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 moved to 2-2-1 and were on the verge of getting into the AFC race ahead (Spoiler Alert: the lost their next 4 games and fired their head coach)...
2018 Week 5 Dynasty-Fantasy Analysis: Ravens v. Browns
We start out the study of the Sunday games with this 12-9 barn-burner…the one in which the Browns took down the Ravens in a mild shocker. Baltimore did all they could to hand this game to the Browns…a pick in the end zone, a blocked (automatic) Justin Tucker FG along the way – and they succeeded/the Browns won late.
However, I don’t want to give all the credit for the Browns win to the Ravens – this was more about Baker Mayfield already being a better QB than Joe Flacco has ever been on any singular day of his life.
It’s a key win for the Browns, who have a very legitimate chance to win the AFC North (but their terrible coaching will muck it up, I’m sure). If the Steelers beat Cincy Week 6 and the Browns beat the Chargers…all AFC North teams will have either 3 or 4 wins on the season after next week – and the race is on.
The Ravens are playing five legit playoff teams in their next five games…and The Computer says the schedule is getting ready to suck the Ravens down into a hole…a 6-7 win team. The Browns project to 6-8 wins, but the targets are moving all over as we get to see more Mayfield. What’s crazy is the Browns had chances to be 5-0 right now. So glad Hue Jackson had the wisdom to see that Mayfield wasn’t ready and Tyrod Taylor was his guy…another decision only absolutely no-talent, no vision NFL head coaches would ever make -- which is why you can’t bank on the Browns to pull off the AFC North, even though they absolutely could and should. Hue Jackson always picks the coin flips wrong.
May 2019 Notes: The Steelers did derail the then hot Bengals the following week, opening the door for the Browns to get into the race (a race they should've already been winning) and, yes...the Browns failed their part next week. At this time in 2018...it was the Bengals who seemed to be 'the team'. in the AFC North. The Ravens did as I wrote...they slid down a hole, went on a big losing streak...but they then did what I didn't think they would do -- pulled the Flacco plug early and went to Lamar Jackson and saved their season.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- I’m not sure how else I can say it, but you really don’t believe (which is why I keep saying it) that Baker Mayfield (25-43 for 342 yards, 1 TD/1 INT) is equal to/better than a QB talent than Patrick Mahomes, and I think Mahomes is supreme…which is why he’s been on most all of my fantasy teams coming out of the preseason.
Mahomes’ team is 5-0. He had the 6 TD game in early 2018. He’s the bee’s knees…all the football analysts are falling all over themselves now to talk about how much they have always loved him (really?). In other news, the football analysts think Amazon is the retail name of the future and they strongly believe the sun will rise tomorrow. National football analysts are always days/weeks/months/years late to things…which makes you wonder why they have the jobs they do, when none of them can ‘see’ anything ahead – they just regurgitate and (over)promote things every in serious fantasy play already knew weeks/months/years ago.
…but no, I don’t.
I mention all that because the mainstream football analyst crowd sways everyone’s opinions…even yours. THEY shoulder shrug at Mayfield right now and #metoo movement all over Mahomes – it’s both calculated and just absent any original thought that they’re pushing Mahomes and ignoring Mayfield. Their Mayfield silence is deafening by the Mahomes comparison. I’m just telling you…you think you have time, but it’s fleeting. You’re not sure he’s in a good enough situation (Cleveland) to matter. I’m telling you that you are about to miss the next big thing at QB in fantasy…available at lower prices today than what it will be in 2-3-4-5-6 weeks. The Browns have cut him loose from snap #1 one he entered against the Jets.
Depending upon your QB situation, you need to push to get a deal done before everyone ‘discovers’ him.
As a rookie, he’s walked in cold with a terrible head coach and terrible WR group and won a game from behind when thrust in Week 3, then scored 40+ and should’ve won Week 4 if not for a bad ref call very late, and just beat the Ravens with 340+ yards passing when everyone thought he’d be bottled up.
Mayfield hasn’t had the 3-4-5-6 TDs in a game moment yet to light the fuse, so fantasy masses are still asleep. Then he’s going to have it (maybe) Week 7 at Tampa, and then there’s no turning back.
May 2019 Notes: They didn't like Mayfield the rest of the season...nor into January 2019, but then the Browns traded for OBJ and suddenly analysts woke up to Mayfield...which means they really don't believe it still. They'll fight it as long as they can and then longer than that with a losing hand. Why? Because they hate that Mayfield is showing up their precious golden boy -- Sam Darnold. I can't wait for it to become obvious Darnold isn't a franchise QB and Mayfield is a HOF'er -- and NONE of them in the football establishment thought it would be so.
-- My main reason to pick this game #1 of the Sunday studies was to watch Derrick Willies (3-61-0/5). The WR who came out of nowhere and played a bunch down the stretch and caught the huge 39-yard pass late in OT on 3rd & 8 to get the Browns in position for a game winning FG.
Is Willies a sleeper ahead for fantasy? And…who the hell is Derrick Willies?
Four-star recruit out of high school. Committed to Iowa, played some for the Hawkeyes as a freshman in 2014. Was frustrated with playing time prospects so he left for the JUCO ranks (to set up a transfer later).
