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2012 Team Outlook: Cleveland

A fantasy football preview of the Browns this year. Profiled players include Colt McCoy, Brandon Weeden, Montario Hardesty, Brandon Jackson, and Chris Ogbonnaya.


The Colt McCoy experiment looks to have run its course. Cleveland drafted Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden with the No. 22 overall pick of the first round in the 2012 NFL Draft and all indicators point toward the rookie getting first dibs at the starting spot. McCoy won't go down without a fight, but if fantasy owners want to roll the dice with either of Cleveland's quarterbacks it has to be Weeden. McCoy's inconsistent accuracy and weak arm really limit any serious potential. Even if McCoy ends up the starter in Week 1, it will only take one or two bad games before Cleveland's fan base begins to clamor for Weeden. Drafting McCoy would be a mistake.

Update (8/12): The Browns are shopping McCoy for a third-round draft pick.


Although Brandon Weeden is the early favorite to start in Week 1, that endorsement is also a condemnation of Colt McCoy. The Browns are still a team that lacks a reliable group of receivers. Their top receiver, Greg Little, finished with the second-most drops in the NFL (14) in spite of only having the 17th-most targets. Supplemental draft pick Josh Gordon may need time to develop. Regardless, Weeden will have his work cut out for him. There's no question though that this offense will go through Trent Richardson, which will severely limit Weeden's fantasy production. Only dynasty owners and those in two QB leagues should take a long hard look at Weeden.

Update (8/12): The rookie out of Oklahoma State was a bit shaky in his preseason debut. On the bright side, he was officially named the starter, but Weeden still needs time to grow.


It's not easy being Montario Hardesty. During the preseason of his rookie 2010 season, he tore an ACL and last year he barely managed to play half the season. Now entering his third season, he's playing second fiddle to one of the so-called best rookie backs to come out "since Adrian Peterson," according to some analysts. Hardesty is sure to spell Trent Richardson now and again, particularly on third downs, but his fantasy value is bordering nil. Unless Richardson misses extended time, Hardesty is nothing more than waiver wire fodder or an emergency backup in deeper formats.

Update (8/12): Hardesty revealed he was battling with an infection after ACL surgery last offseason. Many have noted he looks like the Browns "most improved player."

Update (8/27): The Akron Beacon-Journal recently reported that Hardesty is the odds-on favorite to win the No. 2 spot behind Richardson and ahead of Brandon Jackson.


A serious case of the old turf toe prematurely ended Brandon Jackson's 2011 season. Before the injury, he was the favorite to be Cleveland's No. 2 back behind Peyton Hillis. Now that he's healed up and been cleared to play, he'll be looking to reclaim his old place on the depth chart. Until he rises up the ranks, he has no fantasy value; yet, it is worth noting that he is likely this team's best third-down back.

Update (8/27): Jackson practiced with the first-team after Montario Hardesty fumbled during the team's second preseason game. Jackson has a shot to earn the No. 2 role, but Hardesty is the favorite for now.


Last year when Cleveland's running backs were dropping like flies due to injuries, Chris Ogbonnaya made a bit of a name for himself in fantasy circles. It didn't last long. After four consecutive games with at least 14 touches, Ogbonnaya was a non-factor the rest of the year. Now he's listed as the Browns' RB3 and as one would expect, he shouldn't be a fantasy factor unless both Trent Richardson and Montario Hardesty are hurt.


The hype may seem a bit over the top, but all the praise being given to Trent Richardson is very well-deserved. This highly-touted rookie will face a lot of pressure to produce for Cleveland's struggling offense. Even when former teammate Mark Ingram was at Alabama, everyone agreed Richardson was the better back. In order for him to reach his full potential this year, the Browns offense has to be able to open up the passing game. This will prohibit defenses from stacking the box and keying in on the run game. Montario Hardesty will poach touches, but Richardson is durable enough to be an every-down back. His thick, compact build will excel in the red zone and at the goal line so it's unlikely his touchdowns will be vultured away. Richardson should be the first pick in dynasty drafts and the first rookie taken in any other league format.

Update (8/12): The former Alabama rookie had his left knee scoped which puts him in jeopardy to miss the season opener. Fantasy owners shouldn't be too terribly concerned since the injury was not serious.

Update (8/27): Richardson is on track to start in Week 1 yet could see a limited workload until 100-percent.