QB Brandon Weeden (Cleveland)
It’s going to be a rough rookie year for Weeden in Cleveland. He’s not a talent like Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Joe Flacco, etc. He struggled under pressure and with his decision making at Oklahoma State, two things that Big 12 opponents also mentioned they noticed about Weeden. He has little to no receiving help. It’s not advisable to have him on your fantasy team.
Projection: 3250 passing yards, 17 passing touchdowns, 18 interceptions, 50 rushing yards, 0 rushing touchdowns (167 pts standard/201 pts in 6 pt TD leagues)
RB Trent Richardson (Cleveland)
8/27/12: Trent Richardson is expected to be back for week 1, so I’m moving him up slightly, but I’m still down on him because he’s a rookie on a poor offense and coming off an offseason in which he had 2 knee surgeries. He’ll be overdrafted.
8/13/12: Poor Browns. They just can’t catch a break. Trent Richardson will have to undergo surgery on his left knee. That surgery is just a scope so it’s as minor as it comes, but this is the 2nd time that knee has been operated on this year, so it’s not what you want to see from the player you just spent the 3rd overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft on.
The Browns expect Richardson to be back for the opener, but that’s not certain and it’s definitely possible he’ll miss a couple games at some point this season with lingering knee pain. The Browns could also scale back his workload early in September. As talented as Richardson is, rookie running backs have had trouble adjusting to a 16-game NFL season in recent years as 1st round pick running backs have averaged just have just averaged 165 carries as rookies since 2007. It’s important to keep fantasy projections for him conservative as a rookie.
Richardson will be the feature back in Cleveland, but I’d be wary of drafting him too early. These are the 1st round rookie running backs since 2007 and how many carries they had as rookies, as well as their yards per carry. Mark Ingram- 122 (3.9), CJ Spiller- 74 (3.8), Ryan Mathews- 158 (4.3), Jahvid Best- 171 (3.2), Knowshon Moreno- 247 (3.8), Donald Brown- 78 (3.6), Chris Wells- 176 (4.5), Darren McFadden- 113 (4.4), Jonathan Stewart- 184 (4.5), Felix Jones- 30 (8.9), Rashard Mendenhall- 19 (3.1), Chris Johnson- 251 (4.9), Adrian Peterson- 238 (5.6), Marshawn Lynch- 280 (4.0). Richardson is better than most, if not all of those backs, but I’d still temper my expectations because he could hit a rookie wall in his first 16 game season. He also doesn’t play on a very good offense, so his YPC and touchdown potential isn’t great.
Projection: 230 carries 980 rushing yards 7 total touchdowns 32 catches 260 receiving yards (166 pts standard/198 pts PPR)
RB Montario Hardesty (Cleveland)
8/27/12: Hardesty is moving down, but is still an interesting handcuff for Richardson because of Richardson’s two knee surgeries.
8/13/12: Largely a bust as a 2010 2nd round pick for the first 2 years of his career, Montario Hardesty is reportedly finally healthy and looked it in their first preseason game, starting in the absence of Richardson. Because we need to keep projections for Richardson conservative as a rookie, Hardesty makes for an interesting handcuff and potential late round sleeper.
Projection: 100 carries 440 rushing yards 4 total touchdowns 18 catches 120 receiving yards (80 pts standard/98 pts PPR)
WR Greg Little (Cleveland)
8/20/12: In essentially Cleveland’s 3rd preseason game (they used their 2nd preseason game as their regular season tune up instead of their 3rd because they play the Eagles in week 3 of the Preseason and week 1 of the Regular season), Little looked great and led the way with 4 catches for 45 yards. He was actually 17th in the league in targets last year, but only managed 61 catches for 709 yards and 2 touchdowns for two reasons, his quarterback play and his own play.
Browns quarterbacks completed just 56.1% of their passes for 5.8 YPA and 16 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. Brandon Weeden, at the very least, should be an upgrade. However, Little also dropped 14 passes last season. If he had caught half of those, he would have had something like 68 catches for 800 receiving yards. He was incredibly raw as a rookie, after missing his final year at North Carolina with suspension, but he’s gotten himself into better shape this offseason and seems poised for a breakout season. He’s still, by far, his team’s best receiver and could approach 1000 yards if Weeden is better than I think and is even a league average starter.
Little was really raw as a rookie and should only be better in his 2nd season, especially since they got him an upgrade at quarterback. Besides, who else is Weeden going to throw to? Little is a solid WR5 or so with upside if both he and Weeden prove to be better than expected.
Projection: 72 catches 850 receiving yards 6 receiving touchdowns (121 pts standard/193 pts PPR)