 763 yards in 2010, both career highs, Ben Watson’s 2011 campaign was hampered by concussions. He caught a pair of touchdowns in the first two games, but was pretty much rendered useless after that. Backup Evan Moore displayed great pass-catching skills in relief and scored four times while generating 324 yards receiving on just 34 receptions. With the Browns struggling to score at times, neither player is poised for big numbers in the year ahead barring an injury to another.
A year ago the Browns had the NFL’s easiest schedule and they went 4-12. This year they have the third toughest slate with their opponents combining for a .527 winning percentage a year ago. In addition to be pitted against the NFC East and AFC West teams, they get Buffalo at home and Indy on the road to go along with their six divisional tilts with the Bengals, Ravens, and Steelers. Even if the Browns are improved, this is a tough road and is going to limit the team’s ability to produce big offensive numbers.
There’s no doubting Trent Richardson’s talent and the Browns seemingly are ready to give the ball early and often, making him the centerpiece of their offense. While we already project Richardson to be a low-end RB1 right out of the gate, owners should avoid spending a first-round pick on him as the Browns’ offense is loaded with question marks and he’s a bit unproven. His current ADP has him going 17th overall is a decent spot to grab him, but in keeper/dynasty formats his value rises immediately.
When Peyton Hillis departed via free agency it appeared as if Montario Hardesty suddenly was starting to have some fantasy value. However, the team’s drafting of Richardson crushed it quickly. He posted 388 total yards and 102 touches in limited action a year ago as he worked his way back from a knee injury. His 3.0 per carry average was not his fault, but showed that he clearly is ready to contribute to fantasy teams any time soon. He should only be considered as late-round flyer in deeper formats.
Greg Little took some time to get going during his rookie season, but he showed some great flashes down the stretch. He tallied 414 receiving yards over eight games in the second half and was targeted an eye-popping 12 times. He was only able to parlay that into 61 catches for 709 yards though and only scored twice all year long. Part of the equation was the poor play at quarterback, but Little also dropped plenty of balls. Expect some maturation entering his sophomore campaign and view him as a low-end WR3 with increased upside in PPR leagues.
The Browns’ defense was average at best in 2011 and particularly struggled to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks and had problems to stop. The team attempted to address the weakness by signing free agents Frostee Rucker, a decent run-stopping defensive end from the Bengals, and situational pass rusher Juqua Thomas-Parker. While neither player will warrant much play in IDP leagues their presence does help boost the value of the Browns ST/DEF and the IDP value of Jabaal Sheard, who registered 8.5 sacks as a rookie.
Poor quarterback play has plagued the Browns for years. Aside from the Pro Bowl season turned in by Derek Anderson during 2007, it has been dismal under center in Cleveland. Colt McCoy appears to be the franchise’s latest failed attempt to fill it. The Browns spent a late first-round pick on 28-year old Brandon Weeden. He is expected to take the offense over immediately as a rookie, but he’ll have to hold off the incumbent McCoy. Either way there is little for fantasy owners or Browns fans to get excited about in 2012.
As indicator of how few other parts of the Browns’ offense that excites me from a fantasy standpoint, I’ve turned to place kicker Phil Dawson as my filler in this spot. I always take a kicker with my last pick or just spend a $1 and if you happen to grab one of the last kickers, Dawson may be worth considering. He drilled 7-of-8 kicks from 50-plus yards in 2011 and has been accurate on at least 82 percent of his attempts over the past five years. If Richardson is even remotely successful in helping the Browns move the ball Dawson could have a banner year.
Fantasy Football, NFL