It’s hard to find a team that was more hyped than the 2019 Cleveland Browns. They had Baker Mayfield coming off of a historic rookie season, a shiny new alpha receiver in Odell Beckham and, most importantly, they didn’t have Hue Jackson. This offense was primed to put up video game numbers and win fantasy championships, but everything came crashing down.
While John Dorsey was sure to stock Mayfield’s cupboard with dynamic weapons, he did so at the expense of the offensive line. Mayfield enjoyed an 84.9-percent Protection Rate in his rookie season, the No. 11 mark among qualified quarterbacks. That allowed him to move in the pocket and find his receivers downfield. While he had Beckham to work with in 2019, he lost Kevin Zeitler, who was a menace in the trenches. His Protection Rate dropped to 77.6-percent (No. 30). He could have had prime Randy Moss and it wouldn’t matter with that blocking.
"For us, having a young quarterback and being an organization that we want to make sure can be quarterback centric and make sure that position has a lot of success, the offensive line is always going to be a priority. That is not just this year, but any given year"
— BrownsFreak51 (@BrownsFreak51) April 11, 2020
Luckily the new regime has its priorities straight. New General Manager Andrew Berry landed Kevin Stefanski from Minnesota as the new head coach. Dalvin Cook enjoyed a breakout season under him and Kirk Cousins ranked among the best quarterbacks in many efficiency metrics in 2019. They have also already improved the trenches with the hire of Bill Callahan as their offensive line coach. More importantly, the Browns landed Jack Conklin in free agency. He’ll boost their Protection Rate and their Run-Blocking Efficiency, allowing these fantasy assets to flourish.
Odell Beckham was among last season’s biggest fantasy disappointments. Most were excited about the prospect of what he would do with a quarterback upgrade, but wide receivers changing teams rarely transition seamlessly (look out, DeAndre Hopkins). He struggled to surpass 1,000 receiving yards, but he and Mayfield will have a full year to work out the kinks. That improved connection will undoubtedly improve his 55.6-percent (No. 90) Catch Rate and 6.45 (No. 88) Target Accuracy.
Beckham also played injured throughout the season. According to Ian Rappoport, he had been dealing with a sports hernia since training camp. While he didn’t miss a game, he was on every single injury report throughout 2019. He finally had surgery in the offseason, giving himself plenty of time to recover to his usual, explosive self. With his history of hogging targets and obvious talent, a bounce-back is on the horizon. He’s currently going in Round 5 of redraft PPR leagues per Fantasy Football Calculator.
Jarvis Landry finished ahead of his teammate in 2019 based on his established rapport with Mayfield and his PPR-friendly role in the offense. He gobbled up the slants and crossers that Beckham used to make his bread on, while Beckham was horribly miscast as a deep threat. Given his 79.9 (1st-percentile) SPARQ-x score, his low Average Target Distance route tree is locked in. That role limits his ceiling, but the fantasy community always seems to underrate his production. He has caught at least 80 balls in every season of his six-year career, so look for that to continue.
Fantasy managers enjoyed eight games of workhorse Nick Chubb in 2019. The 98th-percentile SPARQ-x athlete averaged a robust 18.9 Fantasy Points Per Game, never dipping below double-digits. His 4.0 targets per game helped that floor, but that number dipped to 2.25 once Kareem Hunt was introduced. Chubb’s floor dropped too, dipping below 10 fantasy points in half of his remaining games.
Nick Chubb reached 21.95 MPH on this 88-yard TD run, the fastest speed reached on a touchdown this season.@NickChubb21 sustained 21+ MPH for 44.4 yards, from the Browns 33 yard line to the Ravens 21 yard line.#CLEvsBAL | #Browns pic.twitter.com/AARpBPGS3H
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 29, 2019
While we would much prefer one player to dominate the work, there is room for both to be fantasy studs. Chubb was still the workhorse, averaging 19.25 carries before Hunt and 18.0 after. Hunt played more of a mini Alvin Kamara role. He never hit 10 carries in any game, but finished third on the team in receptions in only eight games played. With improvements on the offensive line, both can finish Top 20 among running backs given their respective roles.
The biggest buy on this team is Baker Mayfield. After the acquisition of Austin Hooper, the Browns are rich with talent at every skill position. While all these talented players will be fighting over one ball, Mayfield is the one that benefits from every snap. Stefanski made Kirk Cousins one of the league’s most efficient passers with a worse supporting cast. Mayfield will have his choice of wide-open targets to hit, along with plenty of time to do so.
Check out Baker Mayfield on PlayerProfiler’s Updated Weekly Rankings and Projections:
Mayfield was one of the best quarterback prospects of all time, finishing in the 97th-percentile or better in College QBR, YPA, and Breakout Age. We saw what he is capable of during his prolific rookie season. Everyone loves to put the Browns down, and his sophomore slump drove down the price of everyone on this team. For sharps, this creates an ideal buying opportunity. Given the improvements they have made in the offseason, Mayfield and the Browns will bounce back. Investing in this team won’t cost much and the payoff will be some new fantasy hardware for your trophy case.