After churning out 144 yards on the ground in Baltimore on Sunday, Peyton Hillis has become the new darling among fantasy football owners in need of a running back.
Behind an underrated offensive line led by All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas, Hillis imposed his will on a Ravens defense that seemed content to let the Browns dictate the pace of the game. Cleveland followed its offensive game plan and featured Hillis in a running attack that averaged six yards per rush and totaled 173 rushing yards through brute force.
As Thomas so aptly said: “We felt it in their body language. They weren’t jumping and screaming. We were running the ball directly at them.”
With the mid-week loss of Jerome Harrison to a thigh injury, the former Denver Broncos back was thrust into the featured backfield role. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll decided he would try to pound the ball on the ground with Hillis, a former fullback at the University of Arkansas, and run straight at an otherwise stout Baltimore front.
Although they did suffer a 24-17 loss, the Browns running game kept the visitors in it until the final minutes.
Despite all that I have said—and yes, I am bitter because guess who left Hillis on his fantasy bench this week—NOW is the time to trade the Browns halfback.
Push his name in trades, put him on the block, or send out a leaguewide email!
While I like Hillis as a running back, both in fantasy and reality, his stay among the top of the fantasy food pyramid is a tenuous one. A simple look at the schedule that lies ahead for Cleveland is a strong indicator of what is in store for him and the Browns running game.
The next six weeks sees Cleveland square off against the likes of the Bengals, Steelers, and Jets. Those six teams have combined to give up only seven total rushing touchdowns on the year, with four coming from Atlanta.
Hillis’ performance against the Ravens will only cause defenses to game-plan specifically against him and the power running game, which remains a specialty of teams in the AFC North.
On top of his increased exposure to the offensive limelight, the return of Jake Delhomme and Harrison, who were both inactive Sunday, will take touches away from Hillis. Harrison specifically has been in the Browns' future the past few years and it seems as if management would like him to get enough reps to prove his true value.
And considering they showed signs of progress passing the ball in Baltimore, the Browns coaching staff will look to build off that progress. That will help Joshua Cribbs and late-season star Mohamed Massaquoi become more involved.
Barring a Jets loss Sunday night, Cleveland is facing a stretch of six straight teams with winning records and playoff and maybe even Super Bowl aspirations. In all likelihood, the Browns will be playing catchup against most these elite teams, which would limit their running game.
Even though I implore you to trade Hillis while his stock his hot, it isn't as if he's not without value, especially in PPR formats. His receiving skills (7 receptions, 36 yards) bode well for the Cleveland offense, and it seems that the coaching staff has faith in his abilities.
Now use those next two sentences as leverage in your trade discussions with the poor guy bartering with you for Peyton Hillis.
Jesse Paguaga is a regular contributor to Baseball Digest. He writes as an intern on the Bleacher Report website. Jesse writes for Gotham Baseball, along with Gotham Hoops and Gotham Gridiron. He can be reached at Paguaga@usc.edu and be found on Facebook and Twitter (@JPags77).
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