2022 Fantasy Football Cleveland Browns Preview

by Dennis Sosic
2022 Fantasy Football Cleveland Browns Preview

Welcome Fantasy friends and foes to the 2022 Fantasy Football Cleveland Browns Preview.

There were plenty of high expectations for the Cleveland Browns as we entered the 2021 season. The Browns were coming off a 10-6 season and made their first playoff appearance since the 2002 season. The turning point of last season was in Week 2 when quarterback Baker Mayfield suffered a shoulder injury that hindered him all season. Unfortunately, the offense and the team never seemed to recover.

Their margin for error was deficient last season. Failed execution on offense due to poor quarterback play, questionable play-calling, and poor special teams' play led to their demise. As a result, the Browns' offense only had three games with at least 20 points in the last eight games of the 2021 season. In addition, they only scored over 14 points in five of their last 12 games.

The Cleveland Browns made plenty of noise and created intense drama this offseason. They made huge moves that will dramatically shift their fortunes for the next decade. The trade and subsequent signing of quarterback Deshaun Watson has manufactured intense conversations and the proverbial black eye within The Dawg Pound and NFL circles.

In addition, they traded for (stole) wide receiver Amari Cooper from the Dallas Cowboys to give the Browns' offense a much-needed alpha dog at the wide receiver position. They also released tight end Austin Hooper, which opens the door for David Njoku to step in and explode in this offense after signing a rich contract extension.

So what does all of this mean to the Browns' offense? What do these moves mean for the fantasy production of the playmakers in the offense? When will we see Deshaun Watson this season, and how does he affect the offense? The answers to these questions and many more can be found in the 2022 Fantasy Football Cleveland Browns Preview.

2022 Fantasy Football Cleveland Browns Preview

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The Cleveland Browns made a dramatic franchise-altering trade when they acquired quarterback Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans. The price was incredibly steep, including three first-rounders but Browns general manager Andrew Berry convinced Watson to waive his no-trade clause and come to Cleveland.

The apparent difference in Cleveland's favor is that the team offered a fully-guaranteed $230 million contract over five years. That contact would change anyone's mind, and it flipped the NFL and the Cleveland franchise.

Watson will likely serve an NFL suspension for or violating the NFL's player conduct policy. The extent of the suspension is still undecided, but things don't look optimistic for Watson currently. Watson is soon becoming a black eye for the Cleveland Browns and the NFL.

Watson is a game-changing quarterback with three straight top-six finishes in fantasy points per game. He is very accurate and creates plays with his legs and has rushed for over 400 yards in three consecutive seasons, and has scored 17 rushing touchdowns in his career.

Fantasy managers are faced with a dilemma with Watson. His conduct is on another level of difficulty to deal with. Still, when you add in the question about his availability, there has to be hesitation in grabbing Watson as anything more than a backup quarterback who can explode for your team in the second half of the season in redraft leagues. However, his dynasty value is negligible because you are drafting with a three-year view, not just this season. In dynasty drafts, Watson should be targeted as a top-seven quarterback.

The curious case of Baker Mayfield is a drama that doesn't want to end. I like Baker Mayfield because he helped the Browns to the playoffs for the first time in what seems forever. However, he did get injured in Week 2 last season, and it affected his play and the play of his teammates. This issue should be attributed to Mayfield but also his coaches. Mayfield lost the locker room and felt it was more important to make commercials than dive into the playbook and work with the coaching staff.

Mayfield had no business being on the field. He was hurting the team on and off the field. But unfortunately, the coaching staff didn't trust backup quarterback Casey Keenum enough to step in and were stubbornly leaving Mayfield with zero use of his non-throwing shoulder, hindering his accuracy.

Mayfield underwent successful surgery to repair the torn labrum in his left shoulder, and he should be fully recovered by the start of training camp, but there is one problem. No one wants Baker Mayfield. There was speculation that the Browns would release Mayfield, but they will not eat his $19 million salary. They tried to trade Mayfield, but there were no legitimate offers unless the Browns were willing to cover a considerable portion of his salary. In that case, it makes more sense for the Browns to hold on to Mayfield until they receive a legit offer. We have seen the last of Baker Mayfield behind center for the Cleveland Browns.

Jacoby Brissett is the ideal backup game manager who can fill in for a period of games, but he doesn't bring any fantasy note-worthy production.

Running Backs

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Nick Chubb is one of the top running backs in the league. Chubb has finished in the top 10 in rushing yards in each of his last three NFL seasons and third in yards per carry for three straight seasons.

Chubb has juice and finished fourth in explosive runs (34) and second in breakaway runs (15). The former Georgia Bulldog has never produced fewer than eight touchdowns in his four NFL seasons.

