QB Brandon Weeden
(2012 QB Rank – #25, 15.8 FPts/G)
After a middling rookie season in which he threw for 3,385 yards with 14 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, Weeden will enter training camp in a fight to keep his starting job. New head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner will run a vertical passing attack, which should play to Weeden’s strengths. However, he will need to display better decision-making skills if he is to beat out veteran free agent acquisition Jason Campbell. In fairness to Weeden, the Browns lacked consistent playmakers at the skill positions last season and Pat Shurmur’s West Coast offense wasn’t suited to his skill set. In 2013, the Browns will feature better weapons on offense as a result of the addition of Davone Bess and the continued development of players such as Josh Gordon, Greg Little and Jordan Cameron. Weeden shapes up as a QB3 on draft day.
QB Jason Campbell
(2012 QB Rank – #43, 4.8 FPts/G)
After a second consecutive offseason with no starting jobs on offer, Campbell decided to join the Browns where he will compete with Brandon Weeden to be the team’s starting quarterback. Unfortunately for Campbell, he is little more than a fallback option at this point of his career. Look for the Browns to hand the starting job to Weeden, with Campbell in reserve if he falters. While Campbell may earn a couple of starts in 2013, he isn’t likely to be much of a fantasy factor.
RB Trent Richardson
(2012 RB Rank – #9, 13.6 FPts/G; #8 PPR, 17.0 FPts/G)
While most rookie running backs haven’t lived up to their offseason billing over the past few years, Trent Richardson certainly bucked that trend in 2012. The Browns runner had a solid rookie season, rushing for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns while catching 51 passes for 367 yards and another score. He managed to stay productive while playing through knee and rib injuries—issues that caused him to average a somewhat disappointing 3.6 yards per carry, although Cleveland’s porous offensive line also contributed in that regard. The injury issues continued this offseason with Richardson missing time with a shin injury that should be fully healed by training camp. Just one year into his career, Richardson has already proven that he has the potential to be an elite, workhorse running back, provided he can stay healthy. He excels as a short-yardage runner, is already one of the league’s better pass-catching backs and is obviously a solid runner, both inside and outside the tackles. Let’s just hope his career doesn’t parallel that of Steven Jackson, another do-it-all, workhorse back who was saddled with an inferior team for the majority of his career. Consider Richardson a mid-tier RB1 who is a bit of an injury risk.
RB Montario Hardesty
(2012 RB Rank – #75, 3.5 FPts/G; #89 PPR, 3.7 FPts/G)
A 2010 second-round pick, Hardesty suffered a season-ending injury during the preseason of his rookie year and produced little in 2011 and 2012. He was marginally more productive last season, averaging 4.2 yards per carry on 65 rushes and scoring once. But of course the injury bug bit him again, causing him to miss the first five games of the season as well as another contest. In his three years in the league, he has played in 20 games and missed 28 due to injury. There are no guarantees he will earn a spot on the Browns’ roster, let alone get significant touches behind Trent Richardson. If he wins the backup job, he rates as a lower-tier handcuff.
RB Dion Lewis
(2012 RB Rank – #109, 2.6 FPts/G; #117 PPR, 2.9 FPts/G)
The Browns traded for the Eagles’ 2011 fifth-round pick this past offseason to provide some competition for the backup running back spots behind starter Trent Richardson. Lewis saw precious little playing time during his two years in Philadelphia and isn’t a lock to be on the Browns’ roster come opening day. He will likely need to earn a spot on special teams in order to beat out one or more of Montario Hardesty, Chris Ogbonnaya and Brandon Jackson.
RB Chris Ogbonnaya
(2012 RB Rank – #94, 2.0 FPts/G; #75 PPR, 4.2 FPts/G)
After a pair of solid performances subbing as a starter in 2011, Ogbonnaya was an afterthought in 2012 with just 32 touches. He subbed on third downs and was reasonably productive as a receiver with 24 receptions for 187 yards. Ogbonnaya has decent size at 225 pounds but he doesn’t posses good speed and has little ability to make defenders miss. He will battle Montario Hardesty to be Trent Richardson’s backup, but that’s not a role that will provide many touches. He is only worth owning in large leagues, provided he wins the backup role.
RB Brandon Jackson
(2012 RB Rank – #122, 3.7 FPts/G; #130 PPR, 4.7 FPts/G)
Yep, Brandon Jackson is still kicking round. After four mostly subpar years in Green Bay, Jackson signed with Cleveland prior to the 2012 season but he barely saw the field. Jackson is little more than injury insurance at this stage of his career.
