Browns Defense
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Browns Defense: A Top-10 Fantasy Defense In 2021?

The Cleveland Browns had one of their best seasons in 2020, going 11-5 and winning a playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The biggest thing holding them back was their defense, particularly their secondary. GM Andrew Berry had a very productive offseason and this Browns defense has a chance to be special. Football fans know about Cleveland’s potent offense but how good will this defense be in 2021?

Notable Additions: Jadeveon Clowney, John Johnson III, Troy Hill, Malik Jackson, Greg Newsome II (rookie), Jeremiah Owusu- Koramoah (rookie)

I needed a team to root for after my Patriots fell out of the playoff race last season and like many others, I chose the Browns, as I am a huge Baker Mayfield fan and Nick Chubb has become one of my favorite running backs to watch. After watching Browns games late in the season, it was evident that their offense could hang with the best but that their defense held them back. The Browns’ defense ranked 17 amongst fantasy defenses in 2020, and they allowed the most points of any playoff team at 411.

The weakest part of Cleveland’s 2020 defense was clearly the secondary. Denzel Ward held his own against most of the number one receivers he faced, but the Browns’ safety play was atrocious. In 2021, however, they get Grant Delpit and Greedy Williams back from injury and have signed two veteran leaders in John Johnson and Troy Hill. The Browns’ defense had a stark weakness, but the team aggressively fixed their secondary’s woes.

I like the Jadeveon Clowney pick-up for two reasons. First, Clowney provides another consistent pass rush off the edge, and while he does not fill up the stat sheet, he is a consistent disruptor. Second, it takes some pressure off of Myles Garrett. Defenses will only be able to double one of the two and will be forced to pick their poison on the edge. Alongside Clowney, Garrett is posed to have a Defensive Player of the Year season.

Now that Cleveland fixed their secondary, the biggest question mark surrounding this Browns defense is their linebackers. Owusu-Koramoah is a versatile rookie out of Notre Dame, but other than him and potentially Malcolm Smith, the linebacker position is very thin in Cleveland.

Having an elite fantasy defense will likely not make nor break your fantasy season, but nothing is worse than losing a week because of negative points from your defense. While I still hold that the Browns will finish the season with a top-10 fantasy defense, they do play some potent offenses in the beginning of the season. They travel to Arrowhead to play the Chiefs in Week One, arguably the worst matchup in the league for a defense that has not played a game together as a unit. In the weeks after they play teams like the Chargers, Cardinals, Vikings, and the Bears. If Justin Fields is the quarterback for the Bears, those are four high-powered offenses. After Week 7, the offensive power in Browns’ schedule relaxes somewhat. Cleveland’s defense could be a good pick-up later in the season, but there are several teams I would rather have early in the season, namely the Rams, Bucs, Colts, Steelers, 49ers, and Ravens.

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