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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
Patriots axe CB Alfonzo Dennard, two others
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:25 pm ET) As expected, the Patriots have announced the release of cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who exceeded expectations for three years after having been taken in the seventh round of the 2012 draft.

Dennard started 20 of 29 games in which he played and racked up 92 tackles and five interceptions. He also started in four postseason games with two picks. But he played just six games a year ago and lost time to a hamstring injury.

Long snapper Tyler Ott and linebacker Deontae Skinner were also cut loose by the Patriots on Tuesday.


Report: Chiefs release quarterback Terrelle Pryor
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:14 pm ET) The Chiefs have reportedly cut ties with quarterback Terrelle Pryor, according to Pro Football Talk. 

Pryor was signed by Kansas City in January and coach Andy Reid wanted to give him a chance to earn the starting quarterback role.

"We're going to give him an opportunity to play quarterback and see how he does," Reid said. "He’s there lifting everyday and doing his thing. We can’t meet with him but he shows up everyday and does what he can do."

Pryor last started as a quarterback in 2013 with the Raiders, totaling 2,374 yards with seven touchdown passes and 11 interceptions.


Cardinals cut Zach Bauman, Roc Carmichael
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(3:47 pm ET) The Cardinals released running back Zach Bauman and cornerback Roc Carmichael on Tuesday, reports Fox Sports Arizona.

Bauman and Carmichael did not appear in any games last season.


Vikings WR Mike Wallace on his speed: Nobody can run with me
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(3:35 pm ET) Vikings wide receiver Mike Wallace was not shy in expressing confidence in his speed, reports the Pioneer Press.

"Without a doubt, I'm the fastest player in the NFL," Wallace said. "If somebody feels foggy about that, we can [race]. I'm never going to back down from competition."

Wallace was recently acquired in a trade with the Dolphins. He struggled to connect on the deep ball with Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill during the last two seasons, but he expects that to change with the Vikings.

"The last couple of years I haven't been able to showcase my separation, but I'm positive that it will happen now," Wallace said.


Patriots DE Jabaal Sheard embraces his versatilty
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:06 pm ET) Patriots newcomer Jabaal Sheard will have a stable position at defensive end, which could prove beneficial to his career. He is coming from a Cleveland team that used three different defensive coordinators during his time there and utilized him both as a defensive end in a 4-3 and outside linebacker in a 3-4.

The Patriots generally remain in a four-man front. But Sheard is claiming an appreciation for the Browns for developing his versatility.

"Throughout the course of the years, I learned three different defenses," Sheard told NESN. "I learned how to drop back. It made me diverse and able to do a number of different things. I think the three defensive coordinators definitely helped me. I think it prepared me to be a coach some day. We'll see how that goes."

Sheard's sack totals decreased every year until the last one with the Browns. It peaked at 8.5 as a rookie before dropping to seven and 5.5 the next two seasons.


Cardinals TE John Carlson announces retirement
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:55 pm ET) Cardinals tight end John Carlson has decided to retire from the NFL, the team announced.

"After much thought and consideration, my wife Danielle and I know that this is best decision for us," Carlson said in a statement. "I was blessed to play seven seasons in the NFL for three tremendous organizations - the Cardinals, Vikings and Seahawks. I will always treasure the experiences and relationships made during that time but I'm also very excited about the next phase of my life and what's ahead."

Carlson announced the decision Tuesday and the Cardinals placed him on the reserve/retired list. In 2014, he caught 33 passes for 350 yards and one touchdown.


Patriots LT Nate Solder: 'I would love to stay'
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:52 pm ET) Patriots left tackle Nate Solder is hoping to stick around despite being in the final season of his rookie contract.

"I would love to stay," he told the Boston Herald. "...Who knows what will happen? My approach with that, too, is just to do the best I can while I'm here."

Solder is set to earn a guaranteed $7.438 million in 2015. The team could work out an extension with him to lessen a cap hit or prevent him from becoming a free agent in March. The Patriots did draft offensive linemen over the weekend, but none play his position.


Cowboys' Randy Gregory: 'I don't think it's a weed problem'
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(12:04 pm ET) Despite failing a drug test at the scouting combine in February, Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory said he doesn't have a marijuana problem, reports The Dallas Morning News.

"I haven't touched it," he said. "I'm feeling real good, too. This is a high in itself, to be honest. I'm high on life right now, and I don't want to lose this high."

Gregory did admit that his decision making needs to improve, which he said will come with more maturity.

"That's something I've definitely been working on and something I can definitely fix," Gregory said. "I'm 22 years old, but I think I carry myself real well and I think I need to carry myself a little bit better as far as decision making goes. I think a lot of people are getting tied up in the weed and think it's just a weed problem. I don't think it's a weed problem. I think it's decision making. I think I'm immature. I'm definitely working on that. I want to prove everyone wrong and I want to do it with this team. I think this is the best team I can do that with."


Cowboys' Rolando McClain has 2013 charges dismissed
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:56 am ET) Prosecutors dismissed the 2013 charges against Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain, reports the Associated Press.

Court records obtained by the Associated Press indicated charges from an April 2013 incident were dismissed. During the incident, McClain was arrested after he allegedly cursed at officers. He was convicted of misdemeanor charges for resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, but appealed for another trial.


Packers bypass option on Nick Perry's contract
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:30 am ET) The Packers decided not to exercise the fifth-year option in linebacker Nick Perry's contract, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

By bypassing the option, Perry can become a free agent after the 2015 season. In 2014, he produced 23 tackles and three sacks in 15 games.


 
 
 
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