It’s really odd how the Browns went from being the laughing stock of the NFL to one of the most popular teams going into 2019, but a bevy of free agent acquisitions and a plan in place by the executives have made the Browns one of the most exciting young teams in the NFL.
The Browns now have a franchise QB in Baker Mayfield who brings a massive amount of personality and swag to the organization; they brought in Odell Beckham Jr. from the Giants to be the centerpiece of their offensive attack, and they have built a great defensive front-seven to be a staple of a strong unit that will maintain a bend-not-break mentality.
All signs point up for the organization, and the Browns are the favorite in many minds to win the division after years succumbing to the Steelers (who will not be good this year). Cleveland finished 7-8-1 with a lot of close games, and it’s not difficult to see it improve on that. From a fantasy perspective, it’s hard to nail down one spot because it’s all so promising, but the points should start at Mayfield and branch out to OBJ, TE David Njouku and WR Jarvis Landry as this team takes on a passing focus and follows the modern NFL.
Key Departure:Hue Jackson, Coach
Key Acquisitions:Odell Beckham Jr., Wide Receiver; Kareem Hunt, Running Back
2019 Fantasy MVP
Odell Beckham Jr., Wide ReceiverWe finally get to experience OBJ unleashed from the sinking anchor that is Eli Manning and the Giants, and folks, it’s going to be glorious. Odell is without question a top-three wide receiver in the league, one of the best route runners alive, one of the fastest on the field, and probably has the best hands of any wideout not named DeAndre Hopkins.
He gets to go from playing with a quarterback who habitually would underthrow and flat out miss Beckham in the open field to a QB who finished the year with 27 touchdowns and a 7.7 yards per attempt rate as well as a great 63.8% completion percentage.
It should be mentioned Mayfield was working with a pretty sorry receiving corps last year, and we know a fantastic wide receiver can elevate a QB as much as the other way around. Odell has never finished a season of 10+ games with less than 1,000 yards, and that’s playing with noodle-arm Manning, so with Mayfield at the helm a conservative assumption would be 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns. OK, like 2,000 yards and 18 touchdowns. Whatever. He’s going to crush it.
2019 Fantasy LVP
Jarvis Landry, Wide ReceiverWith the introduction of the demigod that is Odell Beckham Jr., we will see a significant drop in volume for Landry, who was hardly a fantasy asset even when he was the top overall wideout on a team devoid of talent. In 2018 he finished the year with just 976 yards and four touchdowns with a 12.0 yards per reception rate on a healthy 81 receptions.
He never has been somebody who can prop up a team by himself and does better when he gets some room from the defense and isn’t the focal point of a gameplan, but the problem is OBJ is the antithesis of that. A secondary wideout has never been a big part of a gameplan with OBJ as the primary outside of one decent year from Victor Cruz in New York — and even that year was modest.
2019 Breakout Player
Baker Mayfield, QuarterbackI know he technically “broke out” last year, but it’s still a situation where he has so much room for upside that I can’t help but write him up for the situation again. He was surrounded by a pretty unimpressive group of receivers in 2018 and still managed to rack up 3,725 yards through the air with 27 touchdowns — a rookie record. He was pretty efficient, too, even with having a high drop rate on his passes, and the average yards per attempt of 7.7 is underwhelming but also heavily influenced by having no real outside threats to stretch the defense. With OBJ now in the fold and another year with Freddie Kitchens, we should expect Mayfield to come much closer to his true potential. It’s not out of the question to assume 5,000 yards and 35 touchdowns with just moderate improvements, and that would be more than enough to secure him as a breakout player in my eyes.
Final ThoughtsThe Browns are an exceptionally hyped team this offseason but it’s entirely deserved and if you aren’t excited about them you probably hate football. Mayfield and OBJ is a swag-oozing match in football heaven, and Nick Chubb is going to be an underrated staple of their ground game. Their schedule is good but not great as they have to deal with some decent defenses, but they also get to face the Bengals, Giants and Steelers so we can expect them to dominate offensive in all of those games. The Browns are the favorites to win their division, and there’s little reason to argue with the majority on that opinion. I would say they finish 11-5 and cement themselves as one of the best stories in NFL history, from rags to riches.
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