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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 WR Julio Jones will play pivotal game vs. Carolina
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:15 am ET) Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones will play Sunday's pivotal regular season finale against the Panthers, according to Albert Breer of the NFL Network.

Last week against the Saints, Jones needed to test hip injury during warmups before he was cleared to play. He turned nine targets into seven catches for 116 yards. According to Breer's report, this week the Falcons feel confident enough about his progress that he won't need to go through any hurdles prior to kickoff. Jones has 100 receptions for 1,535 yards and six scores on the year.

Atlanta opened up as a 2 1/2-point home favorite. The line has now moved to 3 points in favor of the Falcons. The winner takes the NFC South title.


Report: Falcons' Steven Jackson won't play vs. Panthers
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:12 am ET) Falcons running back Steven Jackson will not play Sunday's pivotal regular season finale against the Panthers, according to Albert Breer of the NFL Network.

Jackson entered this week as questionable after suffering a quadriceps injury against New Orleans in Week 16. He compiled 707 yards and six touchdowns on the ground this season. If Jackson is inactive, Jacquizz Rodgers and rookie Devonta Freeman will share the load. Rodgers received 12 touches and Freeman got eight against the Saints.

Atlanta opened up as a 2 1/2-point home favorite. The line has now moved to 3 points in favor of the Falcons. The winner takes the NFC South title.


Michael Sam: I made the right choice to come out
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/27/2014) Free-agent defensive end Michael Sam indicated in a documentary on the Oprah Winfrey Network that aired Saturday night that coming out was the right thing to do and that he has no regrets with how he handled the situation, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

"I did everything I was supposed to do. I did everything right," Sam said. "I am proud of how I handled things."

Sam dismissed the notion that his sexuality cost him a spot on an NFL team, adding, "But I do believe I'm a very talented football player and I'm going to continue working hard and try to get that opportunity to play in the league."

Sam was selected in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Rams after being named the SEC co-Defensive Player of the Year. He didn't survive final preseason cuts and spent seven weeks on the Cowboys' practice squad before being released.


Report: Talks ongoing on Browns WR Josh Gordon's 2016 status
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/27/2014) Talks are ongoing between the Browns and wide receiver Josh Gordon on whether he will lose his accrued season and the ability to become an unrestricted free agent in 2016 after being suspended for the last game of the season, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

Players need to be paid for six games of action in order to accrue a season, and Gordon played just his fifth game of the season in Week 16 after serving a 10-game suspension to begin the season. The talks involve whether Gordon will be a restricted or unrestricted free agent after the 2015 season. He finishes 2014 with 24 receptions and 303 yards in five games.


Report: Bengals A.J. Green will play Week 17 vs. Steelers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/27/2014) Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green said Saturday that he'll play in Sunday's Week 17 matchup with the Steelers, ESPN reports.

Green will be playing with a deep bicep bruise after being ruled probable on the team's final injury report. He'll probably take a painkilling shot before the game, per the report.

The Bengals are a 3 1/2-point underdog in Pittsburgh against the Steelers.


Report: Browns considering pursuing Ndamukong Suh
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/27/2014) The Browns are considering making a play for impending free-agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, ESPNCleveland.com reports.

The Browns are expected to have plenty of cap space with which to work during the offseason and could be willing to give the premium free-agent-to-be the richest contract for a defensive lineman in history, per the report. Suh has racked up 46 total tackles and 8 1/2 sacks in 15 games.


Redskins place Jason Hatcher on IR, add Travian Robertson
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/27/2014) The Redskins placed defensive end Jason Hatcher on injured reserve Saturday after claiming defensive tackle Travian Robertson off waivers from the Seahawks.

Hatcher has missed the last two games with a knee injury and wil be out Sunday as well when Washington closes out the season against Dallas as a 4-point home underdog. Robertson played in just one game with the Seahawks, recording one assisted tackle.


Seahawks sign Jimmy Staten to practice squad
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/27/2014) The Seahawks have resigned defensive lineman Jimmy Staten to the practice squad and released linebacker Mike Zimmer, the Everett Herald reports. Staten has bounced on and off the practice squad throughout his rookie season.


Bills downgrade Marcell Dareus, Stephon Gilmore to out for Week 17
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12/27/2014) The Bills have downgraded defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (knee) and cornerback Stephon Gilmore (concussion) from doubtful to out for Sunday's season finale at New England, per the team's official website. Both players did not make the trip to New England for Week 17.

Buffalo is a 5-point underdog on Sunday.


Patriots place CB Alfonzo Dennard on injured reserve
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12/27/2014) The Patriots placed cornerback Alfonzo Dennard on season-ending injured reserve with a hamstring injury, reports Field Yates of ESPN on Saturday. Dennard appeared in only six games this season, registering 15 combined tackles and one interception -- all season lows.

In corresponding moves, the Patriots elevated wide receiver Josh Boyce from the practice squad to take the spot of Dennard on the 53-man active roster. They re-signed Dax Swanson to the practice squad and released defensive lineman Cam Henderson.


 
 
 
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