Was an all-everything at the JUCO ranks and got offers to go to Oklahoma and Georgia, among several others, but choose Texas Tech’s high-flying offense (where he worked with Patrick Mahomes in 2016).
His two years at Texas Tech were racked with nagging injuries keeping him off the field for weeks here and there (8 games played 2016, and 6 games played 2017). In 2017, he averaged 3.0 rec., 50.6 yards, and 0.50 TDs per game (6 games).
6’3.5”/210…Willies ran a 4.55 40-time with a 6.84 three cone along with a sweet 41” vertical at his 2018 Pro Day. Undrafted, he’s been working his way up the ranks with the Browns. As Coleman-Gordon left, Willies moved up a rung. Now, here he is.
I thought Willies played more time in this game because Antonio Callaway (3-22-0/5) was struggling, but upon re-watch it was because Rishard Higgins got hurt and Willies jumped in and Mayfield started using him.
This could be just a one-week wonder, due to the Higgins injury. Or…Willies could be the ‘big guy’ receiving target, an eventual replacement for ‘lost’ Antonio Callaway. If Willies gets into the starting lineup with Mayfield…he’s a threat to become a WR3, just like Callaway was.
Hard to see Willies being much more than a WR3, but his size and athleticism say ‘more’ is possible…but his college history says ‘injuries and underwhelming’ is more likely.
May 2019 Notes: This was mildly exciting for a week, and then he got hurt and was gone the rest of the way.
-- Browns receiver I’m most captivated by with Mayfield – David Njoku (6-69-0/11).
I’ve never been a huge Njoku fan because I think he has below-average hands -- but put Mayfield’s perfect passes on him and things are happening. What I like most is – it’s not just Mayfield zipping passes to him downfield…that would be a little risky because Njoku is not an accomplished receiver. It’s that I see Todd Haley being smart and calling for little short passes/screens for the very athletic Njoku. You love Njoku catching a bubble screen, or sorts, and then off to the races at his size.
Njoku had a couple little passes go awry and he dropped a tough catch 20+ yard pass to the sidelines/ Njoku had the targeting that was trying to push him to 7-8+ catches and 100+ yards in this game.
Njoku might work very well in this offense lacking real weapons.
-- I thought Duke Johnson (5-35-0, 1-7-0/1) might get more run as a passing game option this week. Ummm…hope. He was barely touching the ball all game and then a minor flurry of carries very late in OT. In regulation, it was like Johnson wasn’t even playing…even though he played the most snaps of any Cleveland RB.
May 2019 Notes: He'll be shipped somewhere soon...
-- Hayden Hurst (1-7-0/2) made his debut this game. He didn’t start but came in on the third play of the game and saw some snaps but the 4th most of the four Ravens TEs.
I like Hurst as a talent, but he’s weeks away…if not a year away. He’s missed so much time and Ravens are pushing three other TEs as well. Eventually, Hurst will start…but will it be Week 8 this year or Week 1 of 2019?
May 2019 Notes: ...or it didn't really matter when he did because this passing game with LJax was a mess, and will be one ahead.
-- I’m seeing some…’Let’s sit on Joe Flacco (29-546 for 298 yards, 0 TDs/1 INT) for the fantasy playoffs’ chatter (ATL-KC-TB Weeks 13-15). I’m more of a ‘no’ on that unless all the QBs in the league are stripped away and like a Mariota or Winston or Bortles type is your current backup (which do I even know you if that’s the case?).
How do we know those defenses will be as bad later this year (ATL could be healed up by then and KC really isn’t that bad)?
How do we know Flacco will take advantage of it anyways?
How do we know Flacco will be starting by then?
What if Baltimore is 6-7 going into Week 15…losers of maybe three of the last 4? Will there be a push for Lamar Jackson? There’s always a push for Lamar…the media and fans are just waiting for a 2-3 game losing streak – and the schedule ahead is going to deal them such a thing soon.
May 2019 Notes: I saved a few people's butts here. Trying to look at FF-playoff schedules in Week 5 of the current season is madness.
-- Early Rookie of the Year leader is not Baker Mayfield, but it might be by the end of the season – it’s his teammate Denzel Ward (5 tackles, 3 PDs, 1 INT) who is already flashing as a shutdown corner. I saw him locking up John Brown (4-58-0/14) quite easily in this game. He’s been mostly good-great all season.
May 2019 Notes: Nothing will stop the echo chamber love of Saquon Barkley. Mayfield should've been the ROY unanimously. He didn't win. The establishment again...always wrong and always late.
-- So, what about that emerging Browns-DST for fantasy?
You can’t. Not unless super desperate. The schedule now turns. LAC-TB-PIT-KC-ATL before a Week 11 BYE gives you one start. CIN-HOU-CAR-DEN-CIN gives you 1-2 more, maybe. I like this defense a lot, but the schedule is not their friend.
Snap Counts of Interest:
72 = Njoku
19 = Fells
09 = DeValve
41 = Duke Johnson
28 = Hyde
11 = Chubb
80 = Landry
55 = Callaway
31 = Higgins
26 = Willies
18 = Streater
50 = Allen
27 = Collins
05 = Turner
39 = Boyle
33 = Andrews
27 = Maxx Williams
21 = Hurst
53 = Judon
18 = Wormley
19 = Kindred
13 = Bowser
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