Cleveland Browns Fantasy Sleepers Worthy of Being on Your Team
Fantasy football draft season is officially upon us.
Over the next couple of weeks millions of fantasy owners will prepare to assemble a team capable of delivering a winning season, a possible championship and, hopefully, bragging rights over various friends, co-workers and family members.
While many fantasy owners will be busy trying to decide whether to take a second running back or a quarterback in Round 2, true fantasy veterans know that championships are often won with late-round steals and smart mid-season pickups.
This is where the Cleveland Browns can help your fantasy team.
While star running back Trent Richardson will likely remain on everyone's radar for the early rounds (and if he is available by all means grab him), the Browns aren't exactly considered a fantasy juggernaut.
However, that doesn't mean Cleveland doesn't provide a few intriguing options, and the following is a list of players worthy of your late-round consideration.
WR Josh Gordon
Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon showed flashes of being a future fantasy star during his rookie season in 2012.
Despite spending more than a year away from the field, the second-round supplemental draft choice managed to adapt to the pro game fairly quickly, hauling in 50 passes for 805 yards and five touchdowns and establishing himself as Cleveland's No. 1 receiver.
Heading into 2013, Gordon appeared poised for even greater production. However, a two-game suspension for violation of the league's substance abuse policy means that he won't be producing anything until at least Week 3.
Of course, the suspension, along with Gordon's presence on the relatively low-profile Browns offense, can work to your advantage.
Gordon should be available in the middle-to-late rounds of most fantasy drafts (I grabbed him in Round 10 in one recent draft), where he provides tremendous value as a potential WR2 or flex option.
Quarterback Brandon Weeden has forged an evident rapport with Gordon, and has already hooked up with the 6'3", 225-pound receiver for several big gains this preseason.
Expect Weeden to target the former Baylor star early, often and deep upon Gordon's return from suspension in the regular season.
Though he will appear in two fewer games this season, expect Gordon to surpass lat year's totals in all categories, thanks in large part to the implementation of coordinator Norv Turner's aggressive vertical passing attack.
TE Jordan Cameron
If you are looking to add value at the tight end position (and who isn't?), Jordan Cameron just might be your guy.
Cameron may be one of the worst-kept fantasy secrets this season, as magazine writers, television analysts and various fantasy experts have frequently pointed out the importance of the tight end position in a system run by head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
However, that doesn't mean Cameron is likely to wind up near the top of many draft boards, especially considering the meager resume he brings into the season (26 catches for 259 yards and one touchdown in two seasons).
Cameron will likely still be available several rounds after the top-tier tight ends have been drafted (he was a 12th-round selection in one of my recent drafts), yet has the potential to produce elite tight end numbers.
Chudzinski and Turner both love to utilize the tight end in the vertical passing game (tight ends accounted for 72 receptions, 740 yards and 10 touchdowns with Turner's Chargers last season). With Benjamin Watson now out of the picture and few other legitimate receiving options at the position, Cameron should be in line for the bulk of all tight end targets.
Cameron has the size (6'5", 245 lbs) and athleticism to capitalize on those targets, and you should feel comfortable drafting him to be your starting tight end.
This doesn't mean Cameron is necessarily going to outperform, say, Jimmy Graham or Tony Gonzalez (seriously, don't ever count out Gonzalez) this season.
However, if you find yourself trying to decide between Jason Witten and a third running back in the seventh round, keep in mind that Cameron will likely be there waiting a few rounds down the line.
QB Brandon Weeden
There are typically two strategies for drafting fantasy quarterbacks. You either draft a surefire star early and hope he doesn't get injured, or you look for a pair of solid starters in the middle rounds and play the matchups in a week-to-week basis.
Either way, most fantasy owners select more than one quarterback on draft day, which is why Browns signal-caller Brandon Weeden holds sleeper value.
Weeden's numbers weren't particularly impressive as a rookie in 2012 (3,385 yards, 14 touchdowns, 17 interceptions and a 72.6 passer rating) especially when compared to the rest of the rookie quarterback class.
However, Weeden now finds himself in an offensive system well-suited to his particular skill-set and should show tremendous improvement throughout the season.
If you've watched Weeden at all during the preseason (and if you're not a Browns fan, we won't blame you if you have not), you have likely noticed a completely different quarterback than the one crammed into Pat Shurmur's West Coast system a season ago.
Through two preseason games, Weeden has looked comfortable, confident and extremely efficient, passing for 229 yards and three touchdowns while completing 72 percent of his throws.
This doesn't mean that Weeden is going to finish the regular season as a top-tier fantasy quarterback, but he appears to be a very capable spot starter, injury replacement or matchup option.
Better yet, he will likely still be available as your fantasy draft draws to a close.
Targeting Weeden as your second quarterback provides the ability to go after an elite defense or kicker before the final two rounds of the draft.
Expect Weeden to top 3,550 yards an 20 touchdowns this season and to provide your fantasy team with a solid second quarterback option.
D/ST Cleveland Browns
Believe it or not, the Cleveland Browns have the potential to be a Top 10 fantasy defense this season.
You might not know it, based on the product seen on the field last season. The Browns ware ranked just 19th in scoring defense (23 points per game allowed) and 23rd in total defense (363.8 yards per game).
Despite these low numbers, however, the Browns were near the top of the league in several important fantasy categories in 2012. The team was tied for 11th in sacks (38), 11th in interceptions (17) and eighth in forced fumbles (16).
With new defensive coordinator Ray Horton bringing an aggressive attacking scheme to Cleveland, the Browns should put up even better numbers this season (his Cardinals allowed just 15.6 points per game, while amassing 22 interceptions and 38 sacks in 2012).
The additions of pass-rushers Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo during the offseason will only help provide Horton with more firepower to create sacks, turnovers, and fantasy points.
The icing on the cake is the presence of punt returner Travis Benjamin, who has already scored two touchdowns off of returns this preseason (one was called back on an unnecessary holding penalty).
Remember that in fantasy, the D/ST means defense and special teams. Benjamin has the speed and the ability to score virtually any time he touches the football, which created the potential for many more points for your fantasy team.
If you are not the type of fantasy owner who wants to reach for an elite defense in order to beat everyone to the punch, the Browns D/ST may be the perfect fit for you. Due to the lack of national attention surrounding the team, the Browns will still likely be available when you make your final draft selection.
After a few weeks, however, your opponents may be wondering why they ever let them slip that far.