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The Browns took a big swing this offseason in trading for Deshaun Watson, but he'll only be available for the final six games of the season after agreeing to a settlement that will have him suspended for the first 11 games of the season following the NFL's investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct. That leaves the Browns dependent on Jacoby Brissett to start at QB for most of the season, which makes it awfully hard to get excited about this offense. 

2021 Review

Record: 8-9 (19)
PPG: 20.5 (20)27.1 (7)
YPG: 340.6 (18)
Pass YPG: 195.3 (27)
Rush YPG: 145.4 (4)
PAPG: 30.6 (28)
RAPG: 28.5 (9)

2021 Fantasy finishes

QB: Baker Mayfield QB25
RB: Nick Chubb RB13, Kareem Hunt RB50
WR: Jarvis Landry* WR51, Donovan Peoples-Jones WR63
TE: David Njoku TE22, Austin Hooper TE24
*No longer with team

Number to know: 1

That's how many times Nick Chubb reached double digits in Fantasy scoring last season in games where he didn't score a touchdown. It's not quite right to say he's a "touchdown-or-bust" player -- and it wouldn't really be a fair critique, given how much of a focal point he is near the goal line and how often he scores as a result -- but as long as he remains effectively a non-factor in the passing game, Chubb is going to be more reliant on finding the end zone than just about any top-tier running back in the game.

That limits both his floor and ceiling on a weekly and season-long basis. Could he be a top-five running back in PPR scoring? Yeah, probably, but the path there is a narrow one -- he would need to stay healthy for every game and probably be in the top two or three in both rushing yards and touchdowns. And even that might not be enough -- he was second in the league in rushing yards in just 14 games last season and was RB12 in per-game scoring at a relatively paltry 15.5. 

Of course, Chubb is just RB14 in ADP at NFC right now, so his price is more than fair for the kind of player he is. There's room for him to outperform that ADP, but it probably requires him to find the end zone a decent amount more than he did last season, and that's where it gets somewhat tough for me to make the leap. He's unlikely to be bad, but with Jacoby Brissett as the Browns QB, scoring opportunities will likely be even more limited, narrowing his path further. 

This matters less in non-PPR formats, though you'd still feel better about Chubb's chances of having a big touchdown total if you felt better about the state of the Browns offense for the whole season. All in all, Chubb seems like a perfectly fine pick around the beginning of the third round, but probably one with little upside to emerge as a significant value. 

2021 Offseason

Draft Picks 

3. (68) Martin Emerson, CB
3. (78) Alex Wright, DE
3. (99) David Bell, WR
4. (108) Perrion Winfrey, DT
4. (124) Cade York, K
5. (156) Jerome Ford, RB
6. (202) Michael Woods, WR
7. (223) Isaiah Thomas, DE
7. (246) Dawson Deaton, OL

Additions

QB Deshaun Watson, WR Amari Cooper, WR Jakeem Grant, OL Chris Hubbard, LB Anthony Walker, QB Jacoby Brissett, DE Chase Winovich

Key losses

WR Jarvis Landry, C JD Tretter, DE Jadeveon Clowney, TE Austin Hooper, DE Takkarist McKinley, DL Malik Jackson

Available Opportunity 

0 carries, 0 RB targets, 168 WR targets, 61 TE targets 

2022 Preview

Rankings

Award
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Jamey Eisenberg
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Dave Richard
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Heath Cummings
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Chris Towers
Nick Chubb14131515
Kareem Hunt28253137
Amari Cooper34393220
David Njoku16121716

Chris Towers' projections

QBDeshaun WatsonPA: 180, YD: 1371, TD: 10, INT: 5; RUSH -- ATT: 27, YD: 148, TD: 2
QBJacoby BrissettPA: 180, YD: 2463, TD: 16, INT: 9; RUSH -- ATT: 50, YD: 180, TD: 3
RBNick ChubbCAR: 250, YD: 1210, TD: 10, TAR: 27, REC: 23, YD: 196, TD: 1
RBKareem HuntCAR: 142, YD: 641, TD: 7, TAR: 60, REC: 50, YD: 394, TD: 2
WRAmari CooperTAR: 130, REC: 78, YD: 901, TD: 6
WRDonovan Peoples-JonesTAR: 88, REC: 45, YD: 663, TD: 4
WRAnthony SchwartzTAR: 51, REC: 33, YD: 452, TD: 2
TEDavid NjokuTAR: 81, REC: 54, YD: 690, TD: 4

Biggest Question

How will Deshaun Watson's absence and subsequent return impact things? 

This is a tough question to answer, except to say that I expect the Browns to be even more run-heavy with Jacoby Brissett than normal. I'm operating under the assumption that the Browns will try to control the clock and limit Brissett's exposure, though that would have been easier when it was a shorter suspension, because the schedule early on is pretty easy. Once Watson is eligible to return, they'll start passing more, but probably still less often than your average team -- partially because of Watson's scrambling ability and partially because that's just how this team seems to want to operate on offense. Still, Watson has been a historically efficient passer and figures to raise the level of the offense. A late-season breakout for the offensive pieces here is possible, though given how late Watson's return is in the schedule, that shouldn't really factor much into how you value these players. A lot can change between now and early December.  

One sleeper, one breakout and one bust

Sleeper
DET Detroit • #19
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
2021 Stats
REC
34
TAR
58
REYDS
597
TD
3
FPTS/G
7.8

Peoples-Jones would be a real breakout candidate if Watson were playing a whole season, but even with Brissett set to start the first third, he's someone I'm interested in as a late-round flier. Peoples-Jones flashed upside as a big-play receiver last season, averaging a league-best 17.6 yards per catch, and he was showing signs of figuring things out over a stretch in the middle of the season where he averaged 60 yards on 3.3 catches per game, with three touchdowns in six games. Peoples-Jones is unlikely to ever be more than a touchdown-or-bust receiver unless this passing game takes a big step forward overall, but the 23-year-old could be a high-upside bench piece if he breaks out. 

Breakout
CLE Cleveland • #85
Age: 27 • Experience: 7 yrs.
2021 Stats
REC
36
TAR
53
REYDS
475
TD
4
FPTS/G
6.7

With Austin Hooper and his 61 targets out of the way, Njoku figures to step in as the team's primary tight end. He'll share the field with Harrison Bryant plenty, but Njoku should be one of the team's top options in the passing game, and if he can push to something like 90 targets, there's a chance he's a viable starting option at tight end this season. He's always had the size and athleticism to be a difference maker at the position, and while this figures to remain a fairly low-volume pass offense yet again, it's not unreasonable to think Njoku could be the No. 2 receiver here, with the potential for career-best numbers. 

Bust
CLE Cleveland • #24
Age: 28 • Experience: 6 yrs.
2021 Stats
RUYDS
1259
REC
20
REYDS
174
TD
9
FPTS/G
15.4

It's unlikely Chubb will be a true bust, in that he's probably got a pretty high floor thanks to the Browns rush volume. However, he's still being drafted as a borderline RB1, and unless there's a downgrade in his price in the last few weeks of drafts, I'll probably just avoid. In NFC drafts, he's RB14 with a 24.5 ADP, nearly a full round ahead of Cam Akers, James Conner, and Travis Etienne, the next tier at the position. He probably belongs more in the third round range, because there just isn't a ton of upside here in an offense that figures to provide relatively few scoring opportunities. Chubb probably won't lose you many weeks, but he's probably not going to win you many in a low-upside offense.