Cleveland: Fantasy Wonderland? – Ryan Skolrud

by Ryan Skolrud

It has been quite a whirlwind over the last couple of days in the NFL as the negotiating period for teams and free agents officially began. This is usually the time when teams start talking trades in order to move salary cap money around for free agent signings. We saw a mega-deal when the Raiders traded for Antonio Brown of the Steelers and many thought that could be the biggest deal of the off-season. That was until Mike Garafalo of the NFL Network announced that the Browns had pulled off a deal to get Odell Beckham Jr. from the Giants.

BREAKING: The #Browns have traded for #Giants WR Odell Beckham, sources say. The deal is done. I am not joking.

So while the New York Giants are becoming more of a dumpster fire as we speak, the Browns are quickly becoming the team to beat in the AFC North. Fantasy football players are already drooling over the Cleveland offense right now as they think about their drafts in July and August.

Here is how the current Browns offense looks after the OBJ trade:

  • QB – Baker Mayfield
  • RB – Nick Chubb
  • RB – Kareem Hunt
  • RB – Duke Johnson
  • WR – Odell Beckham Jr
  • WR – Jarvis Landry
  • TE – David Njoku

The Browns already had been developing into a solid offense last season without the addition of Odell. They were 14th in the league in total rushing yards and 11th in yards per carry thanks to rookie standout Nick Chubb and an improved offensive line that was ranked second by Pro Football Focus for 2018. The passing offense finished 14th in pass yards and 11th in passing TDs. It can be argued that the Browns offense would have finished higher in both of those categories had Baker Mayfield (who set the rookie record for TD passes with 27 in 14 games besting Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson) been the starter in the first three weeks of the season instead of having to take over for Tyrod Taylor just before halftime of week three.

Now we add the All-World talent of Odell Beckham to the mix and you have the recipe for a dangerous offense that can attack you in so many different ways. Even if Kareem Hunt is suspended for the season with off the field issues from 2018, Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson make a great one-two punch as both backs ran for 5+ yards per carry in 2018 and can catch the ball out of the backfield. Jarvis Landry, teamed up again with his college teammate from LSU, can stay in the slot working short to mid-range routes, with Odell Beckham able to take the top off the defense with his speed and his ability to run the entire route tree. Lets not forget David Njoku, who really started to come into his own last year finishing as the TE9 in PPR despite disappearing from the stat sheet in a few games in 2018.

As far as Odell goes, there are multiple weapons on the Cleveland offense that teams will have to deal with, just like in New York (Barkley, Engram, Shepard). However, now he has a QB that is at the beginning of his career and has a strong arm and ability to move in the pocket. The offensive line can give Mayfield the time to throw as well as take pressure off the passing game by opening running lanes for Chubb, Duke and Hunt.

Beckham should not be held back by underwhelming QB play this season. He should be right back in the WR1 conversation with Julio Jones and DeAndre Hopkins and will be the first WR off the board in many fantasy drafts this next season. The only thing that can hold Odell back in 2019 is a contract dispute with his new team or his sideline antics causing issues in the locker room. We shall see which direction the 2019 season will go for he talented WR, but I have a feeling Cleveland is going to be in for a wild year!

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