Browns' Biggest Sleepers, Busts, Stars to Target in 2022 Fantasy Football Drafts
The Baker Mayfield era has ended for the Cleveland Browns. For the first time since 2017, another quarterback is heading into the season as the team's starter.
That's Deshaun Watson, who was traded from the Houston Texans in March and then signed a new deal with the Browns. However, there is some uncertainty surrounding Watson's status, because he's facing a potential suspension from the NFL because of allegations of sexual assault and misconduct.
No matter who's at quarterback when Week 1 of the 2022 campaign arrives, Cleveland's offense has plenty of potential. There are some strong returning players, as well as several young playmakers who could step up and have big roles this year. And several of these standouts will be prime targets for fantasy football managers during drafts.
Here's a fantasy outlook for notable players on Cleveland's offense heading into the 2022 season.
Nick Chubb, RB
The first two rounds of fantasy drafts typically feature a large number of running backs coming off the board. And this year, Chubb is again among that group. If you want him on your roster, you'll need to take him before the third round.
Chubb has been a consistently strong performer over his first four NFL seasons. He's eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark on the ground each of the past three years, and he's scored eight or more touchdowns every season since he entered the league.
The Browns are going to lean heavily on Chubb, who has missed only eight games thus far in his career. Expect a big year from the 26-year-old, as long as he stays healthy.
Kareem Hunt, RB
Even though Chubb has been the Browns' top running back, Hunt has gotten enough touches during his three seasons with the team to be a solid fantasy option. That should be the case again in 2022, when Cleveland could have a run-heavy offense (at least early in the year).
When Hunt stayed healthy in 2020, he rushed for 841 yards and six touchdowns while also recording 38 catches for 304 yards and five receiving scores. He was limited to eight games last season because of injury, but he continued to make an impact when he was on the field.
Considering Hunt will likely still be available around the sixth round of fantasy drafts, he may be getting slept on by some managers coming off his injury. So the 26-year-old should provide tremendous value at that point.
Amari Cooper, WR
Cooper was one of the Browns' marquee offseason additions. He gives them a true No. 1 wide receiver at the top of the depth chart after they parted with both Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry over the past year.
However, Cooper had a bit of a down showing for the Dallas Cowboys in 2021. For the first time since 2017, he didn't reach the 1,000-yard mark, finishing with 68 catches for 865 yards. But he still matched a career high with eight touchdowns.
That was with Dak Prescott throwing him the ball, though. Cleveland's offense isn't quite as high-powered as Dallas' unit, and Cooper may not match his earlier production in his first season in a new offense. So there's a good bit of risk with drafting Cooper around the fifth round, where he'll likely be taken in most leagues.
Deshaun Watson, QB
Even if Watson doesn't receive a long suspension, he hasn't played an NFL snap since Week 17 of the 2020 season. Will he be able to immediately return to the level that made him a Pro Bowler every year from 2018-20?
Fantasy managers appear at least a little bit skeptical, considering Watson isn't getting taken until the second half of drafts. He could be a high-reward player if he does get back to his previous form, but he shouldn't be the first QB taken by a manager in a fantasy draft.
So while there's the potential for Watson to put up some big numbers this season, there will be much safer options on the board throughout most of the draft. It may be better to target one or two of them instead.
David Njoku, TE
Njoku has shown glimpses of his potential during his five-year NFL career, but he hasn't yet had a breakout season. Perhaps one could be coming for the 26-year-old tight end in 2022.
Austin Hooper is no longer in Cleveland, so that could lead to more targets for Njoku, considering he'll be the clear-cut top tight end on the team. Njoku is also coming off a solid 2021 campaign in which he had 36 catches for 475 yards and four touchdowns.
The Browns have quite a few pass-catching options behind Cooper, but there's no overwhelming favorite to be the No. 2 target. Njoku may be able to assume that role, or at least outperform where he's getting taken in many fantasy drafts, which is around the 12th or 13th round.
David Bell, WR
Cleveland needs wide receivers to step up and fill starting roles alongside Cooper. Otherwise, the Browns' top pass-catcher is going to face a ton of double teams and may get smothered by opposing defenses.
Bell could quickly make an impact during his rookie campaign. He's dealing with a foot injury, and maybe that will affect him early in the season. But he's a talented player who should have opportunities to get on the field when healthy.
Use a late-round flier on Bell, who could end up being a breakout rookie this season.