No team entered 2019 more primed for a super bowl run then the Browns last season. On paper with the addition of OBJ they seemed to be stacked on offense. Well not only didn’t the Browns win the Super Bowl they failed to even reach .500, as they went 6-10 in 2019. Last season everything that could go wrong did go wrong with the Browns. The play calling was terrible and the offensive line was just brutal and Baker Mayfield never really could get it going. That is what led to the dismissal of Head Coach Freddie Kitchens and the hiring of Kevin Stefanski. Also the line was overhauled with the additions of Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills, whom both arguably make the Browns line the most improved in the NFL. Kevin Stefanski comes from the Kubiak coaching tree, and means that the offense will start with the run game. The fact that the team went out and traded for a full back suggests more emphasis on the run game. The Browns boast one of the best tandems in the NFL in Chubb and Hunt. This is where the offense starts and then the team will be able to run play action off the success of the run game. This offense will feature a lot of 12 personnel, 2 tight end sets, with the ability to go to 3 wide receiver sets if needed.
Baker Mayfield (QB) – this Stefanski offense is the perfect system for Baker in the sense that it will start with the run game, which always helps a quarterback. A Stefanski lead attack will also help Baker this year in the fact that the passing game is much more defined which is exactly what Mayfield needs. At his time in Oklahoma Baker was very much in a system that was defined contrary to what the people who viewed him as a run around guy say. So in a nutshell Baker is more programmed then he may appear; which is perfect because a Stefanski offense is very programmed and structured and has the weapons to make it such.
*Fantasy Spin: After a disappointing 2019 many are finding it hard to trust Baker. Then the idea of him learning a new system is a concern as well to many. We don’t share that same concern as we feel Baker will not only be able to pick it up but also be able to execute this Stefanski scheme very well. Baker can be viewed as a mid-range QB2 in 2020.
Nick Chubb/Kareem Hunt (RB) – Chubb is defined as a tough runner who exemplifies that rare combination of power and explosiveness. Last season despite being in a poor system started the year red hot as he was sitting at RB4 in half point PPR leagues. Chubb then dropped to RB18 when Kareem Hunt returned from suspension as this backfield became a committee. In the same timeframe Hunt was ranked as RB26. Entering the new Stefanski offense as well as the upgrades upfront Chubb and Hunt look to benefit in 2020.
*Fantasy Spin: Chubb and Hunt will likely be in a time share like last season which severely puts a damper on both guys fantasy value. We view Chubb at best as a back end RB1 in redraft as we have him as our 12th ranked running back. Kareem Hunt comes in as our 28th ranked running back, making him a high end RB3. Both these guys have the talent to be RB1’s they just lack the right situation.
Odell Beckham Jr./ Jarvis Landry (WR) – the one weakness in this offense that is concerning is the lack of depth at the wide receiver position. If one of these guys were to become injured which for OBJ is a real concern the passing game may struggle. The team brought back Higgins, who is more of a 4th wide receiver, and drafted Peoples-Jones, who many are saying came out of college to soon because he isn’t ready for the pro level, will be the guys to step in if the aforementioned injuries occur. OBJ for what it’s worth did play all 16 games last year despite being on the injury report quite often. He did have sports hernia surgery during the offseason to repair what he was playing through in 2019. OBJ was also playing through a hip injury in 2019. As far as for Jarvis Landry in the past two seasons with Baker and the Browns we saw his production increase. You couple that with this new scheme and a healthy OBJ we feel the production could increase for Jarvis again in 2020. His current ADP is having him go in the range of rookies Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb, which is crazy good value as Landry should be a better fantasy option then both in 2020.
*Fantasy Spin: OBJ is just screaming injury discount in 2020. Everyone is saying 2019 was a down year despite OBJ catching over 70 balls for 1,035 yards. This equates to roughly 12.6 fantasy points per game in a year where he was not only injured and playing in a terrible system, but he also faced one of the toughest schedules for a WR in 2019. To put it in perspective in OBJ’s worst 16 game season in New York he averaged over 18 fantasy points per game, which is top 3 production at the position. OBJ could offer some value in drafts this season as he is being looked at as a top end WR2. We view him as a backend WR1 in 2020 as he sits at WR10 in our rankings. We view Jarvis Landry as a high end WR3 as he is our 26th ranked wide receiver.
Austin Hooper/ David Njoku/Harrison Bryant (TE) - with this offense mirroring a Minnesota Vikings look we can expect heavy usage of the tight end group. The Vikings deploy three tight ends quite often in their attack, and with the lack of depth at the WR position could be heavily featured in this offense as well. We can assume that in 12 personnel we will see Hooper on the field at all times with Njoku and Bryant sharing the other side. The team picking up Njoku’s 5th year option isn’t a big deal in a sense they can cut him next March and not be out any money. The team likely did this because he does have some value left, but the tight ends that will be featured more in this offense are likely Hooper and Bryant. Also it was reported last weekend that Njoku has demanded a trade. So we wouldn't be surprised if he is moved prior to the season kicking off.
*Fantasy Spin: The Browns went out and grabbed Atlanta’s star tight end from last season because they feel he will be a good fit in their new system. Hooper figures to be a mid rangeTE2 in 2020, as the volume he seen last year will not be there in Cleveland due to a more star studded cast around him. Harrison Bryant is a big athletic tight end who we compare to Greg Olsen as his playing style is so similar. Bryant makes for a better dynasty option then a 2020 option. David Njoku offers little upside as he figures to be the tight end 3 on this team, but if he lands with a tight end needy team such as the Redskins his value would rise.
Defense – Joe Woods comes in and takes over a relatively talented bunch. The challenge Woods will have is determining whether or not to move Denzel Ward around the unit to follow a team’s most dangerous receiver. So far in his Pro career Ward has played exclusively on the outside where he has been top 8 at the position. Second year player Greedy Williams isn’t as equipped to move inside to cover the slot as he is primarily a perimeter cover corner. He struggled at times last season. Kevin Johnson also offers flexibility at the position for the Browns in 2020 as his size would allow him to play outside which in turn would allow Ward to move inside to cover a team’s best asset if needed. The Browns up front are ok, but the weakness of this unit lies in the middle with the Linebackers. Woods typically likes to run Nickle looks keeping two line backers on the field. Woods will look to minimize the exposure in space and keep both the middle and weak side linebacker in the box. The weak side backer will be either Takitaki or Phillips who are both unproven 3rd round picks over the last few years. The middle will be manned by former Packer B.J. Goodson, who was signed due to his solid run stopping ability.
*Fantasy Spin: The Browns defense will have some weekly value as a streamer in 2020. We have them ranked as our 19th defense, which suggests they will be middle of the pack in 2020.
Strength of Schedule
The Browns wide receiver corps will face the 14th easiest schedule this season. Their playoff schedule gets tougher as they are projected with the 8th toughest during weeks 14-16. Chubb and Hunt will be looking at the 5th toughest schedule during the fantasy regular season. The backs will have the projected 13th toughest schedule during the fantasy playoffs. Baker Mayfield will face the 10th toughest schedule during the fantasy regular season, and the 3rd toughest during weeks 14-16. Austin Hooper and company will face the 9th easiest fantasy regular season schedule, but will face the 2nd toughest playoff schedule from weeks 14-16.