When it comes to talking about the Browns, forget last season.
Cleveland was unbelieve-land -- as in the Browns were unbelievably bad. Their quarterbacking was putrid for all but one game at Detroit, and their run game was on fumes until the end of the season. Don't even ask about their defense.
It was so bad that the Browns began looking ahead during last season, hiring Mike Holmgren to be the team president. His presence seemingly ignited the team as they ended 2009 on a high note, winning their last four games including a home battle against the rival Steelers.
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Then the turnover began: Derek Anderson wasn't kept and Brady Quinn was traded. Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace were signed and Colt McCoy was drafted. Those are just the quarterbacks -- they held on to running back Jerome Harrison, linebacker D'Qwell Jackson and wide receiver/kick returner/playmaker Josh Cribbs too. In fact, the Browns addressed nearly every single part of the team this offseason either in free agency, the draft or both.
The Browns still have some issues -- quarterback obviously one of them -- but their decision not to find new coaches should benefit them as the team doesn't have to start from scratch again. Holmgren's presence has seemingly refreshed the entire organization and there's a sense of optimism that the Browns didn't have at a single point in the 2009 calendar year.
That in and of itself is a good thing.
Late-round flier ... Brian Robiskie, WR
We liked Robiskie's skills coming out of Ohio State, but he had a number of setbacks last season and didn't play much. That was disappointing, but like many 2009 rookie receivers Robiskie has spent the offseason massaging his game and everyone from coaches to players have noticed a difference for the better. And with the Browns not bringing in other receivers, Robiskie is a sleeper candidate for the second straight season. At the very least he should see more of an opportunity this year, which will only help him accumulate more stats. You could do worse with a late-round pick.
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Sleeper ... Josh Cribbs, WR
In the first seven games of last season, Cribbs had 10 receptions for 38 yards and 13 rushes for 102 yards. As the Browns grasped for any help they could find offensively, Cribbs saw more playing time. The result? He had 10 catches for 97 yards with a touchdown and 36 rushes for 232 yards. Don't forget that he also threw some passes and was fairly successful out of the Wildcat formation, which the Browns are bringing back. And the team's decision to sign Cribbs to a long-term extension signals that his days of being a part of the offense aren't done. Cribbs is a no-brainer to draft in leagues that reward special-teams play, but there's a chance he'll be a factor for standard-league owners too. Keep this in mind: A receiver who carries the ball a bunch and has potential for passing yardage is not exactly commonplace. There are plenty of potential stats at stake with Cribbs.
Bust ... Jerome Harrison, RB
Some people are taking Harrison's fantastic finish to last season and extrapolating it over 16 games, suggesting that he has the potential for over 3,000 total yards and 26 touchdowns. That's absolutely laughable -- as is suggesting that Harrison will even sniff 1,500 total yards and 13 touchdowns (half the calculated amount). Here's the deal: Harrison got hot against three awful, uninterested run defenses to end the season and it helped him save his job (not to mention Eric Mangini's). But if the Browns truly believed in Harrison, why would they spend a second-round pick (moving up in the draft, no less) on power-back Montario Hardesty? And if the Browns truly coveted Harrison, then why did they tender him at the second-round level instead of at a higher level this offseason? (And how come no teams came knocking on Harrison's door?) He'll play a sizable role for the Browns in 2010, but don't even think that he'll put together games like he did at the end of '09. That makes him a No. 3 Fantasy running back at best -- the belief here is that Hardesty will trump Harrison for playing time in short order plus work at the goal-line, making him the better Browns back to bag.
The Browns are going to have to be as creative and cunning as they say they'll be if they're going to have any kind of success. Save for their first two games of the season, the Browns have one of the most challenging schedules of anyone in the league. This should temper your excitement for drafting any players who call Cleveland home in the fall.
Training camp topics
Cleveland's quarterbacks are much changed from last year, and the team insists that both Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace will play this season. While neither player registers high on the Fantasy scale, their combined production might actually make the Browns Team Quarterback (TQB) a sleeper in leagues that utilize those cumulative "positions." Delhomme is coming off another awful season in Carolina and Wallace has never posted eye-popping numbers regularly, so whoever ultimately plays the most or puts up the better numbers isn't expected to impact Fantasy owners.
That point is magnified by the Browns' lack of established receivers. Last year's leading receiver was Mohamed Massaquoi, who pulled in 34 catches for 624 yards and three touchdowns. Leaves a lot to be desired, doesn't it? Cribbs and Robiskie should improve and be capable receivers for Cleveland, and Massaquoi might take the next step in his development, but none of these guys are players that Fantasy owners should be coveting on Draft Day.
If there's one interesting player to touch on, it's Benjamin Watson. Joining Cleveland after years with New England, Watson has displayed good hands before and provides a fairly big red-zone target for the Browns. Watson has recorded over 600 yards receiving before in his career and has at least five touchdowns in two of his last three seasons. Will he explode for big numbers? Probably not, but he could be a steady contributor and figures to be a decent one-week replacement off waivers.
D'Qwell Jackson (shoulder; probable for the start of training camp).
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