NFL free agency started on March 18th, but technically does not end until the end of the season. However, after a firehose of news the first week, and another run the second week, things quiet down to a trickle. There are still big names out there, but it’s going to take some time to get them signed, sealed and delivered.
With that in mind, it’s time to take a look at where teams stand after the early rush of free agency and what it means for fantasy football. We’re going to take a look at the skill positions, breaking down what the starting lineup and reserves will look like to assess fantasy value heading into August drafts.
Today, we’re taking a look at the Cleveland Browns. The Browns made blockbuster moves for a second straight offseason in preparation for the 2020 season. They signed offensive lineman Jack Conklin to a three-year, $42 million deal and made former Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper the highest paid player in the NFL at his position. Cleveland retained Kareem Hunt for a second season, but also lost key defensive contributors in Christian Kirksey and Joe Schobert. The Browns got a ton of hype in 2019 and fell short of expectations. Can they bounce back in 2020?
Starter: Baker Mayfield
Backups: Case Keenum, Garrett Gilbert
Mayfield was QB18 on DraftKings and QB20 in standard leagues last year despite throwing 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. He threw for 3,827 yards with one of the most talented receiving corps in the league at his disposal, but I think 2020 will be his year.
Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry are back, Austin Hooper has joined the team, and the Browns will likely continue to fortify its offensive line with the 10th overall pick in this month’s draft. He was a middle-of-the-pack option among starters as a rookie, and everything is falling in place for him to crack the top 10.
Starter: Nick Chubb
Backups: Kareem Hunt, Dontrell Hillard, D’Ernest Johnson
Chubb was a top 10 running back across the board in 2019 and ranked as high as RB6 in standard leagues. His 1,494 rushing yards were second to only Derrick Henry, and he reached the end zone eight times. I think he’ll fall out of the top 10 in 2020 though, and Cleveland’s backup running back will be a factor.
Hunt started off 2019 by serving an eight-game suspension and will be back in Week 1 this time around. Although he hovered around the 50 ranking in season-long fantasy and on DraftKings, he’s a versatile running back that was a top 10 option in 2017 and 2018. He could take some touches from Chubb, but will give Cleveland a formidable combination.
Starters: Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Damion Ratley
Backups: JoJo Natson, Taywan Taylor, KhaDarel Hodge
Projecting what you should expect from Beckham and Landry will be difficult. They combined for 2,209 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2019 and both were top 30 options in season-long fantasy.
Landry had the edge in receiving yards and touchdowns, but Beckham is the pride and joy of the wide receiver group. Beckham ranged from mid 20s to 31st in season long fantasy last season, but he should join Landry among the top 20 options in 2020. If all goes well, Landry and Beckham can both be top 15 wideouts.
Starter: Austin Hooper
Backups: David Njoku, Stephen Carlson, Pharaoh Brown
Hooper was TE6 in standard leagues and on DraftKings in 2019 and TE7 in PPR leagues last season. Will he fade while competing against the Browns’ star-studded receiving corps? Landry and Beckham amassed 271 targets last season, and no other player eclipsed 50.
Hooper flirted with 100 targets last season and will need at least that to break the top five at his position. Given the importance of the running game and Hunt’s skills as a pass catcher, it makes sense for Hooper to take a step back. He could be outside of the top 10 in 2020, but within the top 15.