The Browns have an elite running back tandem with Chubb pairing up with Kareem Hunt to form a dominant two-headed attack out of the Browns backfield. Hunt is a big play machine, averaging 4.5 yards per carry, and he has caught 80 percent of his passes with 16 touchdowns as a pass-catcher in his five-year career.

Unfortunately, we didn't get to see that attack much last season, with Hunt dealing with calf and ankle injuries. As a result, Hunt missed nine games last season. There has been speculation that Hunt might be moved with Hunt in the final year of his deal and the cap space expanding with the Watson deal.

I would hate to see Hunt leave this offense. Chubb has missed seven games in the past two seasons, and Hunt has stepped right in and contributed to the offense and fantasy managers. However, the team might have another running back that takes over that role in D'Ernest johnson.

Johnson looked like a starting back when he was filling in for when Chubb and Hunt were out last seasons. He had 41 carries for 245 yards and a score in two starts while also catching nine of ten passes for 80 more yards. Johnson proved that he is quite capable of being an NFL running back, and he can be a lottery ticket selection in your dynasty drafts.

Jerome Ford was a one-year starter with the University of Cincinnati but made quite an impact, rushing 214 times for 1,319 yards and 19 touchdowns. However, Ford must work on being a factor in the passing game before he becomes fantasy relevant.

Wide Receivers

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The trade for Amari Cooper from the Dallas Cowboys was a steal. I realize that the Cowboys needed to save money and gave him away, but that doesn't make Cooper any less valuable for the Cleveland Browns' offense.

Last season, Cooper caught 68 passes for 865 yards and eight touchdowns, which was a down season for Cooper. However, Cooper is one of the best route runners in the league and sure-handed, with only three drops last season.

Cooper is 27-years-old and has gone over 1,000 receiving yards five times in his seven-year career. Stefanski has not produced a 1,000-yard receiver in Cleveland, and his offense has finished 28th in passing attempts in each of the last two seasons. Cooper will garner most of the target share in the Browns' passing scheme regardless of the volume and is an excellent WR2 in PPR formats.

The wide receiver position experienced plenty of turnover with Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr, and Rashard Higgins now catching passes elsewhere. As a result, there is not a lot behind Cooper except for young and inexperienced wideouts.

Last season, we saw some splash plays from Donovan Peoples-Jones, but he is wildly inconsistent. DPJ will make a game-changing play and then disappear. He is entering his third season and will look to capitalize with Watson behind center. Fantasy managers are hoping DPJ became a deep threat similar to Will Fuller when they were turning in big yardage plays with the Houston Texans.

Anthony Schwartz has track star speed, but his route-running skills are a work in progress. I hope he continues to improve to be utilized in several gadget plays, but he is not fantasy relevant.

Tight Ends

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The newly extended David Njoku will headline the tight end group. Njoku is a physical freak who had 56 receptions for 475 yards and a team-leading four touchdowns last season. The massive investment in Njoku makes it evident that the Browns believe Njoku is a premier tight end.

The quarterback change is expected to lift the entire offense, and considering the inexperienced wide receiver group, Njoku should have a career season in 2022. In addition, the presence of Cooper and the Browns' running game will force teams to single up against defensive backs, which Njoku is too big to defend, and he is too fast for most linebackers.

Njoku has the potential to create big plays with his speed and deep threat ability. The former Hurricane finished fifth in contested catch rate (61.5%) and fifth with 9.0 yards per target. Look for Njoku to finish as a top 15 TE this season.

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski loves to employ two tight end sets. With Austin Hooper released and with the Tenessee Titans. Harrison Bryant steps into the TE2 role in Cleveland's offense. Bryant saw 39% of the offensive snaps last season, down from 59% in 2020. We should see that number creep up into more than half of the offensive snaps this season.

Bryant has been consistent with three touchdowns in each of his first two seasons. The inexperienced wide receiver room should result in multiple tight end schemes and witnessing Bryant reach a career-high in touchdowns this season. Bryant makes a decent streaming tight end and viable dynasty stash for fantasy managers.

Final Verdict

The deciding factor for the 2022 Cleveland Browns will be the fate of Deshaun Watson. The uncertainty on the length of a potential suspension might force the Browns to play at least half of the season with Jacoby Brissett behind center, who has produced a 28-32 record in his career. While the Browns have talent at all levels, the quarterback position will determine how far the Browns go this season. My final verdict is that Watson gets suspended for eight games, and the offense relies on the legs of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt until Watson makes his Browns debut. Brissett is a game-manager who will keep them in games but won't win them many against the better teams in the league. After all the turmoil and drama, the Cleveland Browns finish the 2022 season with a 9-8 record.

Check out the rest of our 2022 Fantasy Football Team Previews!

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