2017 Fantasy Outlook: Jacksonville Jaguars & Cleveland Browns
by 4 April 2017, 10:00 AM
These fantasy options on the Browns and Jaguars will help you win your league in 2017.
With a combined four wins between the Jaguars and the Browns in 2016, the fantasy options aren’t exactly bursting at the seams, but there are a few diamonds in the rough including wide receivers Corey Coleman and Marqise Lee. Bounce-back seasons are needed for WR Allen Robinson and TE Gary Barnidge (both ranked 4th or better in points in 2015) to put these options back on the map and into your fantasy lineups.
This weekly series of columns will focus on one to two teams and their fantasy-relevant players heading into next season. Player rankings are broken up into three tiers: ‘Start ‘Em’, ‘Flex or Stream ‘Em’, and ‘Pick ‘Em Up’. Portions of this series take place during free agency, therefore players are subject to change. All fantasy rankings and stats are from Pro Football Reference.
Allen Robinson, WR (Jaguars)
The breakout star of 2015 followed up his monstrous sophomore season (80 catches, 1,400 yards, 14 touchdowns) with a lackluster 2016. Aided by poor play from QB Blake Bortles, Robinson only managed 126 fantasy points in 2016 compared to 224 the season prior. Regardless, Robinson is the bonafide number one receiver on this team, and if Bortles can up his game, Robinson will bounce back and return to his top wideout status.
Isaiah Crowell, RB (Browns)
Crowell was not a consistent runner for the Browns last season, rushing for over 110 yards four times and under 60 yards nine times. Despite the ups and downs, he started every game and rushed for a career-high 4.8 yards per carry, good enough to finish as the 15th ranked back in fantasy. He also set career highs in rushing yards (952), receptions (40) and reception yards (319). Crowell is a prototypical RB2 with upside in both standard and PPR leagues.
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Flex or Stream ‘Em
Allen Hurns, WR (Jaguars)
Hurns missed the final five games of last season due to a hamstring injury, and was not a big fantasy factor prior to the injury. In 2015, both Hurns and Robinson surpassed 1,000 receiving yards, so we know the talent is there for Hurns. Marqise Lee and Hurns will be battling for the second wide receiver spot entering 2017. Hurns is poised to take the job out of the gate due to greater overall past success, so if you gamble on one, my recommendation is Hurns. He is a late-round pick with WR2 potential.
Kenny Britt, WR (Browns)
A new free agent signing by the Browns, Britt had a career-best season with the Rams in 2016, catching 5 touchdowns and surpassing 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. While some combination of quarterbacks Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan, Brock Osweiler and possible draft picks does not strike confidence in Britt owners, he managed to have the season he had last year with Case Keenum and Jared Goff in an anemic Rams offense. Do not expect Britt to put up the same numbers he did in 2016, but he will most likely be the top receiver come year’s end for Cleveland.
Gary Barnidge, TE (Browns)
Barnidge’s 2016 season fell flat after his breakout 2015 campaign. He finished 20th among tight ends after finishing behind only Rob Gronkowski the previous season. With Terrelle Pryor out of town, however, look for the Browns to make better use of Barnidge in the red zone and at the goal line after only scoring twice in 2016. If you plan to skip out on the top tier of tight ends such as Gronkowski, Travis Kelce and Jimmy Graham, Barnidge is a great pickup with an opportunity for increased production in 2017.
Blake Bortles, QB (Jaguars)
If you just look at the stats, you would think that Bortles was a top NFL quarterback. In 2015 he ranked fourth among QBs in fantasy points, and was 10th in 2016. The face value of the stats don’t tell the true story. According to a Pro Football Talk story last October, Bortles is the king of stat padding in garbage time. Up to that point, Bortles had thrown 26 fourth quarter touchdowns and only 32 in the other three quarters combined in his career. Thankfully, fantasy football is kind to any positive numbers being put up, regardless of their in-game meaningfulness or lack thereof. Bortles has put up QB1 numbers for two straight seasons, so he needs to be owned, but be weary of that production mostly coming in garbage time.
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon, RBs (Jaguars)
As the fantasy season rolls along, starting running backs become more and more of a valuable commodity. As injuries pile up, you will often be browsing the waiver wire looking for anyone who may get a dozen touches. I’ve combined Ivory and Yeldon since they were nearly 50/50 in terms of workload in 2016 (Ivory had 117 carries, Yeldon 130).
Ivory missed five games in 2016, including the first two, and never was able to get into a groove. He rushed for 3.8 yards per carry, slightly above the 3.6 that Yeldon put up. The Jaguars’ less-than-prolific rushing offense finished 22nd in 2016, and would have been much lower if it wasn’t for Bortles having a few big rushing games. Neither runner is exciting to own by any means, but either will suffice as a late-round pick for bench depth and the occasional flex start. If one of the pair grabs a firm hold of the starting job, there is RB2 potential.
Pick ‘Em Up
Marqise Lee, WR (Jaguars)
After a disappointing first two seasons in the league, the USC product took a big leap forward in 2016. Lee more than quadrupled his production from 2015, catching 63 passes for 851 yards and three touchdowns. Fellow wide receiver Allen Hurns, who missed five games due to injury, paved the road for Lee getting more playing time, and he took advantage of it. We will have to wait and see whether Lee or Hurns emerges as the second option behind Robinson, but Lee should be a late pickup in drafts and is a solid wait-and-see option on your bench.
Duke Johnson Jr., RB (Browns)
Johnson is the passing downs back in Cleveland and racked up 514 yards on 53 catches in 2016. He only carried the ball 73 times to starter Crowell’s 198 rushes despite averaging 4.9 yards per rush. In standard leagues, he was the 40th ranked running back, but in PPR leagues he jumped up 10 spots to 30th overall. Johnson is only a PPR league flex play unless he can steal more carries away from Crowell.
Corey Coleman, WR (Browns)
The rookie out of Baylor exploded onto the scene in 2016 with a 58-yard reception in Week 1 and a 104-yard, two-touchdown game in Week 2. He broke his hand in practice before Week 3 and missed six games, managing only one more touchdown and one game over 40 receiving yards the rest of the season. Heading into the 2017 season, Coleman should be penciled in at the number two wide receiver behind newly signed Kenny Britt. He is worth a late-round pick and could force his way into your starting lineup if he rekindles what we saw in the first few weeks of his rookie season.
*I have left him off this list, but if Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon is reinstated and begins to produce, he is a must-own off the waiver wire.
They may not be overflowing with talent, but the Jaguars and the Browns have young established players in Allen Robinson and Isaiah Crowell and up-and-comers in Marqise Lee and Corey Coleman. Ultimately, the fantasy output of many of these names hinges on the quarterback play of Bortles for the Jaguars and whomever takes the helm for the Browns.
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