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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
Gerald McCoy returns to practice
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:20 am ET) Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who missed Thursday's loss in Atlanta with a broken hand, returned to practice Monday, reports the Tampa Tribune. He's on track to play Sunday at Pittsburgh.

Steelers reunite with James Harrison
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:17 am ET) The Steelers made it official, signing linebacker James Harrison less than three weeks after he announced his retirement, reports the National Football Post. Harrison, 36, made five Pro Bowls with the Steelers, then played one season with the Bengals.

Big-play Antone Smith not worth much interest
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(10:09 am ET) Fantasy owners hounding the waiver wire ahead of Week 4 for running back help will likely let their mouse linger over Falcons running back Antone Smith, who has scored double-digit Fantasy points in two of the first three games. Unfortunately, Smith probably won't provide much help moving forward.

Smith is currently 32nd among running backs in standard Fantasy scoring, but that ranking belies the limited nature of his role in Atlanta's offense. Smith has broken off touchdowns of 38 and 54 yards this season, with those two plays accounting for 20 of his 22 total Fantasy points this season.  Smith clearly has big-play ability, but there just isn't much of a reason to add someone who has touched the ball nine times in three games.

Smith was fourth among Falcons' running backs in snap percentage in Thursday's blowout win over the Buccaneers, as he saw the field just eight times on offense. Though Smith is currently one of the most-viewed players in CBSSports.com leagues for Tuesday, there is little reason to consider adding him. 


Giants make roster moves
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:01 am ET) The Giants signed offensive lineman Eric Herman to their practice squad and waived offensive lineman Mark Asper. Herman had been waived Friday following his early reinstatement from a four-game suspension, reports the New York Daily News.

Odell Beckham won't practice this week
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:56 am ET) Giants rookie receiver Odell Beckham won't practice this week as he continues to deal with a hamstring injury he first suffered in June, reports the New York Daily News.

Ike Taylor could return in 6-8 weeks
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:43 am ET) The Steelers haven't said how long starting cornerback Ike Taylor will be out due to his broken forearm, but the injury typically requires six to eight weeks to heal, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. The paper expects William Gay and Antwon Blake to fill in for Taylor.

Rex Ryan stands by Geno Smith
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:37 am ET) Jets coach Rex Ryan told reporters he doesn't believe quarterback Geno Smith has regressed, despite Smith throwing two bad interceptions Monday night. The first was returned 45 yards for a touchdown.

"Guys, this ain't the same quarterback as he was at the beginning of last year, I don't care what people say," Ryan said, per NFL.com. "Did he make a mistake? Absolutely. Their quarterback made a mistake but the difference was, they caught the [interception] and we didn't. ... I feel good about this football team and I feel good about Geno Smith."

Smith, who threw for 316 yards, missed several open receivers and guided his team to one touchdown in six red-zone trips.

"I've gotta make sure that when we get down in that red zone -- we were 1 for 6 today and that's completely awful," Smith said. "We don't ever expect to go 1 for 6 because we hold ourself to a high standard, and it starts with me."

Jaguars re-sign Sherrod Martin
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:24 am ET) The Jaguars re-signed safety Sherrod Martin after cutting him late last month.

Hammy limits Eric Decker to 12 snaps
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:21 am ET) Jets receiver Eric Decker felt his hamstring tighten up during Monday's loss to the Bears. That's why he played just 12 snaps, none in the second half.

"When it tightens up, you can get it warmed up, loosened up, but it was at the point where it wasn't loosening up," he told The Star-Ledger.

Decker said he decided to play because of how he felt in pregame warmups. "It was a soreness and everyone has soreness -- I've played through a lot of soreness in my career so far," he said. "I felt like I wanted to give it a chance; I didn't want to sit out. I didn't do anything stupid. I pulled myself at the right time."

Decker caught his only target for 19 yards. He'll be evaluated throughout the week as the Jets prepare to face the Lions on Sunday.


Ravens to use committee approach at tight end
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:10 am ET) With tight end Dennis Pitta out for the season following hip surgery, the Ravens will use a committee to replace him, reports ESPN.com. The website expects tight end Owen Daniels, fullback Kyle Juszczyk and receiver Marlon Brown to assume larger roles in Pitta's absence.

Daniels is in his ninth season with offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, and "he's also gained the trust of Joe Flacco with his toughness over the middle," the report said. But Daniels doesn't gain much separation anymore and has missed 26 games over the past five seasons, the website added.


 
 
 
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