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Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions: The 2024 Cleveland Browns

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Welcome to Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions for the 2024 fantasy football season. Our Chris Meaney and Daniel Kelley are going to go team-by-team around the league all summer. They’ll pick sleepers, busts and bold predictions for each team. Sometimes they’ll agree! Sometimes they will go completely opposite one another! And that’s fine, because they’ll defend their positions, and you can decide for yourself who to side with. Up today: The Cleveland Browns.

Below, they tackle the team, starting with their picks in “The Answers,” then expanding on their picks in “The Explanation.”

2024 Sleepers, Busts & Bold Predictions: Cleveland Browns

The Answers

Favorite Sleeper

Meaney: Nick Chubb
Kelley: Jerry Jeudy

Biggest Bust

Meaney: David Njoku
Kelley: David Njoku

Bold Prediction

Meaney: Jerry Jeudy Has a Career Year
Kelley: The Browns Don’t Have a Top-50 Running Back

The Explanations

Sleepers

Meaney: Nick Chubb
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 13: Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) runs the football during the fourth quarter of the National Football League game between the Seattle Seahawks and Cleveland Browns on October 13, 2019, at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, OH. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)
CLEVELAND, OH – OCTOBER 13: Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) runs the football during the fourth quarter of the National Football League game between the Seattle Seahawks and Cleveland Browns on October 13, 2019, at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, OH. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

As I’ve said throughout this series, a sleeper is someone who will outperform their average draft position, and I believe Nick Chubb will finish well inside his current price tag — RB44, pick 140.7. You’re telling me I can get Nick Chubb in the 11th or 12th round of fantasy drafts? Sign me up! Yes, I understand he’s recovering from a torn ACL and MCL, and it’s the same knee he tore in 2015 while playing for the Georgia Bulldogs, but pick 140 is a steal. He rebounded nicely in 2015 and the Browns got themselves a steal in the draft, and you can as well. There’s very little risk in the 11th round, as you’ll already have your starting roster and then some. Chubb could end up being your third or fourth running back, and he could be a difference maker down the stretch of the season. I don’t think we’ll see him by Week 1, but there’s a good chance we’ll see him by October. By November, we’re ranking him as a top-12 running back. Be honest with yourself, would you rather draft Kendre Miller, MarShawn Lloyd, Ty Chandler, Jaylen Wright, Tyler Allgeier or Ray Davis … or Nick Chubb? That’s what I thought. 

Kelley: Jerry Jeudy

The Broncos shipped Jerry Jeudy out this offseason after he disappointed in Denver, and they kept Courtland Sutton as their WR1 to build around. Dirty little secret? They were basically the same guy in 2023:

Player Courtland Sutton Jerry Jeudy
Targets 87 84
Receptions 59 54
Yards 777 758
Yards Per Route Run 1.66 1.65
aDOT 13.0 13.6

Obviously, that’s an oversimplification, especially as it regards touchdowns — Sutton scored 10, Jeudy 2. And Sutton is an out-wide receiver (77.3% of routes) while Jeudy is a slot guy (59.1%). I’m not saying they were actually the same, just that the gap in perception between the two is exaggerated because of touchdowns. Jeudy, now in Cleveland, should be the primary slot weapon for Deshaun Watson, and at WR61 in early ADP, all he really needs is health to blow away his ADP, and if he can stumble into some extra touchdown luck, he could find his way to flex value.

Busts

Meaney: David Njoku

I love the player, and his ceiling was on full display last season, but I’m not sure that carries over into 2024. Njoku didn’t have the same connection with Deshaun Watson as he did with Joe Flacco. In six games together, Njoku averaged 5.8 targets, 4.2 catches and 38.3 receiving yards, compared to 9.0 targets, 5.7 catches and 67.7 receiving yards in games without Watson. The Browns became more of a pass-happy team under Flacco and without Chubb, but it’s hard to imagine Njoku getting that type of volume from Watson. Cleveland also brought in Jerry Jeudy, which will put a dent into Njoku’s target share. 

Kelley: David Njoku

David Njoku’s ridiculously hot stretch to end the 2023 season has him high in ADP for 2024 — he’s TE9 in ADP as of when I’m writing this. Famously, though, the majority of his success came with Joe Flacco at quarterback — in two years with Deshaun Watson on the Browns, Njoku sees his targets drop by more than a quarter and his yardage drop by over 40% in games Watson plays more than 15 snaps. Check it, per the FTN Splits Tool:

This isn’t a new thing — Watson never had a tight end finish better than TE19 in his Houston days, either. And with the team bringing in Jerry Jeudy, there will be fewer targets for Njoku as well.

Bold Predictions

Meaney: Jerry Jeudy Has a Career Year

It wouldn’t take much for Jeudy to have a career season. His career high in terms of catches is 67, and he’s had 54 or fewer in three of his four seasons. He’s yet to have a 1,000-yard campaign, and he has a season with zero touchdowns. Jeudy is a big upgrade over Elijah Moore in the slot, and if you remember, Moore averaged seven targets per game with Watson. In their six games together, Moore had at least seven targets in five of those games, and he had nine twice. That’s not because Moore was getting open, it’s an area of the field Watson targeted, and now the Browns have improved in that area of the field with the addition of Jeudy. He’s a much better complement to Amari Cooper.

Kelley: The Browns Don’t Have a Top-50 Running Back

Jerome Ford was perfectly fine in 2023 filling in for Nick Chubb. D’Onta Foreman played a small sample last year, but he’s on a two-year run (pun intended) of good performance. Nick Chubb is of course one of the best runners in the game when healthy. Nyheim Hines was an excellent receiving back before a jet ski accident ended his 2023 before it started. In other words, there are a lot of good running backs in Cleveland but also a lot of backs with warning signs. Barring Chubb coming back healthy and early, there isn’t likely to be a single back rise high enough here to be a fantasy factor, and Chubb’s injury was so severe that I would frankly be surprised if we saw him before midseason. And then, if Chubb comes back in the middle of the season, (a) he’ll certainly be eased in, so he won’t be able to be the down-the-stretch savior, and (b) he’ll kill the value of the rest of the backfield. Just avoid the Browns backfield in drafts.

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