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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Cleveland Browns

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Browns changed the face of their offense in the first round of the NFL Draft with the selection of Trent Richardson at No. 3 overall and Brandon Weeden at No. 22. Weeden will compete with Colt McCoy for the starting job, but no one is drafting either quarterback in the majority of Fantasy leagues.

As for Richardson, we like the pick since the Browns had a hole at running back with Peyton Hillis gone. Montario Hardesty and Brandon Jackson will get some touches to help Richardson, but he's going to be a workhorse. And his opportunity along with his skill set makes him a potential Fantasy star. Richardson has been called the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. He has the speed to break plays and the size to take the beating of a featured rusher. He also can catch the ball out of the backfield; we just don't have many three-down running backs anymore.

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Now, to be fair, there could be some negatives associated with Richardson, and we want to paint the whole picture. The recent history of running backs going first in their class isn't great.

The last two -- Mark Ingram (2011) and C.J. Spiller (2010) -- were unspectacular as rookies. Knowshon Moreno (2009) wasn't bad with more than 1,150 total yards and nine touchdowns, but he wasn't a weekly starter in the majority of leagues. Darren McFadden (2008) -- shocker -- was bothered with injuries, but Peterson (2007) was a star. He had more than 1,600 total yards and 13 touchdowns in his first year.

Can Richardson duplicate that type of performance? Absolutely. But keep in mind he has to face some of the best run defenses in the NFL in his own division with six games against Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, and each finished in the Top 10 against the run last year. It could be a little tougher than expected for this future star.

If you want Richardson you have to draft him no later than Round 3 in the majority of leagues. A strong training camp and preseason could push his value into Round 2, but Richardson hopefully will live up to his value.

We're high on Richardson and have him ranked in the Top 10 at his position. I'd take his upside over Michael Turner and Steven Jackson, who could both be falling apart, and he's safer at this stage than Matt Forte. Richardson is a great running back to target as early as No. 20 overall in all formats.

Fantasy Value Chart
Player Draft Day value Estimated round
Quarterbacks
Brandon Weeden ND
Colt McCoy ND
Running Backs
Trent Richardson 2
Montario Hardesty ND
Brandon Jackson ND
Chris Ogbonnaya ND
Wide Receivers
Greg Little 11
Mohammed Massaquoi ND
Josh Cribbs ND
Jordan Norwood ND
Travis Benjamin ND
Josh Cooper ND
Tight Ends
Benjamin Watson ND
Evan Moore ND
Jordan Cameron ND
Kickers/Defense
Phil Dawson ND
Browns DST ND
ND - not expected to get drafted

Breakout ... Greg Little, wide receiver
Little is hoping the addition of Weeden at quarterback could help his play in his sophomore campaign. Little posted decent stats as a rookie in 2011 with 61 catches for 709 yards and two touchdowns, but he left a lot of production on the field. He had 121 targets, and he was plagued by drops with at least 14 to his credit. We can't put all the blame on McCoy, but Weeden should prove to be a better passer, even as a rookie. Little needs to score more to dramatically improve his Fantasy value, but he could be a PPR standout. He has 75-plus catch potential, and he should be considered a No. 4 Fantasy option in standard leagues and a No. 3 option in PPR formats. Plan on drafting Little with a late-round pick, and hopefully he can click with Weeden right away. It helps that Little is in better shape after losing at least 11 pounds through the end of May.

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Keeper-league target ... Brandon Weeden, quarterback
Weeden doesn't have a lot of long-term value because he's an older rookie at 28 (he'll be 29 in October). But Fantasy owners in dynasty leagues should target Weeden on Draft Day because he could emerge as a decent option, especially in two-quarterback leagues, as early as 2013. The Browns need to improve their receiving corps, but since they will likely be trailing in games we could see Weeden throwing a lot. The Browns attempted 570 passes in 2011 (by comparison, the Packers attempted 552), so Weeden could have the chance to shine. For seasonal leagues, he could be worth a late-round flier in deeper formats. He was great at Oklahoma State last year with 4,727 passing yards, 37 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, and he was exceptionally accurate by completing more than 72 percent of his passes. Hopefully those skills will carry over into the NFL.

Sleeper ... Jordan Cameron, tight end
The Browns don't have a lot of quality players on offense, so finding a sleeper isn't easy. And even when they do appear to have some talent, they don't feature them. Cameron could be the best tight end for the Browns, but he's buried on the depth chart behind Benjamin Watson and Evan Moore. He barely played as a rookie with just six catches for 33 yards, but we hope his role will expand this year. Watson's best days are behind him, and while Moore has some potential, the ceiling is higher for Cameron. He is not worth drafting in the majority of leagues and might just be waiver-wire fodder all year. But the minute he has a breakout game he might be worth adding in all leagues because the talent is definitely there. All he needs is an opportunity to showcase it.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
PHI @CIN BUF @BAL @NYG CIN @IND SD BAL bye @DAL PIT @OAK KC WAS @DEN @PIT
Where will the Browns get points from this season? That's the question after reviewing their schedule. Nearly all of their opponents have not just good offenses, but great ones. Realistically, only matchups against the Bills, Colts, Raiders, Chiefs and Redskins (maybe) provide opponents who don't have consistent 27-point potential. The Browns' inability to fight back with their offense, especially their passing game, makes the schedule a non-factor. Obviously, it's not a positive for the Browns outside of the potential of Richardson carrying a heavy load.

Training camp topics

The Browns have said publicly that the quarterback job is open between Weeden and McCoy, but we'd be shocked if McCoy was the starter in Week 1. We've seen what he can do with limited weapons, and it's not pretty.

2011 Touches Leaders
Player Touches
Peyton Hillis 161 carries, 22 catches
Montario Hardesty 88 carries, 14 catches
Chris Ogbonnaya 73 carries, 23 catches
Greg Little 61 catches, 3 carries
Josh Cribbs 41 catches, 7 carries

Weeden might not fare much better, especially as an older rookie, but he should at least get the chance to try. His ability could help Little improve, and maybe the Browns can develop some other weapons among Mohammed Massaquoi, Josh Cribbs and Cameron.

The star for the Browns should be Richardson, and we hope he has a good camp and preseason to justify the hype. We also hope he can avoid an injury because that appears to be the only thing that could derail his rookie year. Fantasy owners should also pay attention to his backup to find out if Hardesty or Jackson is the handcuff option with a late-round pick.

The Browns don't have a lot of great Fantasy options this year, but if Richardson lives up to his potential he could be a star in his rookie campaign.

Injury update

Jackson (toe; probable for the start of training camp)

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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