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2022 Player Outlooks: Cleveland Browns

By Colby Cavaliere | 8/1/22 |

QB Deshaun Watson
2021 QB Rank - N/A

At the time of writing Watson has been suspended six games by the arbitrator. Now we await the league to decide on whether or not to appeal the arbitrator's decision with commissioner Roger Goodell acting as the final judge. So, itís still anyoneís guess whether Watson will see the field this season, and if he does, for how long. Clearly his fantasy value depends on how many starts he makes, so for purposes of this outlook, letís work on the assumption he misses half the season.

Watson was a top-5 QB in the last two seasons he played, and has essentially been a top fantasy option in every game heís been a starter in the NFL. He excelled with much lesser talent and coaching around him when he was in Houston, so the move to Cleveland is an upgrade in every way. With the way NFL athletes train, and the time heís been able to put into this offseason, rustiness and system comfort are the least of my concerns. He will be prepared to play when the time comes. Watsonís value comes solely in the form of how many starts he can make for you in the fantasy season. Heís worth a significant draft investment if he can play 12+ games, but much less if itís 8 or less.

As for Brissett, the man Cleveland turns to if/when Watson is suspended? Steer clear. In two seasons as a near full-time starter, Brissett couldnít reach 20 passing touchdowns, barely completed 60% of his passes, and has demonstrated after 6 years in the league that heís a back-up level talent at the very best. Not exactly a ringing fantasy endorsement.

RB Nick Chubb
2021 RB Rank Ė No.7, 14.1 FPts/G

With an ideal mix of balance, speed, and power, Chubb is the best natural runner in the NFL and reminds me a lot of former Ravens running back Jamal Lewis. Heís averaged more than 5 yards-per-carry in his career, and has scored 39 total touchdowns in four seasons. In only 14 games last year he surpassed 1,200 yards rushing and scored 9 touchdowns. Only the lack of quality work in the passing game keeps him out the top-5. Catching passes has never been a part of Chubbs' game, even going back to college where he only caught 31 passes in 47 games with the Dawgs, so he wonít magically become a dual threat. Even the loss of Kareem Hunt for nine games last season didnít add to his role as a receiver.

This Cleveland offense looks monumentally different depending who the quarterback is, but Chubbs' role as the ground and pound element is cemented. Itís a good bet heíll see more carries in games with Brissett under center, and have better lanes to run in when and if Watson returns, so heíll produce in either scenario, and still should be treated as a top tier option in standard leagues, and a low-end RB1 in PPR leagues.

RB Kareem Hunt
2021 RB Rank - No.48, 10.8 FPts/G

Last season was one Kareem Hunt would like to forget. Leg and ankle injuries cost him nine games, and Hunt enters 2022 looking to rebound on the final year of his deal. Despite missing over half the season, Hunt did manage to score 5 touchdowns, and boasted a respectable 10.8 standard points-per-game average. Cleveland will be desperate to lean on Chubb and Hunt as a 1-2 punch while Brissett is under center, something that greatly factored into their success during their run to the AFC title game two seasons ago. In 2020 Hunt was a viable RB2 even playing second fiddle to Chubb, and this Kevin Stefansky offense is going to look to continue to ride their running back tandem for as much, and as long as they can. Hunt has a steady and predictable role in the offense, and will be hungry to prove heís worth a lucrative contract in free agency.

WR Amari Cooper
2021 WR No. 25, 9.0 FPts/G

The Cleveland passing game was an absolute mess last season in so many ways. Injuries, inconsistency, and roster turmoil doomed the receiver unit on the field, and in fantasy. Not a single Brownsí receiver cracked the top-50 in any format, so with that the Browns made a deal for Amari Cooper to help stabilize a raw, unproven group of pass catchers. Since coming into the league in 2015, Cooper has averaged over 115 targets, 73 catches, and 1,000 yards a season to go along with 44 touchdowns.

The former Cowboy and Raider has been incredibly consistent as a high end WR2 in all formats since entering the NFL, but he comes to his new team off a disappointing final season with Dallas, and smack dab in the middle of a quarterback quagmire. Brissett is a huge downgrade in talent from Dak Prescott, and there just isnít any other receiver currently on this roster that defenses have to respect. Add in the fact that Cooper always seems to be in the training room (to be fair heís only missed five games in his career), and I think heís due for a demotion to mid-tier WR3 territory. The caveat here is Watsonís potential return. If you canít draft Cooper at value, make him a priority trade target at the deadline.

WR Donovan Peoples-Jones
2021 WR Rank No. 59, 6.0 FPts/G

With Landry hurt, and OBJ shown the door, Peoples-Jones, the 2020 6th rounder from Michigan was thrust into a role he was woefully underprepared for. In his two seasons as a pro, DPJ has shown to be a one-dimensional deep play threat. His iffy route running and inconsistent hands simply werenít up to the task of carrying the passing game. With both Landy and OBJ gone, Peoples-Jones now finds himself as the teamís No.2 receiver, hoping to be enough of a threat to take some heat off Amari Cooper. From top to bottom this is one of the most inexperienced receiving corps in the league, and the offense with anyone else other than Watson under center, just wonít be able to support a 2nd fantasy receiver.

TE David Njoku
2021 TE Rank No. 22, 4.8 FPts/G

After almost being cast off the roster as recently as last offseason, Cleveland inked Njoku to an eye-popping contract that made him the 5th highest paid tight end in the NFL. Lofty numbers for a player that has certainly been more bark than bite over his first five seasons. While he’s flashed at times, Njoku has been hard pressed to even sniff the numbers he put up in his 2nd season when he finished with a 56-639-4 line on 88 targets. Even with the team desperate for playmakers last year, Njoku couldn’t reach 40 yards in any game past week 5. The Browns certainly aren’t paying Njoku for past production, so they must know something we don’t. With Watson under center, Njoku makes for a sneaky TE1 play, without, he might be barely rosterable, as the talent just hasn’t been able to overcome mediocre quarterback play.

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