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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
Report: Falcons OL Gabe Carimi will head to free agency
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Falcons offensive lineman Gabe Carimi will not be retained before free agency begins on March 10, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's D. Orlando Ledbetter. 

Carimi appeared in all 16 regular-season games and made seven starts for the Falcons in 2014. 


Report: Colts, Dolphins going after Ndamukong Suh in free agency
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) The Colts and Dolphins are expected to try their best to land soon-to-be free agent Ndamukong Suh when the new league year begins on March 10, according to a report from Yahoo! Sports. 

Suh will be the most sought-after free agent once the period begins. The report also states the Dolphins are currently in the lead, with the Lions and Colts close behind at this time. 

Teams can begin negotiating with agents during a legal tampering period that begins Saturday. 

In 2014, Suh recorded 53 total tackles and 8 1/2 sacks. 


Colts sign long snapper Matt Overton to four-year deal
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) The Colts announced they signed long snapper Matt Overton to a new contract

Overton tweeted on his personal account that he will be with the Colts for another four years. In three seasons with the Colts, Overton has appeared in 48 games and has made 22 special teams tackles. 

He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2013. 


Police: Panthers' Cam Newton not person of interest in shooting
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Police stated Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is not a person of interest in a shooting at a Charlotte, N.C. nightclub, according to the Associated Press. 

Newton was photographed at Label nightclub on stage with rapper Young Jeezy last weekend before gunshots were fired into a crowd. Two people sustained non-life-threatening injuries as a result of the gunfire. 

In a video obtained by Charlotte's WSOC TV, Newton is spotted partying at the venue before he, along with the rest of the party's attendants, ducked when shots were fired


Adrian Peterson pleased with Vikings meeting, still has concerns
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was appreciative of the Vikings front office's visit on Wednesday, he said in a statement to ESPN's Josina Anderson

However, Peterson also alluded to some issues that needed to be hashed out between both parties. 

"I appreciate [general manager] Rick [Spielman] and Coach [Mike] Zimmer coming down to see me today," Peterson said. "We had a great dialogue and they were able to understand where I was coming from and concerns my family and I still have. We respect each other and hopefully the situation can pan out so that everyone involved is content."

Peterson was moved back to the Commissioner's Exempt list after U.S. District Judge David Doty ruled an NFL arbitrator should not have upheld a suspension that would last until April 15. The NFL has appealed this ruling.

With Peterson on the Commissioner's Exempt list, the Vikings are able to have communication with him. 

The Vikings have publicly expressed a desire to have Peterson back in 2015. Peterson has had reservations about wanting to return to Minnesota. 

Peterson only played in one game during the 2014 season. Following a child abuse allegation, Peterson pleaded no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault on his son. 


Report: 49ers shopping linebacker Michael Wilhoite
(3/4/2015) The 49ers are looking to trade linebacker Michael Wilhoite, according to The Sacramento Bee. The team is looking to obtain a sixth- or seventh-round pick in exchange for the former undrafted free agent, per a league source.

Wilhoite, 28, filled in when starters Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman were sidelined with injuries last season. He started all 16 games for the first time in his career in 2014. He tallied career-highs with 87 total tackles, six passes defensed and two interceptions.


Report: Bills' Rex Ryan wanted to trade Kiko Alonso upon arrival
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) From his first day as the Bills head coach, Rex Ryan was looking to trade linebacker Kiko Alonso, according to a report from NFL.com's Ian Rapoport. 

One of the first things Ryan wanted to do with the Bills, the report states, was trade Alonso. On Tuesday, CBSSports.com NFL Insider Jason La Canfora confirmed the Eagles and Bills had a plan in place to swap Alonso for running back LeSean McCoy. ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported the story. 

It's a strange revelation considering Alonso's stellar 2013 season as a rookie, when he totaled 159 tackles and four interceptions. However, he's coming off of an ACL tear that was sustained last offseason. 

Without Alonso in 2014, the Bills were still able to finish fourth in the NFL in yards allowed per game at 312.2 per game. 


Report: Giants LB Jacquian Williams to become free agent
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Giants linebacker Jacquian Williams will become a free agent on March 10, according to a report from the New York Daily News

A concussion limited Williams to just nine games in 2014. In those games, he recorded 78 tackles and three pass deflections. 


Report: Cowboys sign LB Keith Rivers
(3/4/2015) The Cowboys signed linebacker Keith Rivers to a one-year deal for the veteran minimum Wednesday, DallasCowboys.com reports.

Rivers, 28, played three seasons with the Bengals after being selected ninth overall in the 2008 NFL Draft before missing the 2011 season with an injury. He went on to play for the Giants and the Bills, but spent just one year in Buffalo, making the Cowboys his third team in three seasons. He started a career-low three games during his one season with the Bills in 2014.


Report: Giants talks with Antrel Rolle not productive
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) It doesn't look like safety Antrel Rolle will be with the Giants next season. 

According to the New York Daily News, contract negotiations between the two parties haven't gone well. Rolle doesn't want to come back for much less than the $7 million he earned for each of the 2013 and 2014 seasons. 

It's also possible that Rolle winds up with the Dolphins, the report states. 

Rolle recorded 87 tackles and three interceptions in 2014. 


 
 
 
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