Peyton Hillis was a pleasant surprise for not only Browns fans, but all fantasy football owners in 2010.
In 2010, the Browns RB ran for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns. He quickly has become a fan favorite in Cleveland and is bringing some national attention to the usually stagnant franchise.
I, as most NFL fans, thought it would be a long shot for Hillis to win the Madden 12 Cover Tournament. That was for good reason; Hillis had to overcome the likes of Super Bowl MVP Green Bay Packer QB Aaron Rodgers and Comeback Player of the Year Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick.
Regardless of how Hillis pulled it off, some Browns fans could be concerned about the "curse" that comes with being on the cover of Madden.
Rest easy, Browns fans. Here's why.
Let's start by looking at the last two Madden covers.
Brees played consistently all season, he threw for 4,620 yards and 33 touchdowns. He wasn't severely injured, and his stats didn't take a downward spike. No he didn't achieve a second Super Bowl, but his supporting cast can be to blame for that.
Does Brees sound cursed to you? Me neither.
The 40-year-old QB had one of the best seasons of his career. He threw for 4,202 yards, 33 touchdowns and a career-low seven interceptions. No, Favre didn't win a Super Bowl, he was cut short by the Saints and aforementioned Drew Brees.
No one can say that Brett Favre was cursed by the cover in 2009, it was arguably the best year of his career, at least that's what Vikings fans will tell you.
Both of these players overcame the "curse," why not Hillis?
Another thing that Hillis has going for him is a team whose potential grows with each day. Sophomore QB Colt McCoy is really showing some initiative this offseason and growing into the kind of franchise QB the Browns drafted him to be. This is excellent news for Hillis who will now, have a more fair share of the offensive responsibility.
The additions of TE Jordan Cameron and WR Greg Little will allow the Browns to stretch the field a little more and create space for Hillis to run. A more balanced offense will only result positively for Hillis who seemed to be the only weapon Cleveland possessed.
A much upgraded defensive front will also play to Hillis' advantage. DT Phil Taylor and DE Jabaal Sheard will be great pieces to add to Cleveland's new 4-3 defense. If they can add a veteran presence on defense like Minnesota Vikings DE Ray Edwards, who could become an unrestricted FA pending the results of a new CBA, the Browns could shock some people defensively in 2011.
An increase in defensive productivity will take some of the load off of Hillis who won't have to constantly play from behind. Having a strong defense is a huge boost of confidence for a team's workhorse RB, just ask Adrian Peterson.
The final reason is because of a relatively win-able schedule. The Browns play some weaker teams like the Bengals, Dolphins, Titans, Raiders, Texans and Jaguars, all whom have some serious questions going into 2011. These weaker opponents could really play to Hillis' advantage.
This last one was a little more speculation than others, but realistically, Hillis has every capability of having big games against any of these teams.
Browns fans, take a breath, everything is going to be okay. You're RB is going to continue to produce, maybe even more so than in 2010. I see no reason why anything short of a severe injury (knock on wood) could inhibit Hillis' performance, I see him being a potential first-round pick in fantasy drafts in 2011.