At first glance, the Cleveland Browns might not appear the sort of defense that would offer much to IDP owners. The Browns ranked 27th in the NFL in total defense last year, and in the offseason the Browns moved on from the most statistically productive veterans they had.
However, the fact is there are some factors that actually add to the Browns’ IDP appeal. The team ranked 17th in time of possession last year, and may be lucky to hit even that mark in 2016. The Browns were also 14th in the league in tackle opportunities, a number that will only climb if their time of possession decreases this year.
In other words, there’s value to be had — it’s just a matter of identifying where.
Number in parentheses denotes 2015 positional finish in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring.
Unfortunately, IDP owners aren’t going to find that value along the defensive line. Defensive end Desmond Bryant (DL49) was probably the closest thing to a rosterable fantasy asset along the Browns’ front, but after tearing his pectoral muscle Bryant’s season is over before it started. Head coach Hue Jackson admitted to WKYC-TV Bryant’s loss is a big one.
We’ll do whatever we have to do to have a good defensive football team,” Jackson said. “We have some guys here on the roster that we’re excited to see and see what they can do for our football team. It’s very unfortunate that it happened with Des because I think he was on his way to having a great season. He had a great offseason, and obviously, that happened away from here so it’s tough.”
If there’s a possible silver lining for fantasy owners where Bryant’s injury is concerned his name is Emmanuel Ogbah (DNP). The rookie second-rounder was originally slated to play outside linebacker, but the Browns shortage of bodies up front has spurred the team to move the 275-pounder to end.
Ogbah isn’t worth a draft pick in the overwhelming majority of redraft leagues (yet), but the former Oklahoma State standout is a name worth putting on your early-season waiver watch list.
The Browns bid adieu to veteran Karlos Dansby (LB13) in the offseason, choosing to replace him with another (albeit younger) veteran in Demario Davis (LB46), who spent his first four seasons with the New York Jets. Despite two 100-tackle seasons, Davis was labeled a disappointment in the Big Apple, a label he told WKYC he plans to shake in 2016.
“As far as structure, keeping everything together, it’s always going to be on the middle linebacker,” Davis said. “It’s just like getting everybody lined up. It’s his job, his responsibility. I have to embrace that role, but we have got a lot of guys, and it’s going to take 11 guys with like minds, alpha-male mentality to put together a piece of the defense. That’s our goal.”
Davis might never become the player some thought he’d be, and last year’s disappointing finish left a bad taste in the mouths of some fantasy owners. But Davis is going to see opportunities galore in 2016 — he’s a value LB3 pick based on those alone.
At present, the leader to start next to Davis is third-year pro Christian Kirksey (LB84), who told the team’s website he worked hard in the offseason in preparation for an expanded role in 2016. “Everybody might be saying, ‘Oh yeah man, you’re the next starter’ this and that, I kind of block that out just so it won’t dampen my work ethic,” he said in April. “I just feel like everything’s up for grabs so I’m going to keep playing hard, keep practicing hard and keep training hard.”
Kirksey’s hold on a every-down role next to Davis is far from ironclad. But if he can hold onto it Kirksey’s shown enough ability to produce to make his way onto the IDP “sleeper” radar.
There are big changes afoot at the back of the Cleveland defense. The Browns released Donte Whitner (DB53) and watched Tashaun Gipson (DB124) sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars, forcing the team to turn to youngsters Ibraheim Campbell (DB268) and Jordan Poyer (DB150) as the starters at strong and free safety, respectively.
Campbell insisted to the Cleveland Plain Dealer that he isn’t approaching his added responsibilities any differently. “(Whitner and Gipson leaving) really didn’t change my approach at all because I was looking to compete for a starting position regardless of whether they were here or not,” Campbell said, “and that was what you expect from anyone on your team.”
Campbell is no sure bet, but there are a lot of things working in his favor as the last line of defense for what looks to be a defense that could struggle in 2016. If you like to wait at defensive back and shoot the moon with an upside pick, the 24-year-old could be a good player to target late.
Joe Haden (DB211) may be the Browns best cornerback from an IDP perspective, but for fantasy owners the cornerback to target is 10th-year veteran Tramon Williams (DB72). Williams came up just short of 70 tackles last year after hitting that benchmark each of his last two years in Green Bay. In each of those two seasons, Williams was a top-10 fantasy cornerback, including a CB2 finish in 2013. For fantasy owners in CB-required IDP leagues, Williams has the potential to emerge as a weekly starter available on the cheap on draft day.