Scouting Report: Cleveland Browns

The Browns are still well, the Browns.  So you can’t expect very much from this team.  RG3 may help a little bit under center, but come on Hue Jackson?!  You expect him to pass as the starting QB when he hasn’t been good for 4 years?  They had a good draft, they have some more elite wide receivers after cutting Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline, and losing Travis Benjamin to the Chargers, who signed him as a free agent.  They got Corey Coleman and reinstated Josh Gordon, who is still suspended four games, and will return
against Tom Brady’s Patriots.  Brady will also be hungry for revenge after a suspension of his own.  They also got Demario Davis on defense, but otherwise, this is the same old team.  How many wins can the Browns even get with the talent they have?

 

3 Players to Watch

1. Carl Nassib, DE

With Desmond Bryant out for the season, the Browns now have a hole at defensive end.  They drafted both Carl Nassib and Emmanuel Ogbah at the position, but Ogbah is set to play outside linebacker for the Browns.  That leaves Nassib with the starting job.  He does have competition, Xavier Cooper is also strong at the position, but this third round pick was a very intriguing selection, a former walk-on at Penn State who broke out senior year with 15.5 sacks.  The NFL may take some time for him to get used to, and NFL.com was concerned he could be a one year wonder, but personally, I think this rookie could be a breakout candidate, and this year is his oppurtunity with Desmond Bryant missing the season.

2. Duke Johnson, RB

I think this sophomore running back has more talent than Isaiah Crowell, at least potential talent at full development.  The running back only had 104 carries for 379 yards in his rookie season, but this passing back also has put up 61 receptions for 534 yards and 2 TDs.  If he fully develops, he could be a multi-purpose back that scores rushing and receiving touchdowns.  I expect his TD numbers to go up in 2016, along with his total yardage.

3.  Scooby Wright III, ILB

“Hey, the Browns are so bad, they signed Scooby Doo!”

“No, I think you got the wrong Scooby.”  Yeah.  Wrong Scooby.  This is Scooby Wright III.  You probably haven’t heard of him.  He’s an inside linebacker who was originally projected to be selected in Round 3 of the NFL Draft, but went to the Browns in Round 7 instead.  Personally, I think this college stud should act like a third rounder on the Browns, possibly even fight for Christian Kirksey’s current starting job.  I know, what’s with the weird names?  In 2 seasons with the Browns, Kirksey, a third round pick in 2014, has only racked up 5.5 sacks.  Wright racked up 14 sacks in the 2014 college football season, that’s more than one per game, after none in freshman year.  The question is, can Wright put up the same numbers he did in his healthy years in college, and can he be consistent?  In the three games he did play last year, he got 2 sacks.  Can he put up the same numbers in all 16 games?

 

3 Questions That Must Be Answered

 

1. Can Robert Griffin III ever match
his 2012 stats again?

In his rookie season, RG3 led the
Redskins to a division win and strong playoff run, making for an amazing rookie year. But he got hurt in a playoff game. In 2013,
Griffin never fully recovered. He was sidelined for the last three games for Kirk Cousins.  Back then, Cousins wasn’t what he is now.  He wasn’t developed yet, and at the start of 2014, RG3 earned the job back.  Somehow, his terrible 2013 numbers passed for a starting job?  The Redskins had a serious QB problem that year.  RG3 got hurt again in week 2 and Cousins started for seven games.  RG3 came back in Week 9, but he still did nothing.  RG3 was still not quite back to what he was, and with Kirk Cousins shut down for the season with his own injury, the Redskins had to rely on Colt McCoy to start for the remainder of the season.  McCoy eventually got hurt and RG3 had to start the rest of the season.  In 2015, Griffin struggled regressively in the preseason, and lost his job to Kirk Cousins permanently, falling to third on the depth chart also behind Colt McCoy. Cousins broke out, leading the Redskins back to the playoffs in an easy division, and RG3 never saw action, and eventually was released.  The Redskins must have been sick of his tactics.  Then Cleveland signs him and names him starter?  Over Josh McCown?  After last year’s disgrace. Wow, Hue Jackson.  Just, wow.  Griffin looks promising in the preseason, but it’s not a guarantee he’ll get back to business, and stay healthy.  I personally think he’ll do alright, but he still won’t be what he was, and I can’t tell you he won’t get hurt.  Good move keeping Josh McCown, Cleveland.

