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AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

2022 Fantasy Football Preview: Cleveland Browns


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Player Outlooks (2022)

 

QB Deshaun Watson: The ranking for Watson has dropped a handful of spots (QB22 to QB27) over the past couple of weeks, and it’s looking increasingly likely that he doesn’t suit up in 2022—and perhaps beyond. Big swings on talented players can pay off, but Watson’s situation isn’t one we’d recommend investing in. He’d be an upside QB1 target if on the field for the Browns while surrounded by a terrific supporting cast.

 

QB Baker Mayfield: No matter what happens with Watson, it seems there isn’t anyone that believes Mayfield will ever consider playing for the Browns again, so his outlook is a mystery. The recent rumors have connected the former No. 1 overall pick to Carolina (despite previous reports that neither side is interested in the other), and he’d in a good spot to rebuild his value on an offense that should funnel through Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore.

 

QB Jacoby Brissett: Brissett has two full seasons of starting experience with a 31:13 touchdown-interception ratio in 30 starts for the Colts, and he’s in line to be the starter if Deshaun Watson does indeed get suspended. But would the Browns pin their championship hopes on Brissett if it ends up being an indefinite and/or season-long suspension for Watson? While the early-season schedule is encouraging (@ CAR, v NYJ, v PIT, @ ATL), the musical chairs still being in motion could put someone like Jimmy Garoppolo in play.

 

RB Nick Chubb: Chubb—who has seen his stock quickly climb from the consensus RB13 to the consensus RB9 since the start of the month—is one of the game’s best running backs, and he quietly had a 17-game pace of 1,529 rushing yards and ten rushing touchdowns in 14 outings last season. The Browns will now either have Watson open the offense or be forced to lean on the running game more, so Chubb should be positioned for a big year in 2022. His current ESPN ranking of No. 34 overall should be pointed out as an insane value.

 

RB Kareem Hunt: Cleveland selecting Cincinnati running back Jerome Ford in the fifth round was a somewhat curious move considering the options already on the roster, so it leads to the questions of a) if Hunt is a potential trade candidate, and b) how much of a committee it might be should Chubb ever miss games. For now, Hunt can probably be drafted as a high-end FLEX with RB1 upside as a handcuff.

 

RB D’Ernest Johnson: Returning to the Browns on a one-year deal, Johnson is in a somewhat tough spot for 2022 value if Hunt remains on the roster and there are no injury issues for the backfield. That said, his production last year is impossible to ignore (66 carries for 368 yards and two touchdowns in three games with double-digit touches), and Johnson also passed the eye test; the depth chart should be monitored closely in training camp.

 

RB Demetric Felton: We were big fans of Felton coming out of UCLA, and he was excellent as both a receiver (catching 18-of-21 targets for 181 yards and two touchdowns) and returner as a rookie. The problem is limited work available in the backfield, so Felton may remain a better real-life option than fantasy option in Year 2.

 

RB Jerome Ford: Ford felt like a luxury pick where the Browns viewed him as the best player on the board, and he was one of the top backs in college football last year by rushing for 1,319 yards and 19 touchdowns at Cincinnati. A former Alabama recruit, Ford has plus speed and would be in position to thrive if given meaningful snaps behind Cleveland’s elite offensive line.

 

WR Amari Cooper: Because of his general volatility to begin with, Cooper’s stock—at a crowded position where guys ranked in the 30s can easily finish in the top 15—will hinge quite a bit on the status of Deshaun Watson. The former Cowboy notably saw his yards per game drop in every year with Dallas (80.6 > 74.3 > 69.6 > 57.7), and there is concern about Kevin Stefanski not being able to unlock the full potential of Odell Beckham Jr. as a perimeter target. At this point with so much unknown about the quarterback situation, Cooper seems very pricey as the consensus WR19.

 

WR Donovan Peoples-Jones: The value of all Cleveland wideouts will be tied to the status of Watson, but Peoples-Jones showed flashes last season—including a midseason stretch in which he had 70+ receiving yards in four-of-six games. DPJ has the frame to get vertical and run a bunch of in-breaking routes, so he’d be a great late-round target if Watson were unexpectedly cleared for the entire year.

 

WR David Bell: Kevin Stefanski has made it known that he badly wanted to draft Bell—revealing he told general manager Andrew Berry “this day needs to end with David Bell on our team” ahead of the second night of the draft. Perhaps a potential of Jacoby Brissett starting wouldn’t impact the rookie too much as a security blanket out of the slot, and he could even push Peoples-Jones for the No. 2 role based on how highly regarded he is by Stefanski.

 

WR Anthony Schwartz: The willingness and effectiveness of Deshaun Watson on downfield throws could make Schwartz—possessing 4.27 speed—a “sleeper” entering his second season. But again, the more likely scenario is Watson missing most or all of the year, and Schwartz wasn’t very efficient in his rookie season with 5.9 yards per target. He might be a dynasty stash as the projected No. 4 wide receiver.

 

WR Jakeem Grant: Grant was a Pro Bowl returner for the Bears last year (after being a midseason acquisition from Miami), and in Cleveland, he might also provide added explosiveness on offense with some designed touches. Like the aforementioned Demetric Felton, though, Grant should be a better real-life contributor than fantasy option.

 

TE David Njoku: It was just two years ago that Njoku requested a trade out of Cleveland, but he’s back to being locked in as the team’s No. 1 tight end following the release of Austin Hooper—and after signing a four-year, $56.75-million extension. The talent of the former first-round pick should have never been in question, so the expanded opportunity for a player that’s not turning 26 until this summer makes him a fringe TE1 with underrated upside in all three main receiving categories.

 

TE Harrison Bryant: No matter the quarterback situation, Cleveland should remain reliant on using multiple tight ends, and Bryant—though the clear No. 2 behind Njoku—was once thought by some to be the future of the position for the franchise. After playing 59% of the team’s offensive snaps as a rookie, Bryant should be back in that range after it dropped to a 39% rate in 2021 with Njoku and Austin Hooper being the main duo. He’d be a quality TE2 play if Njoku ever misses time.

 

Other Notes

 

Best 2022 value: TE David Njoku (FantasyPros ECR: TE22)

Seeing this ranking was a surprise, as Njoku should have a featured role on an offense that funnels a bunch through the backs and tight ends. Improvements made as a blocker should only boost his stock, and Njoku should put up numbers whether it’s Deshaun Watson, Jacoby Brissett, or someone else under center.

 

Best dynasty investment: RB Nick Chubb

All Chubb has done since entering the league in 2018 is average 5.0+ yards per carry in every season, and there are no signs of him slowing down anytime soon. Many will undervalue him because of age (turning 27 in December), but Chubb hasn’t even cracked 1,000 career carries and will continue running being one of the NFL’s best offensive lines.

 

Stat to know

David Njoku had one game with more than five targets last season. He caught seven passes for 149 yards and a touchdown.