The 2017 NFL regular season has concluded, so it’s time to briefly examine the state of each team’s skill positions for fantasy purposes with an eye towards next season. I will be reviewing each team in the reverse order of their 2017 NFL standings.
Cleveland Browns (0-16)
The Browns (along with myself) thought they had something in second-round rookie Kizer, who despite being considered a raw prospect, showed promise in the preseason en route to being awarded the starting job prior to Week 1 of the regular season. Unfortunately, it appeared Kizer was in over his head, as he led all NFL players with a whopping 28 combined turnovers and was benched several times throughout the season. The only thing that kept Kizer in the catbird seat for the duration of the 2017 was that backup quarterbacks Hogan and Kessler weren’t any better. Armed with the first and fourth picks in the 2018 NFL draft, the Browns are widely expected to use one of those choices on a quarterback.
Many had high hopes for Crowell taking another step forward after falling just short of the 1,000 rushing yard barrier in 2016. Despite head coach Hue Jackson’s offseason pledge to utilize Crowell as his workhorse, the bruising running back scored a career-low two rushing touchdowns while never seeing more than 19 carries in any game during the 2017 season and gaining more than 100 yards just once (Week 14 against Green Bay). Crowell is fully expected to hit the open market when free agency opens in March, and could wind up with RB2 value if he lands in a more favorable situation. Johnson’s usage was also the cause of much head scratching, as he managed 1,041 total yards and seven touchdowns despite logging 10 touches or fewer in six of the Browns’ 16 games. Assuming Crowell bolts, and the Browns don’t bring in anyone to replace him, Johnson should have the inside track as the Browns 2018 starting running back and would be an upside RB2 given his value in the passing game. If Crowell stays in Cleveland for 2018, then both backs should be looked at as RB3’s who will put up RB2 numbers some weeks.
The fact that Josh Gordon nearly led all Browns wideouts in receiving yardage despite playing in only five games says all you need to know about the sorry state of their passing offense. Gordon surprised me by looking no less spry than he was back in 2013 when he led the NFL in receiving yards, though he was clearly affected by Kizer’s limitations as a passer. Still just 26 years old, Gordon oozes offensive upside, but is probably best viewed as an upside WR3 going into next season. Corey Coleman looked to be in sync with Kizer during the preseason, and the connection carried over into the regular season until a broken hand knocked Coleman out of Weeks 3-10. Once Coleman returned to the field, he had a few moments (most notably, a 6-catch, 80-yard performance in Week 11 against Jacksonville) but ultimately took a backseat to Josh Gordon. Coleman will once again be worth a late-round flier in 2018 fantasy drafts — but nothing more. I only mention Kenny Britt to point out what a colossal bust he was. Signed to a four-year $32.5 million free agent contract last March, Britt’s effort levels were often criticized by the Browns coaching staff until the team finally pulled the plug early last December.
While second-year tight end Seth DeValve actually led the Browns in receptions and receiving yards, David Njoku (one of their three 2017 first-round draft picks) represents the teams’ future at the position. Though not fully utilized as an every-down player, Njoku still managed to lead the Browns with four touchdown receptions. DeValve can be ignored in fantasy drafts next season, while Njoku will be an intriguing sleeper who could push for low-end TE1 value if the Browns decide to get him on the field more often.