Only in Cleveland can a quarterback complete 6 out of 18 passes, throw an interception, get shut out, and have the coach say sincerely that he did nothing to diminish his chances of winning a quarterback competition. That’s just what happened to DeShone Kizer as Brock Osweiler sat and watched Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan manage the third and fourth periods of last weekend’s tune-up against the Buccaneers.
Both teams boast better-than-expected defensive units this preseason, but whether that completely explains how this became a field goal battle will become clearer as the season unfolds. Tampa Bay’s Nick Folk was winning the battle 3-2 over Cody Parkey before Hogan drove the Browns for a touchdown to give Cleveland the game, 13-9. Hogan also led a field goal drive earlier in the quarter.
What did we learn?
If there is a better indication of who coach Hue Jackson plans to start in the season opener, I don’t know what it could be. Jackson claims Kizer did some things better than he expected and moved the ball. In Kizer’s defense, Kenny Britt dropped a key third-down pass that forced the Browns to settle for their first field goal.
For all the talk about Osweiler, Kizer, and Kessler, Hogan looked like he might be the best quarterback, at least for the day. As a rookie last season, he threw 26 passes, completing 14 for 104 yards with two interceptions. Kizer, for all his flaws and big learning curve, continues to look like the most poised of the quartet.
Corey Coleman was the leading receiver, racking up 56 yards on four catches. He was targeted eight times, the most of any Brown. Britt had a 13-yard catch before his big drop. Rookie tight end David Njoku caught one of his two targets for 12 yards.
Isaiah Crowell ran 11 times for 40 yards. Duke Johnson Jr, did not get targeted in the passing game but had a 37-yard run from scrimmage. He also lost a fumble.
Hue Jackson officially named DeShone Kizer the starter for week one. The rookie will need time to get acclimated with the offense, and without a plethora of weapons in Cleveland, there is no fantasy value for him.
The wide receivers will be hurt by the quarterback play… again. When I see teams with a rookie starting quarterback, it seems the younger receivers get more action than expected. Even without that factor, I think Coleman has the upper hand for expected targets. He is coming off the draft boards as a tenth round WR44, while Britt follows as the WR50 in the 11th.
There are more than a few who think the Kizer-to-Coleman connection will develop quickly enough to make Coleman a true sleeper. A strong offensive line and a supportive coaching staff will help. I can see someone arguing to take Coleman as high as a WR25. Remember that Terrelle Pryor was the WR18 last season playing with the quarterback-of-the-week club.
Last year’s Cleveland Browns also had the fantasy RB15 in Isaiah Crowell. He is back and coming off the boards at #13 this year. There is thought that the rookie quarterback will allow defenses to stack the box against Crowell, but how would that be different than last season? The offensive line is good enough to handle it. Go ahead and make him your second running back.
Duke Johnson was considered a disappointment last season, but he caught a lot of outlet passes. He is expected to help the passing game again, although he was not targeted at all this weekend. He finished at the RB39 last year and is expected to contribute more this year, which makes his tenth-round RB44 ADP a potential bargain. He should go higher in PPR as he is a pass-catching back.
Those other fantasy guys
DeShone Kizer has shown a tendency to throw toward David Njoku. If that relationship continues to develop, Njoku is a legitimate sleeper tight end. They just missed on a few long seam routes in the last two games. The timing will come soon. I expect Njoku to be a much better pick than either Tampa’s O. J. Howard or the Giants’ Evan Engram.
Cody Parkey is a good kicker, but without enough opportunities to make him fantasy relevant, don’t bother drafting him.
Cleveland’s defense is fun to watch. They have several new additions and are working hard. But they could be twice as good this year and still not be a top-20 unit.
So… that’s that.
Cleveland is undefeated in the preseason at 3-0. Fans are enjoying it while they can as the rebuilding continues into the regular season. They will win a couple this year, but I don’t expect to see them challenging the Patriots for the AFC title this year.
Which is fine if they supply me with players who are fantasy-worthy. They will, with a couple of sure things and a couple of sleepers.
We’ll be tracking the situation all season to see if more fantasy prospects develop. So, check back with RealSport every day for all your fantasy news and advice.
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