Browns Coaching Changes Impact Fantasy Football

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With so many coaching changes in the NFL I have decided to take the next week to break down each coaching change team by team. Over the next few days I will bring you all my thoughts on what the changes mean to all of us fantasy players.

Let’s start with Cleveland Browns:

The Browns have named Hue Jackson their head coach and offensive coordinator. After witnessing his success as the Bengals’ offensive coordinator, this has given many Browns fans high hopes for big changes in Cleveland. And I can see why, we all recall the pulse brought back to Oakland in 2011 when Hugh Jackson took the team to an 8-8 record. Sadly, the season came to a heartbreaking finale for the Raiders as they missed the playoffs that year in a tie-breaker. However, it was still a much needed glimpse of hope, not just to Raider fans, but to the players as well. With that said, we think we know what this means to Browns fans, but what does this mean to Fantasy Football fans?

For starters we can expect to see the Browns begin to run the ball. A lot. Hugh Jackson loves a powerful ground game. The last four offenses under his direction have all ranked seventh or better in rushing attempts and rushing touchdowns. It may only be a matter of time that we see Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson posting the numbers we have come to expect from Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. The down side is, you may have to budget your mock drafts for a handcuff situation until we see if Crowell or Johnson will be splitting carries or one will get the workload. In all but the last season in which Hugh Jackson spent with the Bengals, their run game ranked seventh or better in the league in rushing yards, which leads me to believe we can expect big changes in the Browns passing game as well.

After seeing the success Jackson had turning Andy Dalton into the real deal for fantasy owners, regardless of his current QB situation with the Browns, we can still expect the Browns to throw the ball. What gives me this hunch? Well, in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Browns drafted star WR Corey Coleman in the first round, WR Ricardo Louis in the fourth, and WR’s Jordan Payton and Rashard Higgins in the fifth. In addition, they also opted for tight end Seth Devalve in fourth round which shows the Browns clearly invested heavily on drafting solid receiving options.

Jackson’s offense is much more vertical than the modified West Coast offense the Browns ran last year, and he loves for his passing game to make big plays down the field. There are plenty of options here for fantasy owners to be intrigued by, especially for the 2015 fantasy stud, TE Gary Barnidge.  At the 2016 NFL Draft, I had the chance snag a quick interview with the breakout TE and he said he was already developing good chemistry with his potential starting QB RG3. Could it be possible we see bigger numbers from Barnidge this year? I think it’s safe to assume under Hugh Jackson, the offense may be looking for someone to fit a role similar to Tyler Eifert. Coleman is a receiver you can snag later in your draft, as few fantasy owners like to take a risk on rookie wide receivers, especially with a shaky quarterback situation.

This leaves me to talk about the 800lb gorilla in the room and the only fantasy football offensive concern left to discuss, the Browns current QB situation. Jackson is very much respected for developing a relationship with his players on and off the field. This is the man that was able to turn Bengals star wide receiver Chad Johnson from a loud mouth trouble maker to a wide receiver who understood what is was like to play better football. We also saw him bring out the captain like qualities in Andy Dalton. And most importantly, we saw him get to Cleveland and quickly cut John Manziel, which shows he is capable of making the hard, but correct, decision. I’m a firm believer that Hugh Jackson is the best and only option for Josh Gordon to clean up his act, and for that fact alone, I would love to see him allowed back in the NFL. Well… ok, and also for the major fantasy value Gordon always brings to his owners. However, I also feel RG3 does have a chance to have a fresh start with Hugh Jackson and bring him back into a potential respectable fantasy QB.

RG3 will compete like hell for his role as starting QB over Josh McCown and rookie Cody Kessler. I think we are all starting to wrap our heads around the starting job in Cleveland going to RG3. If anyone can put RG3 back on our fantasy radars, it is going to be Hugh Jackson. Jackson is known for having a few creative shifts and tricks to help his quarterback identify the coverage and create matchup advantages with his formations. I am most intrigued to see how Jackson will utilize Terrelle Pryor, whom is currently listed as WR, however was originally drafted as QB. Jackson likes to be tricky, and with Pryor’s diverse talent, I think Jackson can really change things up in Cleveland. Under Jackson, we saw Mohamed Sanu not only line up as a wide receiver, but also as a running back and a quarterback throw a touchdown pass to Dalton. RG3 may be rusty, but we cannot deny his deep ball throwing abilities, and when healthy he can supplement with his feet. I feel what RG3 needs is a team that believes in him, and with proper guidance, can win games with him as the #1. I’m not recommending anyone start to make room for him in your mock drafts, but I am thinking his receiving core does have a chance.

Watch training camps and preseason closely with this team because there may be a few options here for fantasy owners other than Gary Barnidge.

xo – Pilar

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