by Greg Talcott
What’s worse than being a fan of professional sports in Ohio? Nothing. Sure, maybe LeBron will bring in a title before all is said and done, but the Cleveland Browns have no illusions about ending the championship drought anytime soon. One quick look up and down the Browns’ roster and you see more holes than the AVN Awards. The last time the Browns tasted anything resembling success was during the Bush Administration; the Browns haven’t made the playoffs since 2002 and haven’t had a winning season since 2007. Last year started well at 7-4 under first year head coach Mike Pettine, but ended miserably with a 5-game losing streak. Will 2015 be any better? Probably not, in fact the Browns may be hard-pressed to win 7 games. However, there is but one player on this roster capable of changing that outlook for Browns fans and that is…
Johnny Manziel. Don’t laugh, this is not a joke – Johnny Manziel is the only player capable of turning this year’s Browns team into a winner. What? Do you think Josh McCown is more likely? He has had exactly one good season out of 13 and that was with the clown prince of offensive gurus, the Canadian equivalent of snake oil; Marc Trestman. Any Bears fan can tell you those stats were the result of Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall playing out of their minds to keep the Bears competitive; not the brilliance of Josh McCown. According to Manziel, “Johnny Football” is a thing of the past and he is moving on with his life and focusing on his career. Manziel didn’t lack talent coming into the league, he lacked maturity. I take Johnny Manziel for his word on that and believe he has the ability to beat out Josh McCown. If he cannot beat him for the job he doesn’t belong in the league because Josh McCown is not a good quarterback, he is average at best. If Manziel were to come out and play well he could make something out of this offense which really sucks.
The Browns’ running back situation is the red-headed step child of the team. Any fantasy owner who got caught in the revolving door that is the Browns’ backfield likely didn’t win their league last year. It’s not a lack of potential in Terrance West, Isaiah Crowell, or rookie Duke Johnson; the question is who do you choose? None of these guys are good enough to handcuff let alone drafting one over the other, with Duke Johnson being a possible exception. The problem is there is no way to know how many touches these guys get each game leaving owners in a bind. Best advice is for fantasy owners to wait until the season starts and take a “plug and play” approach based on your roster needs and favorable match-ups.
How about wide receiver? Well, Josh Gordon isn’t coming back anytime soon so the Browns are turning to newly acquired Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe in addition to Andrew Hawkins coming off a breakout year. From a fantasy standpoint, Hartline and Bowe are no better than WR3 in deep leagues and arguably spot WR4 or bench players in smaller leagues. We need to see chemistry first before choosing a WR from this group with anything but a late round pick.
The strength of the team is on defense, which ranked 9th last year in points allowed vs 27th for the Browns pathetic offense. Seriously; watching a Browns game is worse than attending a 3-day conference on variable annuities at a Holiday Inn in Minneapolis in the middle of January, hosted by a guy whose tie is 7 inches above his belt line and the meals consist of a “taco bar” or assorted, unlabeled lunch-meat sandwiches. Kevin Costner reading aloud from the Kalamazoo Yellow Pages while Kenny G plays in the background is more exciting than watching the Browns play offense. That said they have a good defense; for fantasy owners, the Browns’ defense could be top 10 this year.