2020 Preview: Cleveland Browns


Kevin Stefanski Provides Update On OBJ and Jarvis Landry's Recovery

The 2020 NFL Season is nearly upon us, and in anticipation of the new season we’ll be previewing the action team-by-team, using the draft order from last season. The previews will kick off with the Bengals and run right through the reigning champion Chiefs. Come back each day to check out your favorite team. All ADP and Rankings reflect PPR scoring. 2020 Projections are based on a 12-team league (i.e. WR1 (Top 12), WR2 (13-24), WR3 (25-36)).

            The Browns entered the 2019 with a lot of promise and hype. The team ended 2018 on a high note and seemed set up for success in 2019. The team added Odell Beckham, Jr. at receiver and committed to Freddie Kitchens as Head Coach, all seemingly to help second year quarterback Baker Mayfield thrive. But the offense sputtered at times and protection was an issue frequently. Mayfield seemed to take a step back and the Browns quickly faded from playoff contention.

            The team finished 6-10, third place in the AFC North, and sent Kitchens packing after one year. They made changes in the front office, too, and spent the off-season building again—this time around new Head Coach Kevin Stefanski. A year removed from the hype the Browns seem poised to make a leap to the playoffs again in 2020.

Off-Season Changes

            The biggest change was to the coaching staff, but the Browns kept adding to their offense as well. They retained restricted free agent Kareem Hunt, who flashed strong during the back half of the season. They also went out and signed free agent tight end Austin Hooper. Hooper spent his first four years with the Atlanta Falcons, catching 214 passes for 2,244 yards and 16 TDs. That includes catching more than 70 passes each of his last two seasons.

            The Browns also resigned receiver Rashard Higgins and return man and receiver Jojo Natson, who played with the Rams in 2019. In the draft, they snagged talented Michigan receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones and tight end Harrison Bryant. They also added pieces to strengthen the offensive line, signing free agent tackle Jack Conklin and drafting tackle Jedrick Wills, Jr., with Pick 10 in the NFL Draft.

Fantasy Impact

            Things are again lining up well for Mayfield—the former No. 1 overall pick—to take a step forward. The team has an embarrassment of riches at running back, receiver and tight end, and they’ve worked to improve the line in front of Mayfield. He finished a disappointing QB19 in 2019. I think he has fringe QB1 potential, but for now I’m projecting him as a high-end QB2.

            In the backfield, it’s all about Nick Chubb and Hunt. Chubb rushed for 1,494 yards and eight TDs in 2019, while Hunt caught 37 passes in just eight games. Both are great, but I think Chubb will be a low-end RB1 with his rushing prowess while Hunt is an RB3 and an asset in the passing game.

            At receiver, the Browns are led by OBJ and Jarvis Landry, and both will be good in 2020. I think OBJ finishes higher, and I have him ranked as a high-end WR2. Landry is a PPR weapon, but I think he’s a low-end WR2/WR3. Among the other receivers, I like Peoples-Jones as a dynasty stash but I’m not confident any other receiver is playable for fantasy in 2020. At tight end, Hooper is the highest paid player and should have a good season. The Browns also have David Njoku—barring he’s granted the trade he requested—and Bryant. I think Hooper ends up as a high end TE2 and Njoku has TE3 potential.

Prediction

            I thought the Browns would be in the playoffs in 2019, but it didn’t quite happen. The talent is there and with better discipline and coaching they can take the leap. The AFC is loaded, while the AFC North is a tough division, too. Despite that, I see the Browns in the playoffs in 2020.

Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a proud member of the Drive-In Podcast Network.

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