StrategyJuly 26, 2009

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Daily Preview: Cleveland Browns

By Rick Jacoby

The Browns begin a new era after a four-year stint under Romeo Crennel that bore one winning season. Cleveland switches from one branch of the Belichick tree to another. Eric Mangini brings former NY Jets QB coach Brian Daboll with him to coordinate the offense in Cleveland. Best we can guess, the offense should resemble that of the NY Jets from last year. I would expect the Browns to run left a lot behind one of the best left sides in football, especially with just one true veteran pass catcher on the team, Braylon Edwards.

QB: Brady Quinn, Derek Anderson
RB: Jamal Lewis, Jerome Harrison, James Davis
WR: Braylon Edwards, Brian Robiskie, Mike Furrey, Syndric Steptoe
TE: Robert Royal, Steve Heiden
PK: Phil Dawson

Quarterback: The QB controversy in Cleveland is in full effect as Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson battle to claim the starting job — and there’s no guarantee that the starter out of training camp will hold down the position for the year. Anderson was a surprise fantasy force in 2007, though there were telltale signs that teams were catching onto his style in the second half of the year, and it showed in 2008 when Anderson and the Browns took a major step back. It’s likely that Quinn will be given an opportunity to show if he was worth a first-round pick. The QB does have some talent to work with, but either one is hardly an advisable fantasy draft pick given the volatility of the situation.

Running Back: Jamal Lewis returns once again for the Browns as the starting back. He is a relatively durable back, but the mileage is starting to show on him. Lewis looked little more than a beaten-down power back in 2008. His 3.6 yards-per-carry and four touchdowns were near career lows, and his offensive line wasn’t too bad. He’s invariably one of the last starting running backs taken in drafts. I think his legs are about done and we could see a transition of carries to either Jerome Harrison or rookie James Davis this season if Lewis struggles. Lewis still needs to be on fantasy teams, as starting running backs with full time workloads are a dwindling commodity, but my style of drafting leads me towards players who seem to be in a better position to be explosive or players in other positions (QB, WR, TE).

Wide Receiver: Braylon Edwards is bound to rebound from last year. We know he has stud potential in him from his 2007 season. Edwards surely knows his hands need to get better this year — the last two years he’s been near the top of the NFL in dropped passes. Edwards is nearly the 20th receiver of the board in mock drafts and is well worth taking at that point considering his big upside. With Kellen Winslow gone, he’s sure to attract more attention from defenses, but he’s also the only familiar weapon on the team. I like Edwards to bounce back this year and post at least very solid WR2 numbers. There’s a good chance rookie Brian Robiskie will start opposite Edwards and while Robiskie is a favorite to be a solid pro, he’s still a rookie and few rookies impact their team immediately at the WR position. We could see a three-way battle for the WR3 between Steptoe, Furrey, and Massaquoi. With the uncertainty at the QB postion, only Robiskie is draft-worthy in larger leagues.

Tight End: Robert Royal and Steve Heiden will compete for starting TE duties but neither really has the athletic ability to be a fantasy relevant tight end. No further analysis needed.

IDP: D’Qwell Jackson burst onto the IDP scene with 93 total tackles in his first year and established himself as a top-notch IDP candidate with 154 total tackles last year. He also added two sacks and three interceptions, and he’ll make a fine LB1 for your team. The coaches plan to utilize Kamerion Wimbley in different ways, looking to create mismatches. If this plan proves successful, he could return to the double-digit sacks of his rookie year. Keep an eye on rookie David Veikune — he’s already shown his smarts and could get significant playing time now and in the future. The big sleeper from this team in Abram Elam, Mangini’s jewel from the Draft-Day trade. He should have a ton of tackles on this team and is a great late-round pick in tackle-heavy leagues.

In summary, Braylon Edwards is the only must-have from this team. Jamal Lewis will be drafted by someone, though it likely won’t be by me. Keep an eye on Brian Robiskie if you play in a deep league. I expect Brady Quinn will get the first crack at the starting QB job, but I wouldn’t draft him to my fantasy team.

Rick Jacoby is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Rick in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of Azrael.
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