I'm going back through some team notes from games last season, and in the following/current year I like to pick a few teams and post all their game recaps in order and make a few, quick new year/season observations -- and it gives us some spring/summer reading material when football news is slow.
The first team I selected to post from 2018 season -- the Kansas City Chiefs (see all on FFM). The second team we're going to walk through -- the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns are wildly interesting...now. It's interesting to go back and walk through the season, because it was so sad to start...because they almost beat PIT-NO right out of the gates, but Hue Hue'd it all up and his rightful punishment was soon to come. Then, just when it looked like they would fall with lovable sociopath Gregg Williams at the interim helm...the Browns became a real team, and almost got themselves into the playoffs -- they would have won 10 games and made the playoffs had the Browns canned Hue after the 2017 season and started Baker from day-one, as I probably pointed out over/under a hundred times in the game recaps all last season. So, let's re-look at the Cleveland Browns' wild 2018 campaign.
Now, enjoy the game the Browns blew another possible win to fall to 1-2-1 on the season, but should've been 2-1-1/3-1, could've been 4-0...?
2018 Week 4 Dynasty-Fantasy Analysis: Browns v. Raiders
I honestly could have cared less about re-watching this game from the game perspective. I was so focused on studying Baker Mayfield’s starting debut that the rest of the game was a blur.
I do know the Browns should have won this game, but Hue Jackson is a literal curse for football wins. The Browns played poorly but were better than the Raiders. There was a ridiculous call at the end of the game on a 1st-down that was taken away from Cleveland that essentially cost them the game…I say ‘ridiculous’ but you almost expected things like that to happen with ‘the Browns’.
I’m so pleased the Browns lost, because it means we are that much closer to a Hue Jackson firing. He has to go in order to launch Mayfield into greatness. Mayfield’s former college coach at Oklahoma will be the Browns head coach in 2019…and then Mayfield will be the top QB in fantasy potentially.
May 2019 Notes: How close we were to Hue getting fired at this point...we didn't even realize we were just a few glorious weeks away.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- Baker Mayfield (21-41 for 295 yards, 2 TDs/2 INTs) had a fine debut. He looked like he’s been playing for a decade. It also looked like he was playing with one of the worst WR groups in the NFL. I tracked five legit drops of passes and another 2-3 receiver gaffes that were iffy.
Consider this following statement and what it really would have meant for fantasy today if it had happened: This was very close to a Mayfield 350+ yards and 4+ passing TD event. I’m not joking. I may be underselling it.
Mayfield missed a 50+ yard TD bomb by two yards to a wide-open Antonio Callaway early in this game. Mayfield got the Browns into the red zone twice coming away with just FGs. A 59-yard medium bullet for a catch and run breakaway by Callaway, and he ended up getting caught from behind 1-yard shy of a score. How often will Nick Chubb run for two 40+ yard TDs in a game…at least one of those drives could have ended in a TD pass.
This debut was nearly legendary, but because (a) no one in the media/analyst community actually watches, in detail, games on Sunday daytime, especially CLE-OAK, and (b) THEY wouldn’t know what they saw of those that did watch and (c) the box score stats for Mayfield were not as exciting as even Derek Carr had, or many QBs this high-flying week – all of it adds up to a collective, semi-dismissive group-think “Mayfield did fine” analysis.
That’s the easy thing to say. The easy blanket to throw over it and move on. The near-miss shock debut performance/stat tally was not even considered.
I’m telling you – if you missed out on Patrick Mahomes, or you didn’t…Baker Mayfield may very well be as good/better for fantasy ahead. Mayfield is as good/better a QB talent as Mahomes. The question is ‘coaching’ and ‘weapons’…and ‘perception’.
Weapons = It’s a pretty sad lot Mayfield has to work with, but he made due. Mayfield can ‘make them’. With better weapons it will be a ‘showtime’ in the future, but today some hurdles. However, a lot of the drops and clunky-ness was in the 1st-half and then they started humming in the 2nd-half. 17 points 1st-half, 25 points 2nd-half.
