Cleveland came from the depths of the standings and became a playoff contender in just one short year, but how will it translate this season?
Their offense has gone mostly unchanged and the defense has supposedly gotten better, so I would assume most of that success will translate well into 2008 —and bring plenty of fantasy success.
Just to be sure, let's take a closer look.
Derek Anderson/Brady Quinn
There is little doubt that Anderson will retain his starting job this season after his tremendous 2007 break-out campaign. However, there is a bit of doubt that he will reproduce his success this season. He has the weapons to do well, but if he struggles it could be Quinn using them instead.
Anderson has always had accuracy problems and was a streaky performer in his only season of considerable playing time. Yes, he did have three games where he completed more than 68 percent of his passes, but he also had three games where he completed less than 50 percent of them.
Anderson's biggest struggle will be to produce more consistently. If he can do that, he will hold off Quinn for this year at least.
Quinn has been given plenty of time to learn the system and should have very few excuses if he steals the reigns during the season. He has a strong arm with good velocity that seems to fit perfectly with the team's receivers Edwards and Stallworth. In his short NFL playing time, he showed a tendency to throw a lot of mid-range passes, which would be good news for Winslow if he does take over.
Jamal Lewis/Jason Wright
If they learned anything from last year, they will be running to the left a lot this season. Defenses could counter by putting more defenders on the left side, but the Brown's passing game should keep defenses honest with the risk of getting burned with a deep pass.
Lewis is the uncontested starting running back and will be taking up his usual workhorse role this season as well. Don't expect him to reproduce his numbers from last year, but a few less yards and one or two less touchdowns is far from out of the question.
If he stays healthy he will put up another year of over 1000 yards and a yards per carry average of over four. I'd call him a No.2 fantasy running back and a solid one at that.
Wright will only become relevant to the fantasy world if Lewis gets hurt and misses a significant amount of time. He didn't show much as a rusher last year but looked impressive catching the ball out of the backfield. Cleveland will more than likely use him as an extra receiving option—his lack of ability as a blocker might limit his playing time.
Braylon Edwards/Donte' Stallworth/Kellen Winslow
The Browns have one of the better receiving corps in the league now, but up until signing Stallworth they had no real No.2 receiver. And, veteran Joe Jurevicius will more than likely start the season on the physically unable to perform list.
Luckily the Browns didn't focus too much on receivers not named Edwards or Winslow last year, and that probably won't change much this year.
Edwards is coming off a great season and has established a great reputation with Anderson. Should you be concerned with his high number of drops last year? Don't put too much stock into it, he is being targeted a lot and will catch way more than he drops.
He is capable of making the highlight reel on "SportsCenter" every time the ball comes his way and has the size and speed to contend with any defensive back in the league. He is a top-five fantasy receiver this year and for a long time to come.
Stallworth is coming off a unexpectedly poor season in New England, but in his defense Brady hasn't been known for helping receivers to fantasy stardom (excluding Randy Moss last year). He has always shown a good ability to gain yards after the catch and will improve on his numbers from last year. Look for him to be a No.3 or No.4 fantasy receiver.
Winslow is one of the most athletic tight ends in the league when he is healthy. With Edwards and Stallworth stretching the field, Winslow will have the middle of the field all to himself and will rack up enough yards to be a top fantasy tight end. Add in the fact that he will most likely emerge as Cleveland's best red-zone option and you have a top-three fantasy tight end on your hands.
Almost nobody benefits from Cleveland's offensive surge than Dawson. He will be kicking plenty of extra points this year—unfortunately they only count for one point. He is 7 of 9 from beyond 50 yards in his career and proved last year that he can make kicks in bad weather. He will be a fantasy starter this year, you can count on that.
Cleveland's 3-4 defensive scheme means that their pass rush depends heavily on their linebackers. Luckily they have Kamerion Wimbley—a relentless rusher that started to learn how to shed double teams after being double and even triple teamed at times all last year. He showed an ability to reach the passer through that last year even though he recorded six less sacks than the previous year.
Their secondary is a bit of a sore spot, and the loss of their starting corner Leigh Bodden didn't help that. With their offense scoring plenty of points, team will be passing against them a lot and scoring often. However, if Eric Wright emerges as a legit starting corner that could change.
Their run defense will be dependent on their new nose tackle, Shaun Rogers. If he stays healthy or isn't on the sideline with an oxygen tank, he could plug up enough holes to anchor their defensive line.
He can be dominant when he wants to be, but his drive and endurance have been in question for some time now. If he proves the doubters wrong, Cleveland will get a monster of a run-stopper. If.
Josh Cribbs is the best return man outside of Chicago's Devin Hester. Opposing teams started to take notice of this towards the end of last year and started treating him like Hester. The result? More squib kicks and punts out of bounds. That also means better field position for the offense.
He will make an impact on special teams, and could take this unit to the next level. They are a No.2 defensive unit right now, but they have a good amount of upside with Cribbs in the fold.
Top Five Cleveland Browns Fantasy Players
1. Braylon Edwards
2. Jamal Lewis
3. Derek Anderson
4. Kellen Winslow
5. Donte' Stallworth
Bye Week: 5
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