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Offseason Primers: Cleveland Browns

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Sometimes when teams lose they change quarterbacks. When that doesn't work they change head coaches. When that doesn't work they change front-office executives.

Well, the Browns have been losing for a long time. So last year they went all the way with their change. They have a new owner as well as a new team president, new general manager and new head coach. But in the most twisted of ironies, the quarterback of the Brownies remains the same. For now.

2012 Touches Leaders
724 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
Trent Richardson 318 (267 car., 51 rec.) 43.9%
Montario Hardesty 67 (65 car., 2 rec.) 9.3%
Greg Little 55 (53 rec., 2 car.) 7.6%
Josh Gordon 50 rec. 6.9%
Benjamin Watson 49 rec. 6.8%
All Others 185 25.5%

What matters for Fantasy Football is that the ultra-conservative Pat Shurmur is gone and creative play caller Rob Chudzinski is in at head coach. With him is veteran offensive mastermind Norv Turner. Chudzinski and Turner are veterans of the NFL and have a pretty darn impressive track record when it comes to getting players to produce big stats. Chudzinski was Cam Newton's first offensive coordinator, worked closely with Antonio Gates (while Turner was the Chargers head coach) and way back when was the Browns offensive boss when Derek Anderson and Braylon Edwards has their breakout years. Their credibility is strong and they'll need every ounce of it to squeeze life out of this offense.

The passing game is a major question mark heading into 2013. Brandon Weeden, who turns 30 this October, is currently slated as the starter but as soon as the Browns add another passer he'll be on shaky ground. His accuracy was a trainwreck last year, especially when throwing past 10 yards (47 pct. completed). Receiver Josh Gordon holds some promise but through two years Greg Little has shown, uh, little to make anyone think he can be a threat. The Browns need playmakers to help Weeden the same way the Bengals do for Andy Dalton -- the difference is the Bengals have a great one in receiver A.J. Green and a couple of promising role players.

At least the Browns struck gold at running back with Trent Richardson, and you better believe Chudzinski and Turner will lean on him. Richardson totaled 1,317 yards and 12 touchdowns as a rookie, and that was while playing with a broken rib and missing all of training camp with a gimpy hamstring! There's no doubt that he'll remain a heavy volume workhorse for the Browns as they transition to a better offense that should feature him prominently. Running behind a very good offensive line, there's obvious potential in Richardson, making him a Top 5 Fantasy choice and potentially the only Browns player you'll draft this summer.

Now, if the rest of the Browns can follow Richardson's lead -- and that includes the defense as they switch back to a 3-4 front under excellent defensive coordinator Ray Horton (formerly in Arizona) -- then they might not make any changes anytime soon.

Greg Little -- Bust

2012 Target Leaders
566 pass attempts
Josh Gordon 96 17.0%
Greg Little 91 16.1%
Benjamin Watson 82 10.2%
Trent Richardson 70 7.2%
Jordan Cameron 39 6.9%
All Others 188 33.2%

I'm pretty sure the Greg Little Bust Memo went out to everyone who plays Fantasy Football but just in case, here are some reasons why you can find a receiver better than Little in drafts. One, he's played a ton over the past two seasons and has six touchdowns to show for it along with 114 catches for 1,356 yards. That's 3.5 catches and 42.4 yards per game. Making that stat uglier is the reality that he's caught just 53.8 pct. of his targets, meaning he's been thrown at plenty. And from our friends at Pro Football Focus, Little's had 23 drops in two years. You can do the better than this. Heck, the Browns can do better than this.

Josh Gordon -- potential breakout

For a kid who wasn't drafted an April, didn't participate in the offseason program and was behind in his homework in training camp, Gordon had a pretty good year. He led the Browns in receiving yards (805) and receiving touchdowns (five) while converting nearly one out of every four receptions into a catch good for at least 20 yards. That's the good news; the bad news is that four of his scores and almost 30 percent of his receiving yards came during a three game stretch last year. So while his final stats were at least respectable with some potential for a big follow-up, he was woefully inconsistent. Enter Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner, two men who have found mismatches for their quarterbacks to exploit. Turner especially likes fast outside receivers who can pick up 17 yards or more on average, and that's right in Gordon's wheelhouse (he averaged 16.1 yards per catch last year). Even if the Browns can't work some magic at quarterback, at least Gordon has a chance to become consistent with a better offensive system to match up with his abilities. He's worth a late-round pick.