Perception = Mahomes had the 6 TD game Week 2, the hot start overall, and then the MNF game last night…which allowed ESPN to spend a day hyping Mahomes as a commercial for their TV show. Mahomes has been ‘knighted’. The analysts have now ‘discovered’ Mahomes. They don’t have time for the short (size), perceived ‘jerk’ QB in Mayfield.
You discount Mayfield compared to Mahomes because you’ve seen Mahomes flourish. You haven’t seen the ‘it’ with Mayfield in the NFL. It’s there and it’s about to be gloriously revealed.
Coaching = Yes, Hue is awful. However, there were no restrictions on Mayfield. He was gunning out of the gates. The most telling moment…0:30 left in regulation, 42-42 tie, Browns starting at their own 25 – Mayfield comes out gunning to try to get into FG position for the win. It would have been easy to play safe and roll to OT, they didn’t.
Baker Mayfield is going to be as-good, near as-good, or better at this than Patrick Mahomes…and Mahomes is the gold standard. On a scale of 0-10, Mahomes has a fantasy value to the masses of an 11-15. Mayfield about a 7…8 at best.
I would NOT give up Mahomes to get Mayfield+ in a deal. Stick with established star Mahomes. However, if you have the room, especially in dynasty – now is the time to act (actually it was last week) to secure Mayfield before he has his Mahomes moment and changes the fantasy landscape forever.
I’m sorry if you have no more room on your dynasty-fantasy roster for all my great QB plays. My bad.
The Mt. Rushmore of new era QBs that will change fantasy:
Trubisky is trying to get there but runs last in this arms race right now.
I’m not sure if Trubisky is ready for high-level consistency yet. Mayfield is about to happen with it and may surpass all of them in 2018, from a pure ‘stats’ standpoint. His weapons may hold him back from that lofty perch.
Let’s discuss the weapons ‘issue’ in more detail…
May 2019 Notes: It will be easy to forget all the national analysts were not 'turned on' by Mayfield at this point. They laughed at him losing to the sad Raiders. They still were defending Sam Darnold, even after watching them play each other head-to-head Week 3. Analyst's lip-service on Mayfield still, to this day, but they don't like him...the 'we the people' do, but not the football establishment.
-- In random-ish order:
Antonio Callaway (3-54-0/9) is a solid athlete but is in over his head as a starting NFL WR. However, he’s going to work to some degree because Mayfield finds anything open and works it. Callaway is fast and gets open on the run and Mayfield can hit him in-stride. There will be a few drops to make you cringe along the way. He’s a WR3/Ted Ginn for Mayfield…a great daily/weekly play for a ‘pop’ game.
Rashard Higgins (4-61-0/5) is going to be a WR3-3.5 as a guy who happens to be on the field with Mayfield. Nothing special but ‘available’.
Jarvis Landry (4-34-1/10) is so incredibly overrated but is the most reliable WR…but also the one who draws the top coverage and some doubles. He should be weaving around the WR1.5 range in PPR all season.
David Njoku (5-52-0/7) is the guy that can really flourish here. He gaffed a catch on a medium range throw, but he made his other catches, some not easy. He doesn’t have the greatest hands, BUT Mayfield throws a good ball and Njoku is the biggest target he has…and he’s athletic. I think TE1 is going to happen. The George Kittle of the Browns.
Duke Johnson (2-11-0, 4-45-0/6) with all the up-tempo-ness…Duke was running more routes and Mayfield is a QB that finds things, unlike Tyrod. This was Johnson’s best game of the season…and Duke may be one of the best options Mayfield will have. Sneaky PPR sleeper now is Duke because of Mayfield.
May 2019 Notes: Reconsidering all this... Mayfield had a great run once he became a starter, but Jarvis Landry really never popped with him -- I'm not sure OBJ helps find the 'pop' for Landry to operate. Njoku did take off, for a bit, then fell off. Duke Johnson looked ready to help ahead, but he quickly was ditched by the coaches for full on Nick Chubb.
-- Let’s finish out the Browns offensive notes…
Nick Chubb (3-105-2) had a 63 and 41-yard TD run in this game. The first run he was almost untouched. The second TD he broke 2-3 tackles and was more impressive. Chubb used to be awesome juking and breaking tackles in college pre-knee injury. I hope he finds that ‘it’ again.
