Cleveland Browns defense is a must start this week in fantasy

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns host Tennessee and many fans will be watching the game to see how their fantasy players perform. Here’s why the Browns are a must-start this week for any fantasy league.

It is finally time for the Cleveland Browns to kickoff yet another NFL season, their 21st season since coming back to the NFL. Since returning to the NFL, the Browns are 1-18-1 in season openers, not winning one since 2004 against the Baltimore Ravens. To give you a reference to how long ago that was, Jeff Garcia was the starting quarterback for the Browns, and Kyle Boller started for the Ravens.

Despite this abysmal record, the Browns are favored to win at home against a Titans team that went 9-7 last season. With a lot of hype and pressure on this Browns team, fantasy owners may be cautious on playing any Browns players on their fantasy team. Being concerned on how the Browns will mesh this season as a team is a legitimate concern, as the team has many key pieces that were not here a season ago.

However, the Browns defense should not be the cause of any concern to any fantasy owners for one huge reason that cannot be forgotten: Taylor Lewan is suspended. Personally, I believe Lewan to be one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL at the moment, he is for sure a top 10 talent at the position.

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The Myles Garrett vs Taylor Lewan reps were going to be a sight to watch for all NFL fans who love offensive and defensive line play. However, due to suspension, we have been robbed of this sight.

Set to start in place of Taylor Lewan is offensive tackle Dennis Kelly, who is heading into his fourth season in the NFL. Myles Garrett vs Dennis Kelly is an entirely different matchup than the previous one listed, and it should lead to some serious game plan adjustments by the Titans coaching staff. Kelly isn’t a bad offensive tackle by any means, he is just significantly better at right tackle than left.

As Thomas Frank Carr of PFF pointed out, Kelly graded out with a 44.7 grade on 187 left tackle snaps last season, compared to his 72.9 grade on 1,140 snaps at right tackle for the Titans. Making Kelly play out of position is going to be a huge disadvantage for the Titans, who will look to gameplan with a focus on stopping the Browns pass rush.

Opposing teams will no longer be able to gameplan against the Browns defense by sliding and basing all protection schemes against Myles Garrett, as fellow pass rusher Olivier Vernon will be anchoring down the other side, and Sheldon Richardson will join Larry Ogunjobi as a force in the middle. Especially with Marcus Mariota at quarterback, who has been prone to suffer a few injuries, the Titans gameplan will have to go mostly without any big throws that take a long time to develop.

Look for the Titans offense to try to rely on Derrick Henry to run the ball early and often, along with most of their passes being quick game throws that rely on 3 step protections. If the Titans are going to take a shot in this game, they’re most likely to do so out of 7-8 man pass protections, which take away receivers for Marcus Mariota to throw to. With all this being considered, I do not expect this Titans team to put many points on the board.

If the Titans try to beat the Browns through the air, then Marcus Mariota will be running for his life. Each sack is a point for the defense in the NFL, so expect the Browns to rack up some fantasy points if this is the case. Turnovers such as fumble recoveries and interceptions are two points each, so if the Titans get aggressive with their gameplan, the Browns are going to rack up some sacks and turnovers.

If the Titans play conservative, don’t expect them to put up many yards. Either way, the Browns defense is a must-start in fantasy football.

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