Fantasy Opportunity Breakdown: Cleveland Browns

2019 Coaching Staff

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a team this optimistic after firing its coach mid-season the year prior and then ditching its interim coach. Funny what a sudden stockpile of elite players will do for the soul. It’s quite poetic how the team’s prospects have mirrored the meteoric rise of Freddie Kitchens, who somehow managed to go from starting last year as the running backs coach to starting this year as the head coach. While Kitchens does plan to retain the scheme he inherited from Todd Haley as well as play-calling duties, he did bring in former Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken to become his OC. Former Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks will come in as defensive coordinator.

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns

What to Expect

As mentioned above, Kitchens plans to retain Todd Haley’s offensive scheme and continue calling plays. This means the Browns’ 2019 offense should look pretty similar to the 2018 version in structure. However, it’s hard to ignore the hiring of Todd Monken. Monken’s background is in the air raid offense, something he ran to great effect in Tampa Bay last year as the Bucs set franchise records left and right. These two minds creating a gameplan every week is scary enough for opponents, but what will really give defensive coordinators nightmares is the sudden influx of talent GM John Dorsey has brought in. Questionable off-field actions aside, pairing Kareem Hunt with Nick Chubb has to be the most lethal backfield duo in the NFL. Yet, you can’t stack the box to stop them unless you want Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham, Jr., and David Njoku going to town on your secondary. It’s no exaggeration to say that the Browns could field the top offense in the NFL next year.

In fact, the only thing that might slow down Cleveland’s offense is Cleveland’s defense. Steve Wilks’s resume is a little short on coordinating experience – he had one year as defensive coordinator in Carolina and one year as head coach in Arizona, with moderate success at both on the defensive side of the ball – but if he’s worth his salt at all he’ll be able to make something of the solid defensive pieces the Browns have accumulated. The defensive line in particular almost rivals the Rams as the most talented in football. While the defense as a whole isn’t quite at the same level as the offense, there’s enough to work with that a good gameplan from Wilks could quickly turn games into one-sided affairs. This probably won’t happen every game, but it might be enough to slow down an otherwise torrid pace from the offense.

The Data

There’s no reason to sugar-coat this; the Browns are going to pass early and pass often. Under Kitchens last year, the Browns called a 60/40 pass/run split. Tampa Bay under Todd Monken was even more extreme at a 63/37 split. To be fair, Tampa had no defense and no running game worth mentioning, but nevertheless these are two very pass-happy coaches running the show in Cleveland. Despite this, I don’t expect the Browns to pass at a higher rate than last year. It appears to be the dawn of a new age in Cleveland, and if the Browns are leading more often than not then there’s little reason to suspect they won’t lean on the running game to chew up the clock. If the offense is more pass-happy but spends more time ahead, I would expect a very similar 60/40 split to last year.

David-Njoku

The positional target splits get more interesting. The Buccaneer wide receivers under Monken led the league in positional target share last year at about 67% while the Browns were just above average at about 58%. Reconciling this discrepancy will shape the Browns’ offense more than anything else this year. On the one hand, Monken’s influence will surely bump up the wide receiver target share from last year, and a wideout corps featuring OBJ and Jarvis Landry will demand targets. On the other, Tampa’s stable of running backs was pitiful and their starting tight end was injured halfway through the year, while the Browns boasted a surprisingly deep running back rotation and a rising star tight end in David Njoku. Cleveland’s wide receivers should see their target share creep up, but the sheer volume of talent across the offense should temper that growth.

Fantasy Impact

Cleveland’s offense figures to be explosive this coming year. It should look pretty similar to the offense they fielded last year, except relying a bit more on wide receivers. Any way you slice it though, you’ll want a piece of this offense.

Projected Team Rush Attempts: 415 Attempts
Projected Passing: 385 Completions on 595 Attempts, 30 sacks allowed
Projected WR Catches: 215 Receptions on 355 Targets
Projected RB Catches: 85 Receptions on 115 Targets
Projected TE Catches: 85 Receptions on 125 Targets

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