2. Will Josh Gordon perform well, and stay out of trouble?

Most people believe Josh Gordon’s recent reinstatement will benefit the Browns.  Personally, I’m questioning whether Gordon is in football shape.  He’s battling a preseason injury for a reason.  After a long suspension, it’s not easy to go back to what you were before the ban.  Gordon will be able to play in preseason games, but will remain suspended for regular season games until Week 5.  I don’t think Gordon will go back to being the guy who was a league leader in receiving yards right away.  It will take time for Gordon to redevelop his skill, if he ever does.  I’m starting to wonder, did the drugs affect his performance?  It’s also not a guarantee that Gordon will stay out of trouble.  If he has issues later in the season, he could receive more discipline.  Gordon shouldn’t have even been reinstated in the first place!  I think Gordon should be grateful he was reinstated, and drop the drugs so he can just play football again, but will he?

3. Will strong drafts in 2015 and 2016 pay off?

In the last two years, the Browns have drafted many key players.  Danny Shelton, Nate Orchard, Cameron Erving, Duke Johnson, Corey Coleman, Emmanuel Ogbah, Carl Nassib, Rashard Higgins, Ricardo Louis, Jordan Payton, Shon Coleman and Spencer Drango have all came from the last two years’ drafts.  Most of these guys aren’t completely developed yet, but a lot of them have potential.  Danny Shelton is a major breakout candidate, after decent numbers last year.  He was a 12th overall pick, after all.  Nate Orchard has contributed to the pass rush, as well.  Cameron Erving could emerge into a starter, and Duke Johnson is blossoming into a work horse RB.  In this year’s draft came four receivers.  Corey Coleman should be an immediate force, while Rashard Higgins, Ricardo Louis and Jordan Payton could see receptions off the bench.  Personally, I think Higgins and Payton are two underrated receivers that could fight for WR4 and WR5 jobs.  I also think both o-linemen and pass rushers should see time on the field, Nassib could even start.  I like the duo of Nassib and Ogbah to rack up 6 or 7 sacks.  Personally, I think Drango is the best option at right guard.  All these guys should eventually fan out, and some will affect the season.

 

3 Bold Predictions

1. Duke Johnson will lead in not just rushing yards, but lead Browns non-QBs in total yards

Duke Johnson is no one-trick pony, even in football.  He doesn’t just scramble well, he makes catches.  Personally, between his rushing yards and receiving yards and TDs he purs up, he’s an intriguing pick to lead Browns non-QBs in total yards and TDs.  There is Gary Barnidge, who could go for more TDs, but although Barnidge should be starting material at tight end, he won’t match last year, or even come close.  Josh Gordon will be missing 4 games, so Johnson has time to get a head start on him, and the rest of the receiving group hasn’t quite panned out yet, even Corey Coleman and Andrew Hawkins.  What about Isaiah Crowell?  Honestly, I think Duke Johnson will be started over Crowell this year.  Crowell hasn’t proven to be a quality starter, and I would give the sophomore RB, part of a legendary rookie running back class a try at the starting job.  Duke J0hnson is a major sleeper, and he will breakout in 2016.

2. Only 2 players will reach 8 sacks on Browns, but who?

The Browns pass rush can be pathetic at times.  Without Desmond Bryant, it will be even harder.  Personally, I think that only 2 players will even rack up 8 sacks.  Some of you might even be wondering who could do that?  I like Paul Kruger personally.  The veteran has had plenty of sacks in his career, 8 should be easy for him, if he can get back on track after a rough 2015.  The other guy being Danny Shelton.  Like I said, this guy is a major sleeper.  I’d expect more from the former 1st round pick in 2016.  He’s yet to earn a sack in his career.  2016 is his year, especially if he wants to keep the starting job.

3. The Browns will lead the AFC North in rushing yards

 

Hue Jackson sure likes to run the ball.  He has two powerful running backs in his backfield, but why do they top backfields with guys like Le’ Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams?  Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard?  Well, Bell will be suspended for the first four games, so his rushing totals will be cut in to, and DeAngelo Williams is an aging back.  Jeremy Hill is good, but Gio Bernard also gets some of his yards in receptions.  Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson are two underrated backs that could breakout, and it wouldn’t be bold predictions without a shocker like this.

 

Schedule Breakdown

The Browns don;t have many opportunities for wins, so they must take advantage of the opportunities they do have.  They open the season in Philadelphia against Doug Pederson’s Eagles.  I think this game is winnable, as I am disgusted by the Eagles’ off season rebuild, but home field advantage should pay off for the Eagles, who should top the just as bad Cleveland Browns.  The rebuilt Ravens should be tough as well.

Then come matches against the Dolphins and Redskins.  The Dolphins aren’t great, but they do have some mediocrity around the team.  They just don’t compare to the rest of the league.  But they are better than the Browns, especially when at home.  The Redskins still have a strong receiving group, and the defense is getting better, definitely enough to top the Browns.

