In 2019 the Cleveland Browns had a slow start but picked up some steam in the second half of the season, finishing with a 6-10 record. With some offseason moves, including the removal of head coach Freddie Kitchens and the hiring of Kevin Stefanski, the Browns have some hope for 2020. Can Baker Mayfield return to his rookie form, and will the Browns get back to a winning record?
3 Position Battles To Watch:
Safety: Karl Joseph, Andrew Sendejo, Grant Delpit, Sheldrick Redwine
In the offseason, the Cleveland Browns signed 2 safeties and drafted one in the second round. With neither of their starting safeties from 2019 returning, new talent will have to step up and fill the role. Karl Joseph, formerly of the Raiders, and Andrew Sendejo, Vikings, were signed in the offseason. They are the favorites to start for Cleveland in 2020 due to their experience in the NFL. Sheldrick Redwine was drafted by the Browns in the 4th round of the 2019 draft. During his time in 2019 however, Redwine only started 5 games. Unless Redwine improves he will remain a depth player for the Cleveland Browns. With the limited offseason, however, Redwine starting in unlikely.
The wild card in this position is 2020 second-round pick Grant Delpit. A star safety at LSU, Delpit could surprise many and come in as the starter week 1. Delpit was an All-American in 2018 and 2019. He also finished his college career with 8 interceptions in 3 years. If given the chance Delpit could surprise in the preseason and take over as one of the starting safeties.
Third Wide Receiver: Rashard Higgins, Damion Ratley, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Taywan Taylor
With Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry as WR1 and 2, a third receiver will have to step up. Rashard Higgins or Damion Ratley should be front runners for the WR3 position. In 2019 Higgins and Ratley averaging 13.8 and 16.7 yards per catch respectively. Donovan Peoples-Jones while at Michigan served as a good punt and kick returner and a decent receiving threat. If he can show out in the shortened preseason we may see him surpass Higgins and Ratley on the depth charts.
Linebacker: B.J. Goodson, Mack Wilson, Sione Takitaki, Jacob Phillips
With the departure of Christian Kirksey and Joe Schobert, the Browns need somebody to step up and fill the gaps at linebacker. B.J Goodson was signed by the Browns in the offseason to be their veteran back. In 2019 Goodson played for Green Bay and started 9 of 15 games. This leaves the spot for the second starter to be filled by either Mack Wilson, Sione Takitaki, or rookie Jacob Phillips. Mack Wilson, a 2019 draft pick, started 14 games as a rookie and played well. Takitaki on the other hand only started 1 game last year and played below average during his time on the field.
However, according to the Browns linebacking coach Jason Tarver, the LSU standout Jacob Phillips has just as good of a chance as any of the other linebackers to start. Because of the youth and lack of experience in the linebacking group at this point, there are no guarantees at the linebacker position for the Cleveland Browns. By week 1 any of these four could be the starters at linebacker.
Ready To Break Out: Greedy Williams
Although he didn’t exactly show out in 2019 with only 2 passes defended and 47 combined tackles, Greedy Williams is ready to break out in 2020. Despite his deficiencies in coverage, he allowed 0 touchdowns in 2019. Many forget this but in 2018 with LSU Greedy Williams only allowed a 36.5 completion percentage and a 52.8 QBR. Williams is not perfect however and will have to improve on his tackling abilities if he wants a breakout season. Now that he has had a year in the Brown’s system and he was able to adjust himself into the NFL, Williams is going to improve. If the defense around him improves in 2020, Williams will have less to worry about and can adjust his own game in 2020. If all of this happens he is bound to break out.
Rookie To Watch: Jedrick Wills
With their first-round pick, the Browns picked up Jedrick Wills to strengthen their crumbling offensive line. Although offensive line play is not as interesting as other positions, Jedrick Wills will be an interesting rookie to watch. During his time at Alabama Jedrick Wills only allowed 1 sack in his two seasons as a starter. If he can maintain this level of play to offensive line play will vastly improve. If this happens Mayfield will be more protected and Chubb will have a much easier time running the ball.
Fantasy Sleeper: Baker Mayfield
Baker Mayfield had a terrible season last year. He almost had more interceptions than touchdowns. Because of his poor play in 2019, most people will not pick up Mayfield until the later rounds of fantasy drafts. Although he had a slump last year, under Stefanski, Mayfield could come back up to his rookie form, and with weapons like Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, and Kareem Hunt he could very easily be better than he was his rookie year. Mayfield is a risk, but if you’re looking for a QB in the later rounds or to replace your injured QB he could be a great pick.