WR Josh Gordon
(2012 WR Rank – #38, 6.9 FPts/G; #40 PPR, 10.0 FPts/G)
The Browns used a second-round pick in the 2012 supplemental draft to acquire Gordon, and the expectation was that he would spend most of his rookie season in a complimentary role. Considered a raw prospect coming out of Baylor, the 6’3”, 225-pound Gordon had a surprisingly productive rookie season, hauling in 50 of his 95 targets for 805 yards and five touchdowns. His 16.1 average yards per reception was impressive and Gordon appeared on the verge of providing the Browns with their first true No. 1 wide receiver since they re-entered the league. However, a two-game suspension damped those expectations and clouded his future in Cleveland since another positive drug test will result in a 16-game suspension. While that may prevent the Browns from offering a lucrative long-term deal when his rookie contract expires, it doesn’t have a major impact on his 2013 fantasy prospects. With the Browns moving to a vertical passing attack that suits his physical abilities, Gordon could still top 1,000 receiving yards despite the suspension. Consider him a high-end WR with major upside this season.
WR Greg Little
(2012 WR Rank – #51, 5.6 FPts/G; #50 PPR, 9.0 FPts/G)
At 6’2” and 231 pounds with solid speed, Little looks the part of a potential No. 1 wide receiver. Unfortunately, he hasn’t produced like one despite being given ample opportunities. This is likely his last season to prove to the Browns that he is a worthy starter. After a rookie season in which he caught just 61 of his 120 targets for 709 yards and a pair of scores, Little showed little improvement in 2013, hauling in 53 passes for 647 yards and four touchdowns. He has displayed inconsistent hands and very little impact as a deep receiver. And that’s a relevant factor since new head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner run a vertical passing attack. Little has the physical abilities to be a solid receiver and he is entering his third year in the league, so he is definitely worth taking a flier on. Consider him a WR4 with upside in 2013.
WR Davone Bess
(2012 WR Rank – #58, 6.4 FPts/G; #50 PPR, 11.1 FPts/G)
After five years in the league, Bess’s upside is pretty well known. If you’re looking for 50 receptions, he’s accomplished that feat every year. If you’re looking for over 500 yards, he’s done that every year. Unfortunately, his career highs of 820 receiving yards and five touchdowns aren’t enough to get anyone excited. He brings his act to Cleveland this season and we can expect more of the same in 2013. Bess is a solid slot receiver but he lacks speed and playmaking ability. He rates as a WR6 in 2013, and you can move him up a tad in PPR leagues.
WR David Nelson
(2012 WR Rank – #167, 3.1 FPts/G; #167 PPR, 5.1 FPts/G)
After a solid second season in the league in 2011, with 61 receptions for 658 yards and five touchdowns, Nelson appeared to have a good future in Buffalo. A torn ACL in Week 1 ended his 2012 season, however, and the Bills chose not to tender him as an RFA. He joined the Browns this offseason and will enter training camp fourth on the depth chart at wide receiver. A big target at 6’5”, 215 pounds, Nelson has the size to play outside but was used mostly in the slot by the Bills. In Cleveland, he will likely back up both outside receivers as well as Davone Bess out of the slot. Fantasy translation: barring injury, there isn’t much upside here.
WR Travis Benjamin
(2012 WR Rank – #84, 4.0 FPts/G; #90 PPR, 5.5 FPts/G)
A fourth-round pick in 2012, Benjamin’s future in Cleveland looked bright as he was expected to carve out a role as a slot receiver alongside Josh Gordon and Greg Little. After a year in which he caught 18 passes for 298 yards and a pair of scores, and with a new coaching staff in town, Benjamin shapes up as the fifth receiver on a crowded depth chart with the additions of Davone Bess and David Nelson, both of whom have been productive working out of the slot. At this point, Benjamin will likely be using his blazing speed (4.34 40-yard dash time) returning kicks or delivering pizzas.
WR Jordan Norwood
(2012 WR Rank – #136, 6.9 FPts/G; #134 PPR, 13.4 FPts/G)
A preseason star in 2011, Norwood was mostly a bust when the lights came on, hauling in only 23 receptions for 268 yards and a score. In 2012, Norwood lost playing time to rookies Josh Gordon and Travis Benjamin, and he will be in a dogfight to earn a roster spot in 2013. There’s no fantasy appeal here, folks.
TE Jordan Cameron
(2012 WR Rank – #47, 2.2 FPts/G; #45 PPR, 3.7 FPts/G)
The good news for Cameron is that incumbent starter Ben Watson wasn’t re-signed and new head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner have been very proficient at getting production out of the tight end position (see Antonio Gates and Greg Olsen). The not-so-good news is that Cameron, the Browns fourth-round pick in the 2011 draft, hasn’t produced much during his first two years in the league (just 26 receptions for 259 yards and a touchdown on his 53 targets). Cameron clearly has the ability to be a solid pass-receiving tight end, but his poor blocking ability doesn’t help keep him on the field at all times. Consider him a mid-tier TE2 with upside.