Browns Sign Ben Tate

The Cleveland Browns have signed running back Ben Tate.

| 3 years ago
NFL: Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans

Browns Sign Ben Tate

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Houston TexansBen Tate has finally landed a full-time starting gig.

The 25-year-old signed on with Cleveland for two years and upwards of $7 million.

Prior to landing with the Browns, Tate spent four years with the Houston Texans. Houston drafted him in the second round of the 2010 draft.

The key concern with Tate is going to be durability. He’s missed a total of 24 regular season games in his short career. That includes his entire rookie season after he broke his ankle in a preseason game. He’s missed at least one game in each of his four seasons.

On the other hand, what attracts us to Tate is his production when healthy. The 5’11/217 power back has a 4.7 career yards-per-carry mark and has never been below 4.3 in a single season. He has 14 career touchdowns on 421 carries. Despite playing about half the snaps of other top backs last season, Tate forced 41 missed tackles – tied with Jamaal Charles for seventh-most in the league.

In Cleveland, Tate immediately slots in atop the team’s depth chart at tailback. He’s the clear favorite to lead the team in carries, but doesn’t figure to do a ton of damage as a pass-catcher.

There are three reasons for this:

First, Kyle Shanahan is calling the plays. Over the past two years, Shanahan’s offensive philosophy in Washington did not include utilizing running backs as receivers. Part of this was Alfred Morris’ struggles as a pass-catcher, but consider that only 12 percent of the team’s passes went to players lined up in the backfield in 2013. That’s well behind the 18 percent league average.

Second, Dion Lewis is currently penciled in as the team’s primary passing-down back. Lewis showed signs of big-time play-making ability after being acquired from Philadelphia last offseason. A poor man’s Darren Sproles, the 5’8/195 Lewis figures to be a busy as a receiver in 2013.

Finally, Tate isn’t a very good passing-down back. He’s averaging a poor 4.2 yards per reception over the last two seasons and graded out as our worst-rated receiving tailback of 2013. Additionally, he was one of the worst in the pass-blocking department. Unless significant improvement is seen during the offseason, Tate figures to be replaced in passing situations.

Although Tate is the favorite for lead-back duties, he’ll have some competition for reps. Edwin Baker showed well in a lead back role down the stretch, but that, of course, was for a different coaching staff. Fozzy Whittaker and Chris Ogbonnaya are also in the conversation.

The Browns are still without a franchise quarterback, but the team is headed in the right direction. The 2014 season will be another rebuilding effort, however, which will limit the team’s – and more specifically Tate’s – scoring opportunities.

I have Tate down for 226 carries, 970 yards, and seven rushing touchdowns. Add that to 28 receptions and 229 receiving yards and Tate makes for a capable RB2 in fantasy. Tate is only 25, has plenty of talent, and owns a set of relatively fresh legs. If he can get the injury bug turned around, he has a chance to be one of 2014’s top breakout performers.

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Follow Mike Clay on Twitter: @MikeClayNFL

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