QB Colt McCoy
Entering 2010, the Browns planned on keeping McCoy nailed to the bench behind veterans Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace, but when injuries struck, McCoy took over, ending up with eight starts. As a rookie, he played with decent poise and produced reasonably well given the sad state of his receiving corps. He threw for 1,576 yards and six touchdowns with nine interceptions. However, a closer look reveals that six of those nine interceptions came in the Browns’ last two games against the powerful Steelers and Ravens defenses. But swap one body part and my grandpa would be my gramma and vice versa. While McCoy looks like he could be good for the Browns in 2011, the same can’t be said for Cleveland’s wide receivers. Mohammad Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie have done nothing in their first two years to suggest they are starter worthy, and rookie third-round pick Greg Little has plenty of talent but missed all of his senior season because of a suspension. That makes McCoy one of the least desirable fantasy options at quarterback but a player worthy of a spot on your dynasty league roster.
RB Peyton Hillis
Not much was expected of Hillis after the Broncos sent him to Cleveland in exchange for former first-round pick Brady Quinn. But by the end of 2010, Hillis had made that trade look as lopsided as any in recent memory, finishing with 1,177 rushing yards, 477 receiving yards, and 13 touchdowns and establishing himself as one of the top rushers in the AFC. The only blemishes were his eight fumbles and a weak finish, with just 335 total yards and no touchdowns over his final five games. That leaves two questions unanswered: is he the player we saw for the first 11 games or the one we saw over the last five games, and will his slow finish cause the Browns to reduce his workload in 2011? Look for Hillis to produce somewhere in between after the Browns cut back on his touches. That leaves him as a solid RB2 heading into the season.
RB Montario Hardesty
Coming into Cleveland as a second-round pick in the 2010 draft, and into a depth chart with Jerome Harrison at the top of the list, Hardesty seemed to have a bright future. However, an injury that ruined his rookie season and a career year from Peyton Hillis has Hardesty pegged as little more than a backup for the foreseeable future. The injury came as little surprise to those who followed Hardesty’s injury-plagued college career. With Hillis atop the depth chart, Hardesty’s preseason outlook is primarily as a handcuff. Considering his injury, the current state of the Browns offense, and the fact that Hillis is entrenched as the starter, Hardesty is waiver wire material or a low-round draft pick at best in redraft leagues.
WR Greg Little
With no proven wide receiver on the depth chart, Little stands a decent chance of earning a good amount of playing time in 2011 despite missing all of his final college season because of a suspension. Unfortunately, the Browns offense doesn’t feature a proven quarterback either, and the team’s passing game has been among the worst in the league over the last few seasons. Little has prototypical size and speed for the West Coast offense the Browns will use next season, but expecting consistent production from the talented rookie is a tad unrealistic. Look for Little to emerge as Cleveland’s top wide receiver prospect, but don’t rely on his being useful as a fantasy starter in 2011. For dynasty leaguers only.
WR Mohamed Massaquoi
In 2011, Massaquoi enters his third year, playing on a team that lacks a proven No. 1 wideout and is moving to more of a pass-based offense. Sounds promising, no? Not so fast. Massaquoi struggled during his second season, catching just two more passes than he did in his first year and averaging just 13.4 yards per catch after being a big-play threat as a rookie (with 18.4 yards per reception). To earn the role as the team’s top threat at receiver, he needs to beat out Brian Robiskie—another disappointing player entering his third year—and rookie Greg Little, who missed all of his senior college season. The opportunity dictates that Massaquoi be drafted as a fantasy backup or a WR5 at worst, but don’t be surprised if he busts in 2011.
WR Brian Robiskie
For the first 29 games of his career, Robiskie looked like a bust. Then the light seemed to come on over the final three games of last season, with Robiskie catching nine passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns—the only touchdowns of his career. With the Browns moving to a West Coast offense, Robiskie’s chances of breaking out in his third year clearly improved, especially considering that he has the size and pedigree to excel in that type of offense. Although the Browns are lacking in talent at wide receiver, it is difficult to foresee Robiskie becoming a fantasy starter in 2011 when looking at his lack of production during his first two years (36 receptions for 416 yards and three touchdowns). At this point, he is a fantasy backup in all but the deepest leagues and waiver wire material in leagues with shallow rosters.
WR Josh Cribbs
Cribbs is one of the most electrifying players in the league and arguably the best returner in the game (although in 2010 he did fail to score on a kick or punt return for the first time in his six-year career). However, that hasn’t translated into fantasy success as a rusher or a receiver, and there is scant evidence to suggest that’s going to change in 2011. He had just 358 combined rushing and receiving yards on 43 touches last season, an extremely low number considering the lack of playmakers the Browns featured on offense. Consider that, as well as his lack of production in Cleveland’s base offense throughout his career, and you’ll find that you can do better than Cribbs on draft day.
TE Ben Watson
Prior to joining the Browns in 2010, Watson was viewed largely as a player who had failed to capitalize on his considerable athletic gifts as a pro. Despite possessing blazing speed for a tight end, he never emerged as a consistent threat for a Patriots team that relied heavily on the passing game. Moving to a Cleveland offense with questionable talent at best, little was expected. However, Watson put together perhaps the best year of his career, leading AFC tight ends in receptions. With a dearth of talent at wide receiver, Watson caught 68 passes for 763 yards (both career highs) and three touchdowns. Moving into 2011, the Browns have improved the depth chart at wide receiver and will be moving to a West Coast offense, which traditionally benefits the tight end. Look for those factors to negate one another and for Watson to remain a TE2.