Duke Johnson is the best bet among Cleveland RBs in 2016
Last season, the Cleveland Browns had the worst record in the NFL. This offseason they’ve lost four starters to free agency and didn’t make much of an effort to replace any of them prior to the NFL Draft. It looks like the team is finally attempting to tank the right way, and thus, there’s reason to think they will be just as bad, or even worse, next season. Early Vegas lines have the Browns finishing with the worst overall record again in 2016.
Still, even sometimes the most hostile environments can foster fantasy life. Last season, Danny Woodhead overcame the inhospitable wasteland that was San Diego and the Chargers’ 4-12 record and worst overall team run-blocking grade to finish as the No. 3 overall running back in PPR leagues. Proving not only a team’s receiving back can outperform his team’s dismal record for fantasy, Doug Martin finished as the No. 4 overall running back in PPR leagues despite playing on the 6-10 Buccaneers and being out-targeted by teammate Charles Sims 65 to 41.
Below, we’ll look at the new coaching situation in Cleveland and the Browns’ running game, and we’ll figure out whether Isaiah Crowell and/or Duke Johnson Jr. (with surprise third name!) can rise above the roster around them.
We’ll start with the head coach. Earlier this offseason, Hue Jackson, in his first year with the team, announced he does not plan on hiring an offensive coordinator and that he will most likely be calling his own plays. Over his last four seasons as a head coach or offensive coordinator, Jackson’s teams have ranked in the top seven in rushing attempts and rushing touchdowns every year, and in rushing yardage three of four seasons. For perspective, last season, Cleveland ranked 27th in attempts, 22nd in rushing yards and 29th in rushing touchdowns.