Jordan Cameron -- potential late-round flier

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Brandon Weeden Undrafted
Trent Richardson Top 5 pick
Josh Gordon 115-125 overall
Greg Little Late-round pick
Jordan Cameron Undrafted
Browns DST Undrafted

Here's a fun fact about Rob Chudzinski: He's a former tight end who has made a living turning tight ends into great Fantasy options. Players who have done well with him include Kellen Winslow Jr., Antonio Gates and more recently Greg Olsen. This is a guy who won't forget his tight end in the heat of battle like some play callers might. Surely, Chudzinski will look at Cameron's big 6-foot-5 frame and tinker with ways to use him against slower linebackers and smaller defensive backs. There are probably reasons why Cameron didn't pick up more playing time in the past -- he has eight starts and 26 catches in two years -- but if Chudzinski's track record is any indication, Cameron's reputation will be on the rise. Don't be surprised if training camp wraps and Cameron's getting high praise.

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

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Player News
Vikings' Greg Jennings: We all want Adrian Peterson back
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:26 pm ET) Vikings veteran wideout Greg Jennings said during a SiriusXM NFL Radio interview on Friday that embattled running back Adrian Peterson is wanted back by everyone in the organization, per ESPN.

"I don't know if he'll be back. I can't answer that question," Jennings said. "But what I do know is that if he does come back, he'd be accepted with open arms. As an organization from the Wilfs on down, we all want him back. So, I mean, it's a touchy subject and he's been the franchise player -- face of that team -- for eight years. So it will be a loss, a huge loss, if we can't get him back, and that's the nature of this business."

In November, Peterson was suspended by the league without pay for the rest of the season, making him ineligible for reinstatement until at least April 15. The move came after Peterson pleaded no contest to recklessly injuring his 4-year-old son last May. He is under contract with the Vikings for next season, and is set to earn $12.75 million.

It's unclear at this point if Jennings has talked to Zygi and Mark Wilf about the Peterson situation. What is clear is that the team is not allowed to communicate with Peterson during his suspension.


Eagles' Maclin believes contract will take care of itself
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3:08 pm ET) Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin believes he will be back in Philadelphia in next season. His representatives and the Eagles are in the process of negotiating a new contract for the 27-year-old, who will become a free agent in March unless he is re-signed.

"I'm excited about what the future holds," Maclin said on Friday. "Once again, both sides have made it known what we want to do. I think it will take care of itself."

He could be franchise tagged if a deal is not signed. The tag number for wide receivers is yet to be determined.

Maclin had 85 catches in 2014 for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns in Philadelphia.


Bears sign LB DeDe Lattimore to two-year contract extension
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:03 pm ET) The Bears have signed linebacker DeDe Lattimore to a two-year contract extension. He appeared in 10 games as a rookie in 2014, recording five special teams tackles.

Jaguars' Khan 'very optimistic' about WR Blackmon being reinstated
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:46 pm ET) Jaguars owner Shahid Khan said Friday he is "very optimistic" about wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who missed the 2014 season after being suspended indefinitely for a third violation of the league's substance abuse policy, being reinstated to the NFL.

"I think he's paid his dues and I think he's got his life together," Khan said, per The Florida Times-Union.


NFLPA president Eric Winston: New conduct policy 'violates CBA'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:43 pm ET) After the union field a grievance last week against the NFL over changes to the NFL personal conduct policy, Players Association president Eric Winston said Thursday the new policy "violates the CBA in several ways and we're going to be grieving this as far as we can."

NFL owners unanimously approved the changes in December.

"We have an agreement with the league and they have an agreement with us," Winston said, per the Associated Press. "We're going to hold them to that agreement. Many aspects of this policy fall outside of the CBA and we're going to continue fighting it going forward."

Following former Ravens running back Ray Rice's domestic violence case and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's child abuse case, a more extensive list of prohibited conduct was included in the policy, as well as criteria for paid leave for anyone charged with a violent crime. A suspension of six games without pay for violations involving assault, sexual assault, battery, domestic violence, child abuse and other forms of family violence will be in effect.

"The league's revised conduct policy was the product of a tremendous amount of analysis and work and is based on input from a broad and diverse group of experts within and outside of football, including current players, former players, and the NFL Players Association," the league said in a statement last week.

"We and the public firmly believe that all NFL personnel should be held accountable to a stronger, more effective conduct policy. Clearly, the union does not share that belief."


