There are certainly are players to take stock in for fantasy managers in the Cleveland Browns offense this year. But there may be one player going later in drafts that may be flying under the radar.
Baker Mayfield put together a productive year last season leading the Browns to an 11-5 record and their first playoff birth in since 2002. His progression in Kevin Stefanski’s offense in their first year together was a sight for sore eyes, especially for Browns fans as their never-ending QB carousel could be coming to a stop.
Now, I know what you are thinking.
Despite Mayfield’s season, he did not have a stellar fantasy season. Mayfield finished the year with a total of 252.98 fantasy points, which ranked 17th in the NFL among quarterbacks behind Big Ben and Cam Newton; Sorry about that stat, Browns fans…
But that is why this is a sleeper article and I think Baker could be trending towards a higher fantasy floor than people think–maybe even a week-to-week starter.
Now, it’s not a secret that Mayfield is in a run-first offense, which has been the reasoning for most fantasy owners taking other quarterbacks ahead of him. However, I think this stat may be a tad bit overrated.
In 2020, the Browns ranked 4th in rushing attempts with 495 attempts on the year. The only other teams that had more attempts were the Ravens, Patriots and Titans, who all had quarterbacks that put up better fantasy numbers than Baker.
Now, with Lamar and Cam that isn’t shocking due to how many points they get on the ground. There is one quarterback on this list who runs an offense similar to Stefanski that was a top-10 fantasy QB just a year ago.
In 2019, Ryan Tannehill took the reigns for the Titans in a year where Derrick Henry burst onto the scene and led the Titans to the AFC title game almost single handily.
Henry had the second-highest fantasy point total by any running back in 2019 and the Titans had 445 rushing attempts as a whole.
That year Tannehill was in a similar scenario as Baker, in an offense that was run happy, playing well, but the fantasy production just was not there.
Tannehill finished that year just outside the top-20 with 230 fantasy points, but he missed a few games behind Marcus Mariota at the start of the year. Tannehill’s fantasy numbers would have been right on par with Mayfield’s 2020 season had he had not missed that time.
Before 2019, people were aware of the threat that Derick Henry posed, but after 2019, it was clear that the Titans were going to impose their will in the run game. Which meant a drop even further for Tannehill right? Not exactly.
In 2020, the Titans attempts went up as predicted, but even with the uptick in attempts, Tannehill was able to find significant fantasy success in an offense that was more run-happy than even the Browns.
Tannehill ranked top-10 in fantasy production among quarterbacks, outranking the likes of Lamar Jackson, Tom Brady and even rookie phenom Justin Herbert. Tannehill took advantage of teams stacking the box against Henry which allowed him to utilize targets like AJ Brown, Corey Davis and even Jonnu Smith.
The comparisons are obvious. Nick Chubb has been great since he stepped onto the NFL field but this past year showed that he is a superstar in the making and he does not go down easy.
Teams knowing that they will have to spend a significant amount of time prepping for Chubb and Kareem Hunt for that matter will open up Baker Mayfield to get the ball to his targets and trust me there are plenty of them.
Yes, he is in a run-happy offense, but fantasy players are missing the value of having a runner like Chubb in the backfield. It allows them to take the top off defenses which in turn provides more touchdowns and fantasy production for Mayfield.
2020 was a huge step-up year for Mayfield, he improved his touchdown total by four, improved his completion percentage by 3% and upgraded his QBR from a 54.4 to a 72.1. That was without his best wide receiver and the covid craziness.
With Odell coming back into the fold along with the young and talented wide receivers that the Browns have, they have a chance to be a top-five offense. Mayfield’s current ADP, or average draft position, is in the 12th to 13th round. Mayfield is a low-risk/high reward to get him as your backup.