Cleveland Browns: Top 5 opposing running backs in 2017
4. Zach Zenner, Detroit Lions
The Browns get to square off with the NFC North division this season, meaning that they get the benefit of taking on beatable opponents like the Bears and Vikings. But unfortunately, it also means that they get to run into one of the league’s most potent offenses in Detroit.
The Lions’ offense started 2016 on fire, thanks to quarterback Matthew Stafford and a very strong passing attack. As the season progressed, Stafford didn’t slow down, but the Lions did add another facet to their offense.
Zach Zenner was not even the starter coming into the year, but soon burst onto the scene due to his strong and intelligent running. Starting four games late in the season and Detroit’s playoff game in Seattle, Zenner totaled 334 rushing yards and four touchdowns, an average of 3.8 yards per carry.
Of course, the Browns will be spending a lot of their energy on slowing down Detroit’s passing attack, making Zenner all the more poised to have a strong showing in week 10 at Ford Field. In fact, the 26-year-old’s role in the offense is expected to expand due to his breakout stretch late in 2016.
Besides his rushing stats, Zenner can also act like a tight end, blocking the edge effectively or pass protecting when necessary. He can catch passes out of the backfield as well, evident based on his 18 receptions and 196 receiving yards last season. With solid hands and a strong frame, Zenner ought not to be overlooked by Cleveland when they head into their cross-conference matchup with the Lions.