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AP Photo/David Richard

2023 Fantasy Football Preview: Cleveland Browns

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Player Outlooks (2023)


QB Deshaun Watson: Cleveland should still run through Nick Chubb this year, but the skill-position talent was improved around Watson, and the team is expecting him to be the guy he was in Houston with a “normal” offseason to prepare. There is the possibility of Watson never re-establishing himself as a star-level quarterback, but Kevin Stefanski has a history of being too pass happy, and Watson should still do damage with his legs. Consider him a low-end QB1 option in redraft leagues.


RB: Nick Chubb: We had Chubb as a top-five option in 2022, and he was well worth the investment with career-highs in carries, rushing yards, and total touchdowns. The industry might have finally caught up to how consistently dominant Chubb has been with a consensus ranking of RB6, and he will ideally be used more in the passing game after a 5/45/1 line last year in the season finale. Hopefully the improved supporting cast will result in softer boxes and more touchdown opportunities.


RB Jerome Ford: Ford seems to be locked into the No. 2 role for the Browns, and he’ll bring big-play ability running behind a great offensive line. That said, the role Kareem Hunt had last season (158 touches) might be the absolute ceiling if Chubb remains healthy, and we’d imagine Cleveland might feed their starter in a huge year for the current regime. Ford is likely more of a handcuff than standalone FLEX to begin the season.


RB Demetric Felton: Felton didn’t have much of an offensive role in 2022, but he thrived as a rookie with 18 receptions (on 21 targets) for 181 yards and two touchdowns. The former UCLA standout should get an opportunity to earn work on third downs, but we’ll have to see how Cleveland views him and his potential role this summer.


WR Amari Cooper: Cooper produced strong numbers in his first season with the Browns, and the upside should theoretically be higher with Deshaun Watson under center all year. On the other hand, Cooper will have more competition for targets with Elijah Moore and rookie Cedric Tillman being added to the offense, so he could settle in with numbers similar to last year’s production when Watson entered the lineup—a 17-game pace of 60 receptions, 1,043 yards, and six touchdowns (with much of the damage done on a 3/105/2 line versus a Washington defense that Cooper always destroys). The veteran might be best viewed as a mid-to-low WR2 option rather than a high-end WR2.


WR Elijah Moore: Having turned 23 in March, Moore is still a very young player, and he’ll get a fresh start with the Browns after the former second-rounder didn’t hide his anger about usage and quarterback play with the Jets. We are high on the talent, but Nick Chubb, Amari Cooper, and David Njoku should remain the clear top three, so Moore is unlikely to suddenly be funneled targets with a new team. He’s a late-round FLEX option.


WR Donovan Peoples-Jones: Coming off a season in which he saw 96 targets and went over 800 yards on a run-first offense with two different starting quarterbacks, Peoples-Jones could certainly take another leap in 2023 with youth and athleticism in his favor. The upgrades at wide receiver create some pause, though, and Cleveland gets tough matchups early in the year with a trip around the AFC North before a Week 5 bye.


WR Cedric Tillman: Tillman will need to work his way into playing time with the Browns, but he’s a physical perimeter target that fits very well across from Amari Cooper—and the rookie probably would have been drafted higher than the third round if a high-ankle sprain didn’t impact him last year. Moore and/or Peoples-Jones not taking advantage of early opportunities could get Tillman on the field with a quality role in Year 1.


WR David Bell: A popular sleeper pick last summer, Bell was limited to 214 scoreless yards in 16 games—and that was with limited competition at wide receiver. Now projected to be the No. 5 option on the depth chart, the second-year wideout will begin 2023 as a dynasty stash that would seem to be blocked by Elijah Moore.


WRs Anthony Schwartz and Marquise Goodwin: The Browns haven’t been able to utilize Schwartz’s speed as a consistent factor in their offense over the past two seasons, so Goodwin was brought in as competition. Overall, the field-stretching role isn’t expected to be very fruitful from a fantasy perspective, and any downfield connections with Deshaun Watson will be difficult to predict.


TE David Njoku: Njoku is coming off an up-and-down season, but he could be viewed more favorably right now if not for a high-ankle sprain that knocked him for a couple of weeks and then had him at less than 100% the rest of the season (and caused him to miss another game a few weeks later). Before the injury, Njoku had a five-game stretch where he caught 30-of-36 targets for 379 yards and one touchdown with Cleveland finally featuring him—which would’ve given the Miami product a season-long pace of 102 receptions and 1,289 receiving yards. The offense should continue leaning on him despite improvements at wide receiver.


TE Jordan Akins: Akins had a career-best 37/495/5 line last year with the Texans, and he could have an edge for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart considering his history with Deshaun Watson—including a couple of 400-yard seasons. The 31-year-old will draw weekly consideration if Njoku were to ever miss time.


TE Harrison Bryant: Talk of Bryant being the eventual No. 1 tight end for Cleveland hasn’t come to fruition with Njoku getting an extension and reaching his potential as a former first-round pick, so the redraft and dynasty appeal have both slipped. In six games with Deshaun Watson in the lineup last year, Bryant caught eight passes for 60 scoreless yards.


Other Notes


Best IDP value: LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah

The usage of Owusu-Koramoah was very frustrating last year, but the talent is very high, and new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz should have a better idea of how to unleash the versatile linebacker. A big hitter with impressive cover talent, Owusu-Koramoah has two forced fumbles and four pass deflections in each of his first two seasons.


Stat to know (via draft guide)

In 11 games before Deshaun Watson made his Browns debut last year, Nick Chubb had a season-long pace of 309 carries, 1,606 rushing yards, and 19 rushing touchdowns.