Chubb has two existences:
(1) If he has a lane, he’s going to go through and make noise. A good open field runner.
(2) If the play direction is bottled up at all at the line of scrimmage he’s the worst. He stops/hesitates and gets mauled. He reminds me of early Jeremy Hill…a couple big runs on wide-open holes and the fantasy world went nuts for him…and then he disappeared after his rookie season.
I thought Chubb was wonderful, pre-knee injury back in college…so, I can’t slam the door shut but it doesn’t look great to me right now.
May 2019 Notes: Chubb was perhaps my greatest miss of 2018. I liked him going into the preseason/into the NFL Draft, but didn't love him -- because of his post-knee injury in college tape being 'not like he was'. Then I thought he looked like a scared bust in the preseason and I ran from him, and then he showed out the second-half of 2018 and I was late to the party loving him.
-- In a sea of RB turmoil, Marshawn Lynch (20-130-0, 3-27-0/5) never gets hurt, his coach loves him, and he produces something every week. Might not be off the charts but he usually gets a TD and occasionally goes for 100+ yards if no TD. He’s consistently good but we’re all looking for the next Todd Gurley or Alvin Kamara so hard we dismiss and try to ‘sell high’ on boring old Lynch. I’m guilty of the same.
I’m done with dismissing the consistent RBs. My teams are typically filled with ace QBs, sweet WRs, solid TEs, Justin Tucker (best in class), and a streaming DST…I just need my RBs not to kill me/have hamstring issues or offensive philosophy issues. I wish I could have run Marshawn Lynch + Chris Thompson week-to-week instead of Leonard Fournette costing me two games with leaving early with injury…or game flow problems with Howard…Drake…etc.
Lynch, to me, for those dying at RB…is a buy low (everyone undervalues him). What’s to hate about him?
May 2019 Notes: Lynch was OK for a while, but then Oakland died even more and Lynch got hurt/done for 2018. He was producing OK/solidly until that.
-- Amari Cooper (8-128-1/12) had his second nice game in three weeks. He’s not my favorite WR, but the touch counts are going to work with him when he’s working the slot.
Jordy Nelson (5-48-1/8) is solid but Carr is really struggling throwing medium-deep to his WRs. He missed Nelson for a wide-open 10-yard throw where Jordy would have had at least another 30+ yards of YAC.
I like Nelson. I can see Cooper getting more targets. I’m growing to hate Carr. I really don’t want on this ride if I can avoid it.
May 2019 Notes: Neither did Amari Cooper want on this ride, and he would soon be a Dallas Cowboy and find himself again.
-- The one receiver Carr is in sync with – Jared Cook (8-110-2/13). Cook is rarely consistent, but he looks the best I’ve ever seen him working with Carr this year. I’m not betting against him as a top five TE this season considering the state of TEs.
May 2019 Notes: Jared had a nice season...and left when he could for the Saints this season. Does anyone want to play for the Raiders, willingly?
-- What happened to the Browns-DST? This was supposed to be a gimme game against failing Derek Carr.
The state of fantasy defenses is the worst I’ve seen in my decade of doing this. No consistency at all…whether the talent levels or the schedule being an issue. The biggest problem is…Mayfield, Mahomes, Trubisky, Goff are just waltzing in and blowing everything up. Usually young QBs are targets to use your DST against…now they are destroyers of DSTs.
The best DSTs going forward? Who’s facing Darnold or Keenum or Allen or maybe Winston? You’ll take v. Bortles, Mariota, Rosen (and not for long) if you must. There are just limited options out there to target and with all the cheap penalties now…so-so offenses have drives extended all the time.
The Browns defense played decent, and then the next thing I know they have allowed 45 points (3 in OT, 7 on a pick-six).
The Browns have a solid, young emerging DST but facing BAL-LAC-TB-PIT-KC-ATL the next 6 weeks is pretty much ‘no-go’.
Snap Counts of Interest:
50 = Lynch
34 = Richard
06 = Martin
68 = Njoku
39 = Fells
74 = Emmanuel Ogbah
64 = Marquel Lee
49 = Arden Key
42 = Genard Avery
37 = Peppers
37 = Bruce Irvin
35 = Erik Harris
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