Every year we give our premium content members a team-by-team, player-by-player look at the NFL season that was. The coverage will be in-depth, but because the Dynasty Capsule series begins immediately after the regular season, we won’t use it to discuss free agency or the draft. Come see us in early May once Mr. Irrelevant is off the board for another 32-article series giving you the same detailed discussion you’ll see below.
Buckle up dynasty fans, because you’re about to be reminded why our motto is, “There is no off-season.”
For a team which nearly went 0-16, the Cleveland Browns have some intriguing pieces, including two players who had breakout campaigns in 2016.
Things might slowly be turning around for the much maligned organization. They may finally have some some stability on the sidelines with Head Coach Hue Jackson, and the upcoming NFL Draft is a huge one for the Browns. Cleveland holds two of the first 12 picks and three of the first 33 selections, including the top overall pick. If they’re going to get out of the doldrums, hitting on a few 2017 picks is a great place to start.
Before we fully move on to next season, let’s take a look back at how Cleveland’s fantasy-relevant players fared in 2016.
Per usual, quarterback was a revolving door for the Browns, but when Kessler was healthy, he actually fared pretty well. Check out this blind player comparison.
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Player B is Carson Wentz.
Sure, Kessler’s numbers would probably regress if he had Wentz’s volume, but Kessler showed some potential as a rookie. In all, he ended the year with a 65.6 percent completion percentage, throwing for 153.3 yards per game in nine appearances.
It’d be interesting to see what Kessler could do in his second season, but after Deshaun Watson’s exclamation point of a performance in the title game, Kessler may not get much of a chance if the Browns opt for Watson (or another rookie passer) in the first. However, in two-quarterback formats, Kessler is worth holding on to through this off-season with the chance Cleveland doesn’t take a signal caller high in the draft.
Griffin started five games, opening and ending the year as the team’s starter. In between, he missed a big chunk of action due to injury. Griffin posted a 59.2 percent completion percentage with two scores and three picks. The Browns can bring him back for $6 million next season, but they may opt to release him. Regardless, Griffin’s time as a number-one option in the NFL is probably done.
McCown appeared in five games, starting three. He posted an abysmal 54.5 percent completion percentage, tossing six touchdowns with six picks. He’s signed through 2017 and will likely be back for quarterback depth.
Hogan played in four games last season and struggled mightily. The rookie completed just 53.8 percent of his passes and finished with an adjusted yards per attempt of 0.5 (that’s not a typo). He’s purely a developmental quarterback at this point of his career, and if Cleveland takes another passer in the upcoming draft, Hogan could be out of town.
Crowell had a breakout campaign in 2016, totaling 952 yards and seven scores while picking up 4.8 yards per carry — all of which are career-best marks. Crowell even added 40 catches for 319 yards (also career highs), becoming a three-down player for Cleveland. Crowell is going to be a restricted free agent this off-season, but he’ll probably be back with the Browns.
Despite the good year in a pretty miserable offense, his dynasty value hasn’t spiked too much. Per our ADP data, Crowell was RB38 at this time a year ago, and he was RB31 last month. He’s still going after his backfield mate, and speaking of the devil.
Johnson’s breakout didn’t happen in 2016, but as we just mentioned, he’s still valued higher than Crowell, with Johnson coming off the board 27th among running backs in December. The dynasty community apparently likes Johnson a lot more than the Browns do, because Johnson took a clear back seat to Crowell last season.
Johnson, in his second year, got a meager 73 carries, picking up 358 yards (4.9 YPC) and one score. He did produce well as a pass-game weapon, hauling in 53 passes for 513 yards. His role as a receiver seems pretty secure, considering he’s been targeted exactly 74 times in each of his first two seasons. While Johnson has a lot to like in terms of athletic ability and receiving prowess, for him to turn that into big-time fantasy production, he’s probably going to need a Crowell injury or Cleveland’s offense to significantly improve.
Along with Crowell, Pryor was Cleveland’s other breakout star. With injuries to other wideouts — namely Corey Coleman — Pryor became a target hog for a team who didn’t have many other options. He ended the year with 140 targets, which ranked 12th in the league. Fantasy is such a volume-dependant game, and Pryor got a ton of volume. Pryor ended the year with 77 receptions for 1,004 yards and four touchdowns.
As a result of the big season, his value has shot upwards. He was WR96 last January, but he was WR25 this past month. Pryor is a really interesting asset, and it seems like he’s a divisive figure in the dynasty community. On one hand, next year will be his age-28 campaign, so that’s not super enticing. On the flip side, 2016 was his first year as a wideout, and he played pretty well.
The volume is the key thing here as any wideout who sees 140-plus targets is going to have a great chance to put up good fantasy numbers (except Allen Robinson — too soon?). Was Pryor gift-wrapped volume because he was playing in a miserable offense sans options, or did he get that volume because he is a good wideout who was getting open frequently? Furthermore, will the volume evaporate if Pryor, who is going to be an unrestricted free agent, leaves Cleveland? There’s a lot at play here, and anyone who knows a set-in-stone answer to any of it is probably kidding themselves.
After scoring what seemed like 75 touchdowns in his final season at Baylor (it was 20, which is still amazing), Coleman was an early pick in 2016 rookie drafts. He flashed enough as a rookie to be the 18th wideout off the board, per our December ADP.
Coleman finished his rookie campaign with 33 catches for 413 yards and three scores in 10 games. He showed big-play ability befitting of a superb athlete, but he was only able to haul in 33 of his 73 targets. Sure, the quarterback play wasn’t ideal, but a 45.2 percent catch rate is ugly.
A possible Pryor departure could open up a whole bunch of targets in Cleveland. If Pryor did leave, Coleman would be one of many who could see more balls thrown their way in 2017.
Hawkins, Cleveland’s slot man, was targeted 54 times, hauling in 33 passes for 324 yards and three scores. A possession wideout in a bad offense, Hawkins doesn’t have much appeal. He’s signed through 2017, but he’s probably not going to be useable in fantasy next season.
Both rookies, Higgins and Louis each saw action in all 16 games this past year. Louis saw more run, getting targeted 35 times and hauling in 18 of them for 205 yards. Higgins caught six of 12 targets for 77 yards. Both receivers have their supporters in the dynasty community, but the situation in Cleveland — down on the depth chart and playing for a poor offense — is pretty dire. Higgins and Louis are both being taken outside of the top 100 wideouts, per December ADP. If Pryor leaves, though, one of them could be forced into a bigger role, With that said, Cleveland would likely draft another wideout if Pryor did leave, and they may do that even if Pryor stays.
In 2015, Barnidge was basically the Browns’ version of 2016 Pryor, seeing an unbelievable 125 targets and finishing the year as the TE2 in standard formats. No one was really expecting a repeat performance in 2016, and Barnidge did take a step back. He was still decent, though, turning 82 looks into 55 catches for 612 yards and two scores. He was consistently boring, however, with a one-week season-high of 10 standard-league points, which came in Week 17 and was his only foray into double digits all season. Barnidge is signed through 2018, and he could see a slight uptick in value if the Browns’ offense improves, which would result in a little more touchdown upside.
DeValve, who was a fourth-round pick in 2016 out of Princeton, had a respectable rookie year, considering how difficult it is for rookie tight ends to make an impact right away. He ended the season with 10 catches (on 12 targets) for 127 yards and two touchdowns. His workout metrics were pretty good, and he flashed a bit in 2016 — most notably with a 25-yard touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night football. DeValve is a name to monitor, but he’s not really worth owning at this point.