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Fantasy Football Picks: Browns vs. Bengals Week 2 DraftKings NFL DFS TNF Showdown Strategy

Garion Thorne preps you for Thursday’s 8:20 p.m. ET contest between the Browns and the Bengals with game-script analysis and Captain’s Picks.

I wouldn’t suggest that we’re suddenly at DEFCON 1 when it comes to the employment status of Baker Mayfield ($10,200), but things are feeling pretty bleak around the Cleveland organization after Sunday’s embarrassing loss to Baltimore. Sure, Mayfield’s had more head coaches (4) than professional training camps (3), but there’s a certain pressure that comes with being a former first-overall pick and the young pivot is not living up to the hype.

Can he turn the tide against fellow top draft pick Joe Burrow ($10,800) in the battle of Ohio? Let’s break it all down from a Showdown perspective.

Set your DraftKings Showdown lineups here: NFL $1.5M Thursday Night Special [$300K to 1st] (CIN vs CLE)


Cleveland Browns

I’m having a difficult time being too confident in Mayfield’s abilities on tonight’s slate. Simply put, he looked like the exact same QB we saw all of last season in the Browns’ Week 1 defeat. Despite only being pressured on 16.7% of his drop backs against the Ravens, Mayfield never looked comfortable in the pocket and it led to an ineffective Cleveland attack. Yes, Mayfield currently leads all AFC quarterbacks with 363 intended air yards — an implication that he’s at least willing to stretch the field — yet, at the same time, no QB in the whole league threw a lower percentage of their pass attempts on target last weekend (62.9%). When you put it all together, Mayfield averaged a measly 0.26 DKFP per drop back and, in general, continued his trend of poor play.

However, being low on Baker doesn’t necessarily mean you have to fade the Browns’ passing game entirely — though I would keep an eye on the status of tackles Jack Conklin (ankle) and Jedrick Willis Jr. (shin), who are both questionable to play on Thursday. Cleveland still has a few very enticing names at its skill positions that could thrive on an island in this contest. For instance, as square as it might seem, I’m a sucker for Odell Beckham’s ($8,200) drastically reduced price point. I mean, when can you ever remember seeing OBJ this inexpensive on a single-game slate? Plus, while the results weren’t anything to write home about against the Ravens, Beckham did walk off the field last Sunday as one of just 13 wideouts to be targeted on at least 30% of their routes in Week 1. If that type of volume repeats itself against a far more inferior Bengals’ secondary, we could be looking at a huge performance. Austin Hooper ($6,800) is another asset to consider with David Njoku (knee) placed on the IR; while KhaDarel Hodge ($400) might turn out to be the best dollar-for-dollar play on the board. To be completely fair, the 25-year-old will be absolute chalk if Jarvis Landry ($8,000) is ruled out with a hip issue, but, even if Landry’s active, Hodge saw the field for 54.8% of the Browns’ offensive snaps last week. That’s too large a role to ignore at a price this close to the minimum.

Editor’s Note: Browns WR Jarvis Landry (hip) is active for tonight’s game vs. the Bengals.

The unfortunate twist for Hodge is that even while he might end up playing the third-most snaps among Cleveland’s wide receivers, he’s still probably only option No. 5 in the passing attack. That’s because Kareem Hunt ($7,400) is going to see his share of targets. In fact, the former Kansas City RB finished Week 1 with six pass-catching opportunities and 17 touches, while he also played 36 snaps to Nick Chubb’s ($7,600) 35. However, while Chubb owners in season-long formats might feel like the sky is falling, I’m a little more bullish on the Georgia product’s outlook on Thursday. A 32-point blowout loss is never going to be a positive Chubb script and I would be floored if we saw anything that lopsided on Thursday. I’d anticipate the second-round pick sees at least 15 carries this evening, which should be enough to make him a viable play in the mid-tier.

Cincinnati Bengals

The weird thing about Burrow as a fantasy asset in tonight’s game is that two completely contrasting thought processes can be true. On the one hand, you can accept the rookie QB’s pedigree and talent, and be encouraged by the use of his legs in the first start of his NFL career. On the other hand, you can note that Burrow averaged a putrid 3.28 adjusted net yards per attempt in Week 1 and that some of his decision-making — in particular a backwards pass under pressure to Joe Mixon ($8,600) — was the kind of stuff that makes Browns D/ST ($4,000) a relatively viable play on Thursday’s slate. In the end, I think Burrow is set to take a few more chances in a matchup that is far easier on paper than what he had to face last Sunday. If you’re looking to roster a quarterback, I’m definitely leaning towards the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

Truly, the most interesting man on Cincinnati’s roster heading into Week 2 is A.J. Green ($9,000). While it definitely says more about the overall talent level of these two squads, $9K seems like a pretty hefty price for a receiver that’s missed the better part of the last two seasons. The big question as it pertains to Green is simply will he end up playing more after a successful go last Sunday? While the veteran was targeted on a massive 30% of his 30 routes, Green logged fewer snaps than both Tyler Boyd ($7,000) and John Ross ($5,200), finishing the 16-13 loss with a 66.2% share. Still, it’s hard to imagine the Bengals getting too aggressive with their oft-injured star on a short week, especially considering the depth of talent they have available at the position with Tee Higgins ($3,200) and Auden Tate ($2,200) also active. In the end, I believe that Green is viable, but his somewhat reduced role would keep him from being considered a Captain’s Pick for Thursday night.

Speaking of 1.5x value, let’s talk about the aforementioned Mixon and Gio Bernard ($3,000). I think of all the assets on this slate, I’m most excited about owning Mixon. Again, that could certainly speak more to the dearth of obvious fantasy potential between these two teams, but I was somewhat encouraged by Mixon’s role in Week 1. Though the running back was still having some passing game work pilfered by Bernard, Mixon finished the contest with 20 total touches — the eighth-most of any player in the NFL. That’s a huge amount of volume for a player with a salary below $9K, especially one that projects to actually get some red zone work against a weaker opponent this time around. I mean, there’s a reason that Mixon has the second-shortest odds to score a touchdown this evening on the DraftKings Sportsbook. I’m all in on the 24-year-old.


Timing is important when thinking about this week’s Thursday nighter. Not only are both these teams playing on a short week, but they’re doing so in Week 2 of a year where no one got to play any preseason games. So, I guess you could say that I’m expecting some sloppy play this evening. With that being the case, it might not be the worst idea in the world to invest in the rushing attacks, the defenses and maybe even the kickers in this contest.

Final Score: Cleveland 20, Cincinnati 17

Set your DraftKings Showdown lineups here: NFL $1.5M Thursday Night Special [$300K to 1st] (CIN vs CLE)

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