Every year, during the final weeks of August, grown men and women flock to the homes of their friends, colleagues, and family members (or nearby sports bars) to take part in perhaps the nerdiest ritual in all of sports fanhood: fantasy football drafting.
I admit, I am a huge fan of fantasy sports. It is the perfect way to enhance one’s knowledge of the players participating in the professional sports leagues fans have come to worship over the years. And, among all fantasy sports, there is little argument against the fact that fantasy football reigns supreme.
As the NFL preseason moves into its final week – much to the dismay of, well, no one – millions of fantasy football enthusiasts are prepping for the grand show that is whichever fantasy football draft they are partaking in.
Since the Cleveland Browns stumbled and fumbled (yes, I’m talking about you, Mr. Little) their way to a 27-6 loss at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts Saturday night, my interest in talking about the abundance of Browns penalties and pass drops have been strongly outweighed by my desire to discuss the potential impact of some Browns players on 2013 fantasy football rosters.
So, without further ado, here are the four Browns who present the most potential of serving as contributing factors for your 2013 fantasy football championship-bound – or Toilet Bowl-bound – squad:
If one is to use conventional wisdom and choose a workhorse running back over a top-flight passer (a la Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees) with his or her first selection (which seems like more of a no-brainer than conventional wisdom to me), then look no further than big, bad #33.
Richardson did not quite produce enough yards per carry in 2012 (3.6) to persuade some Browns fans that the first-year bruiser out of Alabama had lived up to the lofty expectations placed upon his broad shoulders when he entered the league as the third overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Richardson’s fantasy owners would most likely have disagreed, as the 5-foot-9, 230-pounder finished with twelve total touchdowns.
Although his total yardage (1,317) wasn’t quite up to par with some of the game’s elite backs, keep in mind that Richardson played through most of the season with broken ribs while serving as the primary offensive weapon for a very young, developing Browns squad.
With Norv Turner now at the helm of the offense, expect a rise in Richardson’s number of touches both on the ground and in the passing game. The Browns have been very cautious with Richardson throughout the preseason, as he has continued to battle through nagging injuries.
Regardless of the negative discussion surrounding Richardson’s injury-plagued short NFL tenure (he’s only missed one of 16 regular season games, people!), there’s no denying Richardson fits the bill as a number one fantasy running back.
Final verdict: Top 10 pick, #1 RB.
The Browns seemingly hit the jackpot in 2012 by snatching up the ultra-talented Gordon in the second round of the NFL’s Supplemental Draft, as the former Baylor Bear produced as well as any rookie wide receiver last season.
Gordon caught 50 passes in 2012 – five of which went for touchdowns – for a total of 805 yards.
Gordon sometimes suffered from inconsistent quarterback play by fellow rookie Brandon Weeden but was able to emerge as Weeden’s go-to target through the air, nonetheless.
Throughout his first season, “Flash” Gordon displayed serious All-Pro potential, although he also did a good job of reminding onlookers that he was still a rookie (I know, the sun is big and bright).
The 22-year-old will fall on some draft boards because of a two-game suspension that will not allow him to contribute right away, but expect Gordon to be one of the focal points of Turner’s new offense as the Browns look to capitalize on Weeden’s strong arm and Gordon’s big-play ability.
Final verdict: Draft Gordon in the middle-to-late rounds as a low-risk (8th-11th round), high-reward (potential #2 WR) candidate.
Through two full seasons, Little has done little (I had to) to prove that he is capable of being a star in the NFL. At this point, though, the Browns are just hoping he can take the leap in his third year to at least being a reliable #2 target for Weeden.
Little has had his bouts with drops, boneheaded mistakes, and off-the-field issues, but it’s not time to give up on the former North Carolina Tar Heel just yet. Through two seasons, he has accumulated a yearly production average of 57 catches and 678 receiving yards. Nothing to write home about, but there is potential for growth.
Little has the talent to team up with Gordon in Turner’s offensive scheme and form one of the league’s top young pass-catching duos. Little’s inability to cash in on his pure talent and superior size (6-foot-2, 220 pounds) to this point in his career, though, as well as the addition of possession receiver Davone Bess – which spells trouble for Little’s number of targets – should strike some doubts into the hearts of those who draft him.
Final verdict: Take a late-round flier on Little to fill out your roster, although he probably won’t be anything more than a bye week flex position fill-in, at best.
When the Browns let Benjamin Watson sign elsewhere during the offseason, most assumed the team would acquire one of the free agent market’s big names at the tight end position (Jared Cook, Martellus Bennett, etc.).
Instead, the Browns brought in lesser-known options in former Carolina Panthers backup Gary Barnidge and recently-released Chicago Bears starter Kellen Davis to compete with Cameron, who had already served as Watson’s backup for the previous two seasons.
Among the three, Cameron has emerged as the starter following an impressive training camp and solid showings throughout the preseason.
No one has ever questioned Cameron’s talent. His size (6-foot-5, 245 pounds) and speed (4.59 40-yard dash time at the 2011 NFL Combine) at the tight end position create instant mismatches. And, luckily for fantasy owners, Cameron’s blocking ability (or lack thereof) will have no effect on his final stat line.
If utilized correctly, Cameron could serve as a serious red-zone threat for the Weeden-led Browns offense. Expect him to find the end zone on more than a few occasions this season.
Final verdict: Many others are considering Cameron to be a sleeper, so try to scoop him as your backup tight end before others beat you to it. If all goes well, he could develop into a starter.
Happy drafting, and may the fantasy football gods be as kind to you as I’m hoping they will be to me.