2014 Fantasy Football Team Previews – Cleveland Browns

A Cleveland fan in 2014 would have a tough time believing that the Browns have the 11th highest winning % in NFL history based on their recent success.  The Browns have won 53.5% of their games since 1946.  Over the last 17 years, they have lost 10 games or more 13 times. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2002 and haven’t won more than five games in six straight seasons.  Last year, Cleveland fans had something to root for when Josh Gordon flashed his elite upside midseason.  He soared higher than any wide receiver in the National Football League, but his high didn’t end in the offseason as a result of his attachment to marijuana.  He failed a drug test in the spring, which will most likely lead to him being suspended for the 2014 season.  It just adds to the recent misery of Browns fans.  Hollywood saw some value in the struggling franchise to make a movie called “Draft Day”.  In a way, this year’s draft had somewhat of a movie star feel to it when the charismatic Johnny Manziel landed in Cleveland as the 22nd pick in the first round.  Mike Pettine will take over as head coach.  He did a great job rebuilding the Bills defense in 2013, which led to 57 sacks and 23 INT’s.  Kyle Shanahan will take over as the offensive coordinator.  He has spent the last six seasons as the offensive coordinator for the Houston Texans and Washington Redskins.  Jim O’Neil will take over as the defensive coordinator.  O’Neil worked under Pettine as a linebackers coach in Buffalo.

Position Breakdowns

*Quarterback

Johnny Manziel – In today’s NFL game, there aren’t a whole lot of QB’s that can make their living by running for their life and throwing up for grab passes downfield.  Manziel had two exciting years at Texas A&M, where he rushed for 2,169 yards on 345 carries with 30 TD’s, plus he threw for 7,820 yards (68.9% completion rate) with 63 TD’s and 22 INT’s.  His skill set is very attractive to fans and he had success winning games (20-6), but his style invites some downside risk in the NFL.  A QB’s #1 asset needs to be throwing the ball.  His legs are a huge bonus, but Manziel doesn’t have the mentality to sit back and pick apart a defense.  His mental game is unproven and his gambling attitude will lead to many turnovers in the NFL.  He is really one false move away from sustaining a major injury.  In a way, he has some Brett Favre in him, but his style is closer to Ben Roethlisberger.  I consider him a looker.  He won’t make tough pre snap reads.  After the hike, he’ll have his eyes downfield, but he is looking for something to break open.  If the play doesn’t develop quickly enough or the pocket breaks down, his success is driven by his ability to make pass rushers miss.  Many times, his throws are late and into coverage on scramble plays, leading to losable jump balls.  The NFL QB position has changed over the last couple of years where the dual threat is becoming more attractive.  Russell Wilson has the ideal style for a young running QB to model his skills around.  Wilson plays for a running team where his first priority is throwing the ball to execute plays.  If the play isn’t there, he’ll use his legs to buy time or take the possible positive yardage on the ground.  When I look at Manziel, I see a QB using his legs to make plays in both the run game and passing game.  His style gives him the ability to make big plays, but his arm turns into his secondary asset.  His talent screams “yes”, but his overall package invites failure in the NFL.  The Browns are hoping he is truly a game changing franchise QB.  Their offensive personnel takes a hit if Gordon does miss the season.  Cleveland added veteran WR’s to their elite TE to give Manziel serviceable options.  Interesting player to watch for sure in 2014, but his fantasy value has limited upside.  His rushing production will be an edge in some games.  Possible upside backup fantasy QB if the Browns WR’s play better than expected with Gordon on the sidelines.

Other options: Brian Hoyer, Tyler ThigpenAlex Tanney

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