The Cleveland Browns revamped the coaching staff and roster entering 2020, giving them a plethora of fantasy football targets that could thrive.
Coming off a disappointing 6-10 season in 2019, the Cleveland Browns have reassembled their coaching staff and have made some solid pre-draft free agent acquisitions. NFL fans should be intrigued by Cleveland as a strong comeback team in 2020 as their stable of offensive weapons can shape out to be one of the more exciting ones in the league — and one rife with fantasy football gold.
Led by the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, quarterback Baker Mayfield, Cleveland has Pro-Bowl talent in a majority of their offensive skill position rooms. Nick Chubb comes off a 2019 Pro- Bowl campaign where he was only one of two running backs with 1,400 rushing yards (Derrick Henry being the other).
Along with Chubb, who finished as RB6 in standard fantasy points in 2019, Cleveland’s running back room may also include Kareem Hunt after the club placed a second-round tender on him as a restricted free agent earlier this offseason.
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It was Cleveland’s wide receiver room that electrified the hype entering the 2019 season. Odell Beckham Jr. significantly disappointed in 2019, ranking as WR31 despite being commonly picked in the top five at his position in many fantasy football drafts. Jarvis Landry finished as WR14 in standard fantasy points as he developed into Baker’s favorite target in short/intermediate areas of the field.
It could be the influence of new Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski that inspired the team to make free agent Austin Hooper the league’s highest-paid tight end this offseason. Last season, Stefanski served as the offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings, a team that ranked second (54.8 percent) in percentage of offensive plays in two-tight end sets.
As an Atlanta Falcon last season, Austin Hooper finished as TE6 in standard fantasy points, racking in a career-high in receptions (75), touchdowns (6) and yards (787). Questions remain about the future of young tight end David Njoku, Cleveland’s first-round pick in 2017 who has yet to live up to his first-round pedigree.
In 2019, the Stefanski-coached Vikings offense ranked eighth in scoring offense and sixth in rushing offense. Despite finishing at the bottom half of the league in passing offense and Kirk Cousins ranking as only QB18 in fantasy, Cousins still finished the season with the fourth-highest passer ratings among starting quarterbacks, per ClevelandBrowns.com
Under former head coach Freddie Kitchens last season, Cleveland ranked 22nd in offensive points per game, 22nd in yards per game and 12th in rushing yards per game. With Stefanski, expect Baker Mayfield to perform much better than his fantasy QB19 status of last year.
Stefanski’s heavy play-action scheme surely bodes well for Cleveland’s offense. Play-action not only can cause hesitation amongst defenders when you actually run the ball, but it can open up space for deep downfield shots. In 2019, Cousins threw 20-plus yards downfield on 13.7 percent of his pass attempts, the eight-highest percentage in the league.
Cousins tossed nine touchdowns and only one interception on these deep throws compared to Mayfield, who despite throwing deep on 14.2 percent of throws, threw seven touchdowns and seven interceptions, per The Ringer. If Stefanski can coach Mayfield to be as efficient as Cousins on play-action passes, Beckham Jr. and Landry should see more valuable opportunities in 2020.
Cleveland has had the weapons to be explosive on offense, but they have underperformed the hype. With the team’s offseason acquisitions, along with their coaching staff revamp, could Cleveland finally meet the high expectations they have previously missed and become a hotbed of top fantasy players in 2020?