Every Play with Cleveland

It happens every year. No matter how much we analyze, no matter how many numbers are crunched, no matter how much film we look at – we tend to make the same mistake.

We underestimate great players in bad situations or on awful teams.

We did it in the past to Reggie Wayne, Maurice Jones-Drew, Steve Smith, Steven Jackson, Brett Favre, Drew Brees and Adrian Peterson. If their team looks questionable, we dock the elite player too much.

This year, don’t make that mistake with a Cleveland Brown. after watching ever play that the Browns had in 2012 and 2013 preseason, here is who you need to be looking for in your last-minute draft or for trade.

Taking Talents to Cleveland?

Josh Gordon finished 2012 on a solid rookie season, especially considering the lack of offensive threat that the Browns had at the time. I’ve never seen so many 5-and-out plays run in a season, which is not Gordon’s strength. The controversial rookie taken in the supplemental draft is a blazing fast sprinter with sub 4.4 speed.

His physical attributes compare to that of Vincent Jackson, and if we’ve noticed the similarities I’m betting so has new offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Gordon is going to be used constantly, but he is suspended the first two games of the season. Particularly if you are in a keeper league, grab Gordon as your WR4 and enjoy the benefits for years to come.

I have Josh Gordon ranked 33 among WRs with full confidence that he finishes within the top 25 for the remainder of the season. The biggest risk is him getting into trouble for substance abuse again which would bring a lengthy suspension. But when your options right after him include Brian Hartline or Kendall Wright, why not go for the guy that could likely be drafted in the top 20 WRs next year?

Less controversial but becoming a more popular pick at tight end is Jordan Cameron. Because of the barrage of recent highlights I’ll keep it simple: if Gordon is Vincent Jackson then Cameron is Antonio Gates in Norv’s offense. He isn’t quite as fast, but he has sure hands and a great vertical leap. Weeden was already showing him a lot of attention last year and is going to continue to look his way when Gordon is double-covered.

If you’ve gotten past TE 6 in your draft, grab Cameron in the 11th round or later and move past the pressure of plug-and-play at tight end position this year.

Brandon Weeden, Better than You Think

A lot of you may agree with my assessment of Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron, but now you’re going to think I’m crazy: In 2-QB leagues Brandon Weeden is a steal. After finishing last year as #30 among quarterbacks, Weeden has been working diligently on his footwork. It’s vastly improved, and now he is in an offensive scheme that will actually trust his ability. Weeden made it into the first round of the 2012 NFL draft because of his deep throwing ability to Justin Blackmon. Now he has Josh Gordon and an OC that will let Weeden do what he does best: air it out to his best receiver

It may be a rough first two weeks until Gordon returns from suspension, but Weeden is actually going to turn a lot of heads in the AFC North. Weeden will not jump into the elite class of QB probably ever, but he should be a consistent fantasy backup or low end #2 QB value play. 23rd among quarterbacks is about right, so standard leagues can ignore him for now.

Trent Richardson

Before I get falsely accused of being a Browns’ fan, let me say that Trent Richardson is going about right or even possibly a bit high. Generally he is being drafted 9th overall, but for any player with this many injuries that makes me uneasy. He is the bell cow of Cleveland with impressive strength and just enough maneuverability to make the first man miss. And he is finally healthy again. But it’s simply not enough; workload is unlikely to increase and as Weeden develops more passing options will come in the red zone.

Maybe this isn’t so much hate towards T-Rich as it is love for LeSean McCoy, Calvin Johnson, and Alfred Morris – all of whom should go before the Cleveland back. Take Richardson as the 11th pick if he’s still there.

Cleveland Defense

They’re back and healthy and in a division that will not run up the scoreboard. If you draft a defense and wait until the end of your draft, CLE is a great value. The powers in the AFC North are shifting, and a defense like Cleveland is going to thrive against the Ravens and the Steelers.

I have them ranked #7, just behind the Patriots (seriously, the Pats play 4 good offenses total and they’re often undrafted). The Browns have a bunch of players that no one knows yet, but as a team they will reward you handsomely for believing in them.

TL; DR

– Take Gordon as an early WR 4 and Cameron at TE7 or later
– For 2QB leagues only – Weeden is a great value as a QB3. His better footing and new OC give him consistency and QB2 upside.
– T-Rich is going where he should be – will perform great when healthy but less essential to the team than last year. Take at the beginning of round 2.
– Browns’ D is good; AFC North has at least 2 poor offenses. Enjoy a consistent point total that will finish the year around 6th among defenses.

Josh is a new father. Although he misses the days of sleeping through the night, Josh is incredibly happy to have a young son. Josh is a graduate student in Colorado, and he will be a licensed counselor by the end of the year. Josh is relatively new to the fantasy football scene, but he has reached league championships two years in a row, although he is still looking for the elusive championship win.

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