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2023 Player Outlooks: Cleveland Browns

By Colby Cavaliere | 6/19/23 |

QB Deshaun Watson
2022 QB Rank - No.36, 17.8 FPts/G

To say Watson was rusty after his self-inflicted hiatus was an understatement. In his first four starts in a Browns uniform Watson posted a 2-3 touchdown-to-inception ratio, and labored to complete more than half of his passes. Things perked up in the final two games with five passing touchdowns, but the 2022 season was all about getting his legs under him, and distancing himself from the off the field noise.

Watson now enters his sixth year in the NFL with expanded expectations. The addition of Elijah Moore in a trade from the Jets gives Watson a potentially lethal slot man, rookie 3rd round receiver Cedric Tillman provides a big body out wide, and the rest of skill position players are veteran playmakers. This division is stacked, and Cleveland should find themselves in more than a few shootouts. With a distraction-free offseason to get better acquainted with the playbook and speed of the game, Watson should be in line for a massive bounceback season. Before derailing his career, Watson was on an All-Pro trajectory, and will very likely return to provide top-10 upside in 2023.

Nick Chubb

RB Nick Chubb
2022 RB Rank - No.5, 15.0 FPts/G

Since entering the NFL in 2018, Chubb has never finished worse than 15th overall in non-ppr scoring, providing fantasy owners with a rock solid RB1 over the last four years. As a near lock for double digit touchdowns and almost 1500 total yards, Chubb has a chance to be even better in 2023. With Kareem Hunt gone in free agency and only late round picks sharing the running back room, Chubb has a real chance to threaten his career high 329 touches from last season. With Watson more comfortable, the offense should move at a much quicker pace, and red zone scoring should increase after Chubb had the 9th most red zone carries in 2022. Chubb is never going to catch a boat-load of passes, so his PPR value is diminished, but there arenít many backs in the NFL that offer Chubbís weekly consistency, and week-winning upside.

RB Jerome Ford
2022 RB Rank - No.147, 0.6 FPts/G

With Kareem Hunt's 123 carries and 35 receptions up for grabs, Ford, a 2022 5th round pick has a very real opportunity to be a fantasy factor in 2023 as Chubbís backup. After returning 30 kicks last season, and touching the ball only eight times on offense, Ford currently sits as No.2 on the depth chart for Cleveland. Ford brings average NFL measurables and decent college production to the table but would be in line for a huge workload if Chubb were to go down. As long as the Browns donít add a veteran back in camp, Ford is a solid handcuff.

WR Amari Cooper
2022 WR Rank - No. 8, 10.0 FPts/G

The Browns hit big with Cooper in free agency last season, as the former Cowboy topped 1,100 yards and hit career highs with 132 targets and nine touchdowns. Even more impressive is that Cooper put up a top-10 standard league finish with a career backup (Brissett) and an extremely rusty (Watson) throwing him the ball. While Cooper finished with impressive overall stats, his weekly rollercoaster ride wasnít ideal. He had five games under 5.0 pts, and was really propped up by five other games that accounted for over 50% of his yardage and 7 of his 9 touchdowns. Cooper also left too much meat on the bone, as he was 2nd in the NFL among receivers with 11 drops. With Watson at the helm for a full offseason, look for Cooper to be more consistent, but with more flexibility in gameplan, he might struggle to reach those 132 targets again. As long as DeAndre Hopkins doesnít join the squad after his free agency tour is over, Cooper is going to lead the team in receiving, and is an undervalued WR2 that has upside for more.

WR Donovan Peoples-Jones
2022 WR Rank - No. 39, 6.0 FPts/G

DPJ was a pleasant surprise for fantasy owners last year setting career highs across the board. Playing in all 17 games, the former Michigan Wolverine provided the Browns with a solid, if unspectacular option across from Cooper. In weeks 4-15 he proved to be a reliable weekly contributor as a standard league low end WR3. Unfortunately, I do think this is about where DPJ tops out in the NFL, and with the addition of Moore, I canít see much upside to rostering him early in the season.

WR Elijah Moore
2022 WR Rank - No. 88, 3.7 FPts/G

After flashing elite fantasy talent at the tail end of his rookie year in 2021, 2022 was an absolute dud, finishing with an offseason trade to Cleveland. A fresh start is exactly what Moore needs after he complained his way out of New York. Miss-used, and saddled with an unimaginative offense and dreadfully inaccurate quarterback, Moore was waiver fodder by midseason last year. With Cleveland likely to open up the offense to run more three-wide sets, and Watson rounding back into form, Moore has a chance to be a big part of this offense. Will it be enough to return fantasy value? Iím not quite sure. While Moore possesses elite physical tools, David Njoku saw 80 targets last season as a pseudo slot man, and he isnít going anywhere. Cleveland had a near 50/50 run pass ratio last season and that needs to flip considerably to support multiple viable fantasy receivers. Still, the Browns gave up serious draft capital to acquire him and Iím willing to bet on his talent to make him a late-round pick in my drafts.

TE David Njoku
2022 TE Rank No. 12, 6.1 FPts/G

Despite missing three games with a serious ankle injury, Njoku had one of the best statistical seasons of his career in 2022, and uses his athletic 6’4’’, 240-pound frame like a receiver. Given a mysteriously monstrous contract after producing little early in his career, Njoku gets a full season of Watson in 2023, but I’m not sure that is enough to offset the addition of Moore at receiver, and former Texan Jordan Akins as a back-up tight end. Njoku doesn’t have a clear path to more than the 80 targets he saw last season, so he once again should slot into a low end TE1 slot in all leagues.

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