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Fantasy football implications of Austin Hooper joining Cleveland Browns

We break down how Austin Hooper signing with the Cleveland Browns could affect the fantasy impact of players on the team.

Austin Hooper #81 of the Atlanta Falcons reacts during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on October 13, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Falcons 34-33. Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns made a big-time investment this offseason by making Austin Hooper the highest paid player at his position. The former Atlanta Falcons tight end signed a four-year, $44 million contract. Cleveland’s offense failed to live up to expectations in 2019, despite its star power. Could Hooper be the final piece of the puzzle? We’ll take a look at the Browns’ fantasy players for the 2020 season.

Austin Hooper

Hooper is just 25 years old and earned his first two career Pro Bowl selections in 2018 and 2019. The career-high 787 receiving yards he tallied last season trailed Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, but he was second on the team with 97 targets. Now he’ll join a Browns team whose receiving corps features Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. The duo of receivers each tallied more than 130 targets in 2019. No other player reached 50.

The Browns might be a better team with Hooper on it, but it’s hard to see him being a top 10 fantasy tight end with two other stars demanding balls be thrown their way. The top 15 should still be within reach for Hooper though. David Njoku has one year left on his contract but should essentially be phased out of the offense, if he’s not traded.

Baker Mayfield

Mayfield’s experienced a sophomore slump in 2019 after getting an influx of talent on offense. Despite starting in three more games than he did as a rookie, Mayfield only threw for 102 more yards in year two. His 21 interceptions nearly matched the 22 touchdown passes he threw.

While Landry and Beckham both eclipsed 1,000 yards and Nick Chubb ranked second in rushing yards (1,492), Cleveland finished third in the AFC North with a 6-10 record. Mayfield didn’t Njoku for most of the season though, as the missed 12 games because of a concussion and broken wrist.

Mayfield should improve significantly in year three. Cleveland has bolstered its offensive line with Jack Conklin, and its signal caller will have a dynamic third option to throw to. Mayfield could flash top 10 potential from a fantasy prospective in 2020 with these weapons at his disposal.

Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry

Landry barely cracked the top 20 by posting a team-high 1,174 yards and six scores in 2019. Beckham Jr. trailed him with 1,035 and four scores. While these numbers are nothing to scoff at, they can both do better. Beckham is in a bit of a slump and hasn’t been a top 10 fantasy wideout since 2016. Landry cracked the top 15 with the Miami Dolphins in 2017.

The only team with two top five fantasy receivers on one team last year was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This tandem might not have a ceiling that high with a dynamic running back like Chubb in the backfield, but having both in the top 15 or is realistic. Look for Beckham to take the lead back from Landry and headline the receiving corps though.

Nick Chubb

Chubb ranked third in rushing attempts (298) last season after getting 192 carries as a rookie. He cracked the top 10 for fantasy running backs and ran for eight touchdowns. He could move higher if he got more involved in the passing game though. However, it seems like Cleveland is gearing up to throw the ball more. That doesn’t mean Chubb won’t be affective moving forward, but he probably won’t reach his rushing totals from last year. You should expect a slight drop off in 2020, but he could still be a top 10 running back.

Kareem Hunt

Cleveland has placed a second-round level tender on Hunt, but as a restricted free agent, he’s still allowed to negotiate. If the Browns choose not to match another offer the running back gets, they’ll receive a future second-round pick in return.

Although he was suspended for half of last season, Hunt returned at the midway point to total 179 rushing yards, 285 receiving yards, and three total touchdowns in eight games. Hunt will certainly be more involved in the offense than he was last year if he returns for a second season. His versatility could make him a threat in DFS play, but his value in season-long fantasy is difficult to evaluate right now. He could definitely have some big-time performances in 2020 though. More passing could mean more opportunities for Hunt to make his mark.