NFL Soup|Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cleveland Browns 2013 Fantasy Team Preview 

The Cleveland Browns did something not many thought they would be in 2012 – they got better. While the improvement wasn’t by an insane margin (Cleveland still lost 11 games), their offense was much more efficient and even more explosive than in recent years.

Instead of just scrapping that success and saying it wasn’t good enough, the new Browns’ regime wisely kept quarterback Brandon Weeden under center, and finally let athletic tight end Jordan Cameron slide into the starting lineup. With Norv Turner coming in as offensive coordinator and inserting a vertical scheme, the Browns are suddenly primed for great success.

With a rising defense built around them, these Cleveland Browns could seriously be a team to watch in 2013. What fantasy owners want to know, however, is if their progression will translate to the fantasy realm.

For a better idea as to which Browns players should be owned or drafted in fantasy football this year, let’s breakdown their most relevant players:

Brandon Weeden (QB)

Weeden gets a bad rap. A lot of people were down on him because he was an 80-year old rookie and threw four picks in his career debut. The reality is, after that game he did a lot of good things, and he did so with two rookies in the starting lineup with him, along with a guy who dropped a ton of balls in Greg Little. This year, Weeden inherits a vertical offense that should maximize his big arm and show off his solid pocket presence. I won’t go nuts over him, but he’s walking into 2013 with strong QB2 value and a legit shot at being a borderline QB1.

Trent Richardson (RB)

Richardson had to deal with injuries in 2012 as a rookie, but despite all the “injury-prone” talk, he only missed one game and played through a tough rib injury. Despite that, he still almost ran for 1,000 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. Now completely healthy, T-Rich is going to be better than ever. If you can shed the fear about his health, you’ll be getting a great RB1, and possibly for excellent value.

Montario Hardesty (RB)

If it weren’t for a broken leg Dion Lewis would be in this spot, but alas, here we are. Hardesty still has some talent and fight in him, but the hope is he sees the field very little in 2013. He’s not really worth having as a handcuff, and is more of a waiver wire add in-season if T-Rich struggles to stay healthy.

Josh Gordon (WR)

Gordon will miss the first two weeks of the 2013 season thanks to a suspension, but too many people are over-looking his upside. This is a guy who put up over 800 yards and five touchdowns as a 20-year old rookie in 2012. He has immense upside even outside of the schematic changes, while Cleveland’s new vertical offense suits him perfectly. He’s an extremely high upside WR3 that should have WR2 value at some point in 2013. Considering his current ADP is in about round eight, he’s a major steal.

Greg Little (WR)

Little has been a bit of a disappointment through his first two seasons, most notably earning a reputation as a pass-dropper. However, he seemed to have progress in the second half of last season, and could be a bit of a sleeper entering 2013. He’ll have to be for the first two weeks with Gordon out, while the new offense could given him a lift, as well. He’s still just a WR3 until further notice, however.

Davone Bess (WR)

Bess was a solid PPR guy with the Miami Dolphins, but he’ll be hard pressed to sustain any real value in Cleveland. He might be worth a look the first two weeks with Gordon out, but otherwise will revert to a slot role and isn’t a lock for consistent production there.

Travis Benjamin (WR)

Benjamin is a big-play guy who is too one-dimensional to be consistent at this point in his career. He does have some upside, however, and if Gordon keeps having issues off the field, he could be a guy to monitor down the road. It’s unlikely he makes a big impact in 2013, however.

Jordan Cameron (TE)

Tight ends seem to crush it in Norv Turner offenses, and considering Cameron is fast with excellent athleticism and leaping ability, he has a great chance to continue the trend. He’s all alone in the starting job and looked great in preseason action, so the sky appears to be the limit. If all goes well, he has legit top-10 upside.

Shayne Graham (K)

Graham is one of the league’s more consistent kickers, as he’s converted at least 81% of his kicks every season over the last decade. The trouble is, he’s not quite as reliable beyond 40+ yards. Still, the Browns offense is decent and improving, so the 35-year old kicker should be a solid fantasy option in 2013 if you need him.

Cleveland Browns (DEF/ST)

The Browns are a very interesting defense, as they’re rolling with a 3-4 scheme and actually have the players to pull it off. Freshly added Paul Kruger and rookie Barkevious Mingo (when healthy) give them a stellar pass-rush on the edge, while Cleveland arguably has some of the best depth in the league on their d-line and in their secondary. Negative connotations always go along with the Browns’ name, but their defense could actually be a consistent top-10 unit in 2013. They’re not the easiest to trust, but you could do a lot worse at your DEF1 spot.

About the author: Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts owns and operates NFL Soup and heads the fantasy football division of the site. In 2012, Roberts finished 16th overall in Fantasy Pros expert fantasy football rankings. In addition to running the fantasy football section of the site, Roberts contributes to NFL Soup’s NFL Draft coverage and breaking news reporting. Follow Kevin on Twitter @NFLSoupKevin

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