A Busy Off Season for the Browns Front Office
Another draft has come and gone. Fans of the Cleveland Browns are now going through their annual months of hope before the season actually begins and those fans are thrust into the arena of disappointment. Will this year be any different? It certainly could be! The Browns offense is filled with talent and depth which was unseen in recent years.
They have an adequate Quarterback in Tyrod Taylor and some hope for the future in Baker Mayfield. In the off season, they signed Wide Receiver Jarvis Landry to a huge deal. They still have Josh Gordon at Wide Receiver and he has managed to stay out of trouble lately. Add to the receiver corp Corey Coleman and two receivers who had some fantasy attention last season in Ricardo Louis and Rashard Higgins. On top of that, they added Antonio Callaway in the draft as well as four other receivers.
You read that correctly: Between the draft and undrafted free agents, The Cleveland Browns added 5 rookie receivers. I’m not a dunce, I’m aware that most of those will be cut before the season starts. We’re not finished, yet! We haven’t even talked about Running Backs or Tight Ends. Carlos Hyde was signed to a pretty hefty contract in the off season after Cleveland parted ways with Isaiah Crowell. In the draft, they spent some draft capital on signing Nick Chubb. Finally, they still have the known PPR monster, Duke Johnson. The same Duke Johnson who led the Browns in receiving in 2017. They also have David Njoku as their Tight End.
The kindest season projections for the Browns say that they will have a 7-9 season. Even if they finish with a 10-6 record, some members of this immensely talented squad will be underutilized and will, ultimately, be a fantasy disappointment. Who will be the odd man out in the Cleveland offense?
Few Players are Safe
In order to decide who the fantasy odd man out will be, I must thin the offensive herd. Let’s eliminate the easy ones first: Jarvis Landry and Carlos Hyde are both being paid too much for them to be underutilized; they will also be impossible to cut. Josh Gordon is too talented to be ignored. I know it’s been 5 years, but one doesn’t become the #1 receiver in fantasy football as a fluke. He is THAT GOOD. Nick Chubb is one of the most talented running backs in the 2018 draft class. He will earn attention. We can also eliminate the nameless receivers signed as UDFA mentioned above. David Njoku can also be eliminated from “odd man out” consideration because he is the tight end.
Some should just be Avoided
By my definition, the odd man out is a player that has had some level of fantasy relevance in the past or have a role for the future. With that in mind, we can quickly eliminate the players who, by default, are not in the position to add fantasy value this season in any circumstance: Corey Coleman and Antonio Callaway. Cleveland is already shopping Corey Coleman for a trade. He has never been fantasy relevant. He will go undrafted unless it’s the deepest of leagues. Antonio Callaway will, at best, be the 5th option on passing downs. As the highest drafted rookie WR on their team, he will likely hold onto his spot. But, how often will Tyrod (or possibly Mayfield) look his way when the QB has so many other options?
The Result: Dodge Duke
Through the process of elimination, we can sadly conclude that Duke Johnson will be the odd man out in Cleveland.
Duke Johnson was, essentially, a slot receiver last year. Jarvis Landry is one of the best slot receivers in the NFL. He led the NFL with 112 receptions last season and averaged 10+ targets per game. I know, it’s not Cutler nor Tannehill throwing the ball. Instead it’s Tyrod Taylor. The same Tyrod that loved throwing to the more frequently injured (and arguably less talented) Jordan Matthews in the slot. They won’t need Duke to fill in that role, anymore. The targets that used to go to Duke will now go directly to Jarvis Landry. You don’t buy a Ford F250 unless you plan on hauling the cargo (Jarvis Landry is the F250 in this metaphor).
Carlos Hyde’s stat sheet shows that he is used in the receiving game. Out of all running backs in 2017, he had the 5th most targets at 88 (only 5 less than Duke). His career totals tell the same story. He will take a chunk of those targets previously thrown to Duke. Nick Chubb will have his share of running plays while Josh Gordon and David Njoku will consume the remaining majority of targets in the receiving game. What is left for Duke Johnson? Not enough to make him fantasy relevant.
Cleveland will have five major players in the 2018 fantasy football season: Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb, and David Njoku.
There are not enough targets remaining to make Duke Johnson fantasy relevant in 2018. He will be the odd man out in the Cleveland offense.