The Cleveland Browns set in motion the path to improvement by hiring general manager John Dorsey this offseason to replace Sashi Brown. Dorsey’s personnel expertise added to a sound draft class of a year ago means the arrow is pointing north in Cleveland.
With two of the first four picks, and four in the top 35 selections of this upcoming draft, Dorsey will have ammo for trading and/or simply bolstering the roster with four highly skilled rookies.
Before the draft fireworks even had a chance to explode, Dorsey made more noise than any franchise on the eve of free agency by trading for quarterback Tyrod Taylor from Buffalo and also acquiring wide receiver Jarvis Landry from the Miami Dolphins.
In Cleveland, Taylor becomes an instant upgrade at the position. Last year’s rookie experiment with DeShone Kizer didn’t go as planned, and the former Golden Domer was shipped to the Green Bay Packers. His replacement will be tasked with stabilizing the offense and making Cleveland respectable. Face it, even winning four or five games has to be considered a win after the past two years. Just being consistently competitive is a trend in the right direction.
Kizer wasn’t ready, and it came as no surprise to anyone. However, he also was Cleveland’s best option. His biggest drawback was the turnovers … all 28 of them. That is not to say Kizer is a total loss, but the move to Taylor clearly signifies a desire to protect the rock. T-Mobile turned it over 21 total times in three years as Buffalo’s starter.
Protecting the ball keeps drives alive and allows the defense to catch its breath. It also keeps opposing offenses off of the field. Does this offensive philosophy look familiar? It should remind everyone of the system employed during Dorsey’s stay in KC.
The Browns beefed up the receiving corps by adding the next guy we’ll discuss, and we suspect addressing the backfield will come early in the NFL draft. Along the offensive line, Cleveland has great talent but needs a touch of good fortune. All-World left tackle Joe Thomas returns from a torn triceps muscle. Left guard Joel Bitonio must stay healthy, and right tackle Shon Coleman, while promising, is learning the ropes.
Taylor has more weapons than he ever enjoyed in Buffalo, and the offensive line is at least as strong, if not better. Fantasy owners should already know what he is as an option, though. At his best, we’re talking about a passer with career highs of 20 passing touchdowns, 24 total scores, and no more than 3,035 aerial yards in any given season. Could he be more productive? Sure, it’s possible. How much more is the debate, and it’s likely settled with a cap of being a fringe starter some weeks.
Few receivers have been as dominate as Landry in point-per-reception scoring over the past three-plus seasons. As a rookie in 2014, he caught 84 passes and scored five times. Spanning the next three seasons, the former Dolphin hauled in single-year totals of 110, 94 and 112, respectively. The LSU product has finished no worse than 13th in PPR scoring over those three campaigns.
Landry is still only 25 years old well into the regular season, and with Cleveland having coffers deep enough to make Jeff Bezos do a double-take, this acquisition makes plenty of sense. The Browns needed an underneath target with reliable hands to complement the vertical nature of Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman. Toss in Rashard Higgins and Ricardo Louis for what could be one of the deepest receiving corps in the NFL. Higgins’ 62 percent snap share last year led the team, and Louis paced the club with 61 targets. Tight end David Njoku will also absorb looks, and perhaps even Seth DeValve gets in on the fun once again.
Landry needs to learn a new system, build chemistry with yet another quarterback whose passing skills are questionable, and find enough looks to matter on a weekly basis. Repeating last year’s 112 receptions is out of the question, but the nine touchdowns he scored could be in play. A range of roughly 85-95 catches for 900-ish yards is fair to expect. Presuming all things remain equal or play out as expected, Landry’s ceiling is capped somewhere in the midrange WR2 area for PPR purposes.
Impact on draft plans
There is plenty of time left for something to change via traded picks or what have you, but the Browns are no in firm position to draft Penn State running back Saquon Barkley with the No. 1 overall pick and focus on a rookie quarterback with a later selection.
Barkley would be an immediate upgrade to the backfield, and the move makes considerable sense with Isaiah Crowell poised to test the market. New offensive coordinator Todd Haley helped make Le’Veon Bell a fantasy superstar, and the same is well within reach for Barkley. In the event this train of thought pulls into the station, Barkley is a low-end RB1 in 2018.
Draft a quarterback later than the first pick gives the Browns a chance to groom said player without the inevitable feeling of Taylor being on a short leash. As long as he plays at a competent level, it should be enough to fend off any competition.