They have absolutely no chance against Brady in his first game back, and a revamped Titans offense should thrive at home.  Cincinnati may be on the decline, but they still have enough weapons to blowout the Browns.  This would put Cleveland at 0-7.  Then comes a mtch-up against the Jets, in Cleveland.  I see home field advantage kicking in, and even with Ryan Fitzpatrick leading a strong Jets offense now, the defense has lost steam since last season, and the Browns offense, Josh Gordon, RG3, Corey Coleman, Duke Johnson, Isaiah Crowell and Gary Barnidge, should be enough to edge out the defense and get their first win.

The Cowboys should be tough when nearly at full strength.  DeMarcus Lawrence, maybe even Randy Gregory will be back, and I think the defense is underrated.  In addition to a stellar offense, that should be enough to down the Browns in Cleveland, and if Cleveland loses to the Ravens at home, it won’t be any easier on the road, even with Josh Gordon in his sixth week.  The Steelers’ QB/RB/WR combo is tough for the Browns as well, but in a division match-up, I could see the Browns splitting, and pulling the upset trigger in this game.  Their underrated offense will take advantage of the Pittsburgh D, and the Steelers offense won’t do enough.  They will be dealt a loss in Pittsburgh, though. The Giants’ revamped defense will compliment the offense and give them the road win.  Going into the bye, the Browns would be just 2-10.  If you count the Steelers match-up after the bye I called a loss, I have them at 2-11 so far.

After the bye, they have two winnable match-ups.  The first one is hosting the Bengals, another division match-up, but especially after how well the Bengals have done against the Browns, I don’t see the Browns beating the Bengals and Steelers and not the Ravens.  So they lose that one.  In Buffalo, the strong draft plus the developing talent they already had should be too good for the Browns.  The second winnable match-up comes against the Chargers.  Although the Philip Rivers led offense is intriguing, Hue Jackson’s underrated Browns offense should be all over a weak defense.  Then they close up the season in Pittsburgh.  They can’t win this game under any circumstances, and at 3-12, they will have given up already.  I see a loss here.

 

My Prediction

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The Browns will never be that good without some moves, and I don’t see many winnable match-ups on the schedule.  But this underrated offense could pull an upset or two, and I can at least see the Browns beat the Chargers at home and maybe the Jets.  Two, three, maybe four wins sounds pretty reasonable, but they will likely place last in the conference.

Final Projected Record: 3-13

 

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Week 14 Start ‘Em/Sit ‘Em: Dominate Your Fantasy Playoffs

