Fantasy Football 2012: Why Browns QB Brandon Weeden Is Worth a Late-Round Pick
You may find this statement ostentatious, but it really is not when you look at what Weeden has to work with. He’ll fling it deep to two big receivers with enough speed to get behind defenses. He has Trent Richardson, to whom he will be handing the ball, setting up those go-routes. And, probably most importantly (and most unfortunate), he will be playing from behind a lot this season.
That all translates to opportunity.
Some may call him a fantasy sleeper this season. I don’t know if he will be that good, but, as I stated above, he will be a solid late-round pick.
He’s the Starter
Not to purposely start my slideshow like B/R Featured Columnist Zach Kruse did, but it’s the truth.
In fact, Jeff Schudel of the News Herald confirmed it Tuesday in a report.
The Browns have faith in the rookie quarterback, clearly, and the move—though obligatory in a sense—comes at a great time. There is no “Quarterback controversy,” no competition. Placing all the eggs in one basket is risky, but head coach Pat Shurmur is not interested in what could happen if Colt McCoy shares time with the first offense and performs well.
From Schudel’s report: “Brandon’s the starter, and we’re going forward,” Shurmur said. “That’s the important thing. I’m not looking back. We anticipate he’ll do a great job.”
That’s step one in drafting Weeden—making sure he’s the starter.
But will he do a better job than McCoy was able to last season? McCoy played in 13 games before leaving the Week 14 game in Pittsburgh with a concussion, and in that time he totaled 164.02 fantasy points, according to NFL.com’s standard-scoring league.
If he were to keep that pace and play all 16 games, McCoy would have ended up with a little over 201.50 fantasy points.
Weeden should surpass that with ease.
Expect him to have an Andy Dalton-like rookie campaign. No, that doesn’t mean he will make the Pro Bowl (Dalton was Tom Brady’s replacement); however, 3,300-3,500 passing yards and 20 or so touchdown passes is not out of the question.
That would put Weeden in the 230-point-range, depending on the number of interceptions he throws, which is very doable. Anything more out of a late-round quarterback and he’s a steal.
Side note: For the record, I was able to hold off until the sixth round in one of my leagues to get Eli Manning, and a lot of the time it will depend on the people drafting with you where you’re able to get a good starting quarterback.
Don’t fall into the trap of taking a quarterback too high because the top four or five guys are all gone and you feel you need to take one.
Playing from Behind
Playing from behind leads to more passing.
Greg Little and supplemental draft pick Josh Gordon have the talent to be a formidable tandem.
Fourth-round draft pick Travis Benjamin is a burner who led all receivers with a 4.36 40-yard dash at the NFL combine this past March. Cleveland will use the speed it now possesses in conjunction with the run-game to get receivers free behind the secondary.
The loss of defensive tackle Phil Taylor could hurt and, now, with the loss of linebacker Chris Gocong, it’s getting tough to foresee the Browns defense being as good as they were in 2011. They were shoddy at times—especially against the run—but finished 10th overall regardless.
The secondary is young but talented, and they will be tested early by the good passing attacks of the Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, New York Giants and San Diego Chargers. The unit was spectacular last season, surrendering only 184.9 yards passing per game—second in the NFL to only Pittsburgh.
All that means is Weeden could be tossing it around more late in games. That can be good for fantasy owners.
Chances are good that you will have an opportunity to grab Weeden somewhere between the 13th and 15th round of your draft.
That is, unless your draft is full of Browns fanatics—there’s always one crazy person who drafts nothing but his favorite team’s players.
In this case, unfortunately, that’s good news for you, as that leaves the best fantasy players for you.
And that’s only unfortunate because of the lack of fantasy studs Cleveland possesses. If they were fantasy studs, the team would be better.
Anyhow, late-round fantasy draft picks bring with them almost no risk; anything positive you get out of them is a win for you. For those wanting an example, here’s a great one:
Don’t misunderstand me (because I know someone will), Brandon Weeden will not be the fantasy equivalent of Cam Newton. Far from it.
But if he’s available in the final three or four rounds and you need a backup, he is a good choice.
The Offense in Which He Plays
I already touched on the receivers he has at his disposal and briefly on his backfield-mate, Trent Richardson.
As you fans know, your Cleveland Browns run a version of the West Coast offense. Just what that version will become with Weeden at the helm is yet to be seen, but what it could be is very similar to what Shurmur’s offense looked like in 2010 when he was the St. Louis Rams’ offensive coordinator.
That season he had 2010 No. 1 overall draft pick Sam Bradford, who was a top-20 fantasy quarterback as a rookie, throwing for 3,512 yards, 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
Bradford had RB Steven Jackson with him in the backfield, and though he was a top-15 fantasy back that year, the Rams ran the ball just 40.74 percent of the time—ranked 25th NFL-wide. Last season, the Browns ranked 20th, running the ball 40.53 percent of the time. Even his offenses in Philadelphia when serving as Donovan McNabb’s position coach ran the ball far less often than they passed it.
This year’s offense may break that mold.
Shurmur and his rookie quarterback need to utilize their new workhorse if Weeden is to be successful. Despite being the No. 3 overall pick this past April, the former Alabama running back has less pressure on him than does Weeden.
Richardson will touch the ball less than half the time the offense is on the field. Weeden will—hypothetically—be in control of the pigskin every offensive play during this 2012 season. Hypothetically, of course, because if he falls flat on his face there’s a chance McCoy is given one last, fleeting opportunity while Brandon gets it right.
I understand many of you do not want that to happen.
But keep in mind that the Cleveland Browns franchise has never had extended success with a first-round quarterback—excluding Bernie Kosar, on whom they used a first-round pick in the 1985 supplemental draft.
Harry Agganis (1952), Bobby Garrett (‘54), Mike Phipps (’70), Tim Couch (’99), Brady Quinn (’07). All first-round picks. All busts.
Let’s hope Weeden is more like Kosar—and then some.