Eric Decker 'pushing' for Demaryius Thomas to sign with Jets
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:38 pm ET) Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is set to become a free agent in March, unless he agrees to a contract extension or Denver uses the franchise tag on him. If he does become a free agent, former teammate Eric Decker hopes Thomas would consider joining him on the Jets roster.

Decker spent a few days in Arizona this week with Thomas filming a commercial.

“I’ve been pushing for the entire year now,” Decker said in a telephone interview with The New York Post. “It was just another opportunity to talk to him about it. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. I think it would be tough for Denver to let him go. So whether they franchise-tag him here in the next month or give him a long-term deal, he’s just one of those premier players in this league.

"If he happens to make it to free agency, I would love to sign him because playing alongside him for four years and especially the last two years made it a lot of fun and made it a lot easier. He’s just one of the great players in this league.”

Thomas recorded a career-best 1,619 receiving yards in 2014. It was his third straight season of 1,000-plus receiving yards. He also had at least 10 touchdowns for a third straight season.


49ers CEO York: 'Defenses are not going to want to play against us'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:32 pm ET) 49ers CEO Jed York confirmed the promotion of quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst to offensive coordinator during an interview with NFL Network on Friday. York is particularly excited about Chryst, who has been the quarterbacks coach since 2011, continuing to work with quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

“With Kap, you got a guy in Geep Chryst who knows him better than anybody else,” York said, per CSNBayArea.com. “You have a great guy in (quarterbacks coach) Steve Logan who is coming to come in to work with him on fundamentals and allow us to put together a system that’s going to put Kap in the best position to make plays.

“How many quarterbacks in this league can run 90 yards for a touchdown? I can’t think of many. But you have to put Kap in a position where he can make those plays. And put Kap in a position where we can run the ball (and) we can throw the ball in ways that allow him to be successful and let him be the absolute stud that he can be on the field. And I think that’s what you’re going to see from us next year. Defenses are not going to want to play against us because you’re not going to know where we’re going to hit you.”


Bears' Bennett: Trestman will be 'excellent coordinator' for Ravens
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:34 pm ET) Marc Trestman lasted only two seasons as the Bears coach before losing his job. Bears tight end Martellus Bennett said on NFL Network on Friday that Trestman's demise in Chicago was plagued by his inability to control a locker room full of personalities.

"Trestman, I think, first off, the issue that he had, probably, was managing us all, all the different personalities," Bennett said. "There's a lot of big personalities (in the locker room). And I think, for a first-time head coach in the NFL, dealing with all the personalities that you have, I think that's hard when you got guys like me, you know, (Brandon) Marshall ... Lance Briggs on defense, (Charles) Tillman.

"There's so many guys with such outgoing personalities that managing those guys and bringing them all together is what a leader needs to do, you know? And that's one of the toughest things."

Although Trestman was fired in late December, he wasn't out of work for long, landing the job as the Ravens offensive coordinator after Gary Kubiak left to become the Broncos coach. Bennett believes Trestman will have success in his new role.

"Calling plays, he was excellent," Bennett said. "I think he's going to be an excellent coordinator for the Ravens.  Strategically, he was great. But on the field, guys just weren't executing.

"A lot of it comes back to the player preparation. If you're not preparing to a high level, then the coaches can only do so much; the game's not played on paper, it's played on grass. On paper, we look great. On grass, we looked bad."


Marijuana charges dropped against LeGarrette Blount in Pennsylvania
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:10 pm ET) Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount will not face charges for marijuana possession in Pennsylvania, Blount’s attorney said Friday.

Blount and Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell were pulled over and arrested for pot possession in August, a day before a preseason game. Blount satisfied his penalty by working community service in Boston. He will not have to appear in court in Pittsburgh next week. 


Seahawks leaving playing status decision up to Richard Sherman
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:08 pm ET) Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Friday it will be up to cornerback Richard Sherman if he plays in Sunday's Super Bowl against the Patriots. It is not because of the elbow injury he sustained in the NFC title game against the Packers. It's because Sherman's girlfriend might go into labor with the couple's first child sooner than expected.

"If (Sherman) is faced with that decision, we'll support him," Carroll said, per the Associated Press. "I can't wait to see little Petey."

Sherman said Thursday that his unborn son isn't due for another couple of weeks, and added "he was going to do his father a favor" and wait to be born until after the Super Bowl.


 
 
 
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