Get your team to the next round of the playoffs in no time.  I’ve mentioned below the players I am most confident about starting or letting ride the pine.  My starts and sits are below.
QB
Start
Carson Palmer
Palmer should be able to beat up the Vikings on Thursday Night.  The Vikings rush defense is still figuring itself out, and I saw a blowout coming last Thursday Night.  I would start Palmer any week, he just really stands out this week.  Still a must-start quarterback.  Why would you sit Carson Palmer this season if you have the option?!!
Ryan Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick has a lock match-up over the Titans, and with the running game a little banged up, and with the Titans beginning to become a little more scary to face again, passing will be key to beat Tennessee.  The main reasons Ryan Fitzpatrick should be started is a) The Tennessee defense still needs lots of work and b) Fitzy might have a QB sneak or two himself to help the running game
Sit
Matt Ryan
The Falcons are just such an “early-season” team, but it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.  Matt Ryan has had what might be the worst second half of a season in his career. Well, maybe not.  This is how the Falcons typically are, even though last year was the opposite.  But I just can’t trust Matt Ryan anymore, especially when he’s trying to stop the undefeated Panthers on the road!!!  At home it might be different but this is a lock in Carolina’s favor.
Derek Carr
I just don’t trust him and the Raiders against a really good Broncos team.  This is a feast or famine team, a young, still developing quarterback, facing a tough, amazing, unstoppable Denver team.
RB
Start
Chris Ivory
Ivory is one of the only legitimate backs left on the Jets, and this lock match is time for him and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to shine, against a weakling, possibly worst in the league Titans defense.  Prove yourself as a star, Ivory.
Charcandrick West
West has been dealing with injuries, but expect him and backs Spencer Ware and Knile Davis to bounce back versus a practically empty Chargers front seven.  West has looked great in Jamaal Charles’ spot.
Isaiah Crowell
Crowell may not be on the best team but the Niners defense just plain out sucks, and expect Crowell to break free, even if NaVorro Bowman bothers him.  Crowell has emerged into a solid RB1 that could really help the Browns prevent too many struggles down the road, even if they’re long gone this season.
Sit
Latavius Murray
Murray has lived up to feast mode these past couple weeks, but it’s famine’s turn to work its magic on Murray, especially against the amazingly good Denver Broncos, who are very solid and consistent this season, and are also one of the healthiest football teams in the currently banged up NFL that’s missing many of its best superstars, and letting the less noticed guys like Murray get more.  But he’s really not. Guys like Marshawn Lynch, Jamaal Charles and Le’ Veon Bell are.
Danny Woodhead
Woodhead, the team’s passing back has surprisingly led the Chargers horrible running game.  But they’re up against a powerhouse Chiefs rush D that will put full force into stopping Woodhead and fellow teammate Melvin Gordon.
Tevin Coleman
Coleman never fully emerged this season, but showed himself when Devonta Freeman was hurt.  But against this tough Carolina front seven, only Freeman is a good enough Falcons running back to overcome it.  The rest, like Coleman and Terron Ward, likely won’t be able to.
WR
Start
Tavon Austin
Austin had never had a breakout season until lovely old, injury filled, 2015.  This week should be a dominant week for Austin, as he faces a struggling, banged up Lions secondary, who are missing Ezekiel Ansah and Glover Quin, and are left with just James Ihedigbo.  Ihedigbo may bother him, but him and fellow teammate Wes Welker should overcome it.
Willie Snead
Snead and Brandin Cooks have struggled these past couple weeks, but even though the defense will likely blow the game, I think the offense has a chance to make an impact and really show that this team may be done, but if they improve their defense, they could have some serious potential, even with Mark Ingram now on IR.
Anquan Boldin
I know this isn’t necessarily a win for the 49ers, but veteran receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith will not be prevented from having big games against an easy Browns defense.
Sit
Amari Cooper
Cooper is very similar to Latavius Murray.  I would just leave everyone on the Raiders to ride the pine.  It’s famine’s turn to control not just these players, but the faith of the entire Oakland Raiders team.  Last week they fared well, just couldn’t beat the red hot Kansas City Chiefs.
Charles Johnson
Johnson isn’t the WR1 anymore, but he shouldn’t have slipped away from the Cardinals D as easily as Stefon Diggs should’ve.  All these Vikings receivers were not good options, and should be avoided if possible.
Kendall Wright
Wright really just has a bad match-up against one of the best secondaries in the league when it’s healthy, which it now pretty much is.  Wright, along with Delanie Walker, should not expect to have big games today.
TE
Start
Charles Clay
Even though I think the Eagles will hold on in this game, it doesn’t mean Sammy Watkins and Charles Clay can’t take advantage of a weak Eagles secondary.  Clay, the former Dolphin, has been a key weapon for Tyrod Taylor this season.  Clay should overcome a beaten up Eagles secondary that has Nolan Carroll hurt, and despite Byron Maxwell’s presence, him and Watkins can still have big days.
Jared Cook
Like Tavon Austin, Cook has potential to have a breakout day.  The difference is, Cook might do better as long as he’s left unguarded as expected.  Both could make a big impact on your fantasy team’s playoff status.
Sit
Kyle Rudolph
Rudolph has began to bounce back, but the Vikings are just facing such an overpowered defense.  Rudolph still hasn’t fully emerged, and he shouldn’t have a day every week at this stage of his development.  Rudolph still needs to work on his consistency, and that won’t call for a good day in fantasy this week.
Ladarius Green
Green and Antonio Gates are facing a premier defense in the league, and don’t expect them to do much.  The Chargers alone have very low likelihood of winning this game.  If Gates will struggle, Green won’t be any better.  He likely will even do worse than Gates does.
DST
Start
Dolphins
I think Monday Night‘s grudge match will be a game of defense, with the Dolphins having the edge.  Both defenses, the Dolphins and Giants, should keep up the good work, but Miami has the edge, so the Giants won’t score as much, earning Miami some extra points for holding them to a certain amount.
Sit
Steelers
I just think Cincy is too good and I don’t think the Steelers are at any edge in this game.  This game will be such a shootout, even the Bengals defense will be bench-able, let alone the Steelers defense.  I didn’t want to have too little faith in Cincy, or too much in Pittsburgh.
K
Start
Brandon McManus
I’ll tell you right now, Denver will win this game in a blowout, but the defense, at some points, will give Denver a challenge, even if their own defense dominates.  That’s the perfect recipe for a great day from the kicking position.  In Denver’s case, that’s Brandon McManus.  McManus has had a great bounce back season, after being held to just kick offs after losing his job to Connor Barth last season.  He was meaningless in fantasy.  Now he’s back on fantasy owners’ radars.
Sit
Steven Hauschka
In this upset I picked in my picks, the Seahawks are left to rot.  Kicker Steven Hauschka will be held to just one extra point and not do any better.  Horrible situation here for any kicker, even a star like Hauschka.  Kickers are really just based on the match-up.   You have to go week by week with them.