The 2016 NFL season was a complete disaster for the Cleveland Browns. The Browns had a very few bright spots this season. The major one was the team picking up it’s first win of the season week 16 against the Chargers. They finished as the worst team in the league and have the number one draft pick in the upcoming draft. Injuries were also a big concern for the team this season as it played a big part on the offensive and defensive end.
The Cleveland Browns offense was almost as bad as it can be during the 2016 season. The team ranked ranked 30th in the league in total yards per game. Ranking 28th in passing yards per game with the countless number of throws from different QBs this season due to the lingering injuries on the team. The run game for the Browns was definitely better than the passing game. The Browns ranked 19th in rushing yards per game this season. Although that is still in the bottom half of the league, there was a bright spot in the running from third year pro Isaiah Crowell. The Cleveland Browns may have a future at the RB position with Isaiah Crowell leading the backfield.
Browns Secret Weapons: Isaiah Crowell
Although the 2016 season was a one to forget in Cleveland, the 2015 season wasn’t a good year either for the team. The Browns ranked 22nd in the league in rushing yards per game in 2015. Lead by Isaiah Crowell, the Browns weren’t a team that was known to run the ball well. Crowell finished the 2015 season with 185 carries for 706 yards and four TDs. It was his first year as being a true lead running back as a pro. His only competition was from rookie Duke Johnson who carried the ball 104 times for 379 yards. Johnson was more of a receiving back as he finished third on the team in catches, yards and TDs. Crowell is built to carry the heavy load in the NFL as Johnson is a quick pass catching RB who can be a real threat in the passing game.
Crowell finished as the 25th leading rusher in the league last year. The first year of him being a real workhorse RB didn’t go nearly as bad as expected. To add, he was also running behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league. Although he carried the ball 185 times, it wasn’t enough to compete with the top of the pack in rushing. As he ranked 21st in total carries during the 2015 season. Heading into the 2016 season he was poised for more work with newly hired head coach Hue Jackson. He got his opportunity and he showed what he is capable to do with an even more increased workload.
The third year for Crowell was a career year for him. He ran the ball 198 times for 958 yards and seven TDs. He ranked 15th in rushing yards on the year. Duke Johnson was again his only competition for carries but he only carried the ball 73 times. That is a pretty significant drop from the previous year as the Browns ran with Crowell to handle the bulk of the carries. Crowell was also a threat in the passing game as he caught a career high 40 passes for 319 yards. The Browns were not a run heavy team at all as they ranked 30th in the league in run play percentage. The poor QB play and the horrendous defense made the Browns pass heavy as they were playing from behind in almost every week of the season. Better QB play will give Crowell more carries moving forward.
Isaiah Crowell was one of the best RBs in the league running against stacked boxes this season. He averaged the second most yards per carry against a stacked box with 5.88 yards. Crowell had the burst and power to break away some long runs against the stacked box as well. He broke off six 15-plus yard runs, in which one of them went for an 85-yard TD. The 5’11 190 pound runner from Alabama State is built like the physical, resilient back the Browns need.
The two main things the Cleveland Browns need to get fixed are their dreaded QB play, along with a better offensive line up front. These improvements will open up the running game more for the team. Isaiah Crowell is not one of the most talked about RBs in the league today, but he is a guy that is on the rise.
2015 Fantasy Season
The 2015 fantasy season was not a great one for Crowell. He finished outside the top 30 in the final rankings. Duke Johnson even ranked ahead of him in ppr leagues due to his pass catching duties behind Crowell.
Averaging a mere 5.3 fantasy points per game, Crowell was used as a flex play most, if not all weeks of the 2015 fantasy season. He scored double digit fantasy points only four times. It didn’t help that he ran for over 100 yards only one time during the season.
The 2015 fantasy season was a disappointment for Isaiah Crowell, but the expectations for him to produce all year were very slim. Fantasy owners weren’t too high on Crowell but the hiring of Hue Jackson and his run first scheme made fantasy owners aware of a possible sneaky 2016 fantasy season.
2016 Fantasy Season
The 2016 fantasy season was a much better year than what most fantasy owners were imagining from Isaiah Crowell. His ADP was 40 and he was taken behind Duke Johnson in most drafts after what happened last year.
Crowell proved fantasy owners wrong as he finished as a top 15 RB in ppr leagues this season. He averaged 11.8 fantasy points per game after averaging just above five from a year before. He also had four 100 yard rushing games after only having one last year. Crowell had nine double digit fantasy weeks this season and was one of the surprises for the 2016 season.
Isaiah Crowell finished ahead of guys like Todd Gurley, Lamar Miller and Spencer Ware. The production Isaiah Crowell saw made him a solid RB2 for fantasy owners. Fantasy owners who had Crowell can’t complain to how he contributed to their teams all season. Moving forward, Crowell may be a RB to keep an eye on in middle rounds of fantasy drafts.
The future remains bright for the 24 year old RB. Although he will still be with the Browns, it’ll be a new season and maybe the passing game will be improved after this past season. If that is the case, then the value of Crowelll will increase even more. He will continue to be the main back for the team so he will be getting the necessary touches he needs to produce some numbers. He has shown at times that he can be a tough guy to take down as he is a power runner and once he is in the open field, it is tough to chase him down and tackle him. With the running game struggling over the years for the Cleveland Browns, it may be wise to get Crowell signed to a new long term deal with the team.
Fantasy wise, the future of Crowell is in good hands. He will likely be picked in the mid rounds come draft time but his stock will only continue to rise if the QB play improves within the organization. The ADP for Crowell is likely late teens to early 20s out of RBs taken. The workload and volume for this guy remains high and that is a good sign for future reference. Coming off of a top 15 performance in 2016, look for Isaiah Crowell to be another sneaky pick come draft time in fantasy leagues.