The Cleveland Browns offense has hardly been anyone’s fantasy in recent years. But things are suddenly looking up for the 2013 season, due in part to some bright young stars emerging as playmakers in the Cleveland offense. The Browns have arguably the most fantasy value they’ve had in the fantasy era, when you consider the fantasy football boom really took off around the time the Browns were re-entering the league as an expansion team. With many drafts scheduled over the final weeks of the preseason, let’s take a look at a few Browns that might just help you gain the edge in your league this year. Let’s face it; You’re $20 into this thing with your coworkers now, and you really need to worry about this.
Trent Richardson – Running back
Analysis: Richardson is among the second tier of elite running backs, after a steep drop-off from backs like Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster. He figures to get a ton of carries this season and could see enough looks in the passing game to be a useful running back in PPR format leagues. Durability is perhaps the lone question mark after missing some time in his rookie season due to injury.
Projection: Late 1st - early 2nd Round
Advice: You might feel uneasy to roll with T-Rich as a featured back in most leagues, but if he is a RB #2 option for you, likely available at the turn at the end of the first and beginning of the second rounds, chances are you will have a phenomenal running back tandem.
Josh Gordon – Wide receiver
Analysis: Gordon emerged as the biggest surprise of the Browns offense last season and instantly became relevant in the fantasy world after a string of big yardage touchdown grabs in three consecutive games. Gordon’s attitude and work ethic have been subject to much debate in the offseason, after he was hit with a two game suspension for the beginning of the 2013 season. There’s no denying he has the prototypical size and skill to be among the elite receivers in the NFL.
Projection: 7th – 9th Round
Advice: Gordon will lose the first two games of the season to a suspension, but will be the Browns primary big play threat thereafter and is really starting to click with Brandon Weeden. He may slide down a bit in your draft but will be a very useful second or third receiver for someone Week 3 and beyond.
Greg Little – Wide receiver
Analysis: Greg Little was in position to be the Browns’ number one target last season, prior to the emergence of Josh Gordon in this offense. While he wasn’t much more than a possession receiver down the stretch, Little can be counted among the players who have the most to gain out of the switch to a Norv Turner offense. The first two weeks of the season with Gordon serving suspension could be crucial for Little establishing himself as a target Brandon Weeden can rely on. Little heads into 2013 with a new number and perhaps a new attitude but the same questions of consistency linger. He has struggled mightily with dropped passes since entering the league.
Projection: 14th - 15th Round
Advice: Little will likely come off the board near the end of most drafts and has more upside than comparable receivers taken around that time. Look for him to continue his role as a possession receiver, as opposed to a big play threat, until he can prove otherwise.
Jordan Cameron – Tight end
Analysis: It’s difficult to handicap how productive Cameron will be in the Browns offense, but all signs point to heavy rotation. Much has been made about the role of the tight end in Norv Turner offenses and Turner is banking on Cameron emerging as a major target in the offense this season. With an athletic 6’5” frame, he will always be a big target and could develop into a safety blanket for Brandon Weeden, as he matures as an NFL quarterback.
Advice: Keep an eye on Cameron’s progress starting Week 1 and be ready to put in a waiver wire claim, especially if you drafted a tight end late or production is lacking early on.
Brandon Weeden – Quarterback
Analysis: Weeden figures to improve upon his rookie season, but the reality is that there’s still a lot of growth that needs to be made. He enters this season surrounded by young talent on offense and with a new offense that is more tailored around his abilities. But with Trent Richardson promised a boatload of carries, it doesn’t seem like Weeden will be throwing the ball nearly enough to think that he’ll be putting up gaudy fantasy-type numbers.
Advice: Weeden would have to surpass expectations by leaps and bounds in order to gain fantasy relevance in anything other than the deepest leagues. Even then, it’s unlikely he could be considered anything more than a fantasy backup or plug-and-play. Don’t spend a draft pick here.