Because of a certain big-time athlete leaving town, football hungry Cleveland might be asking more from their Browns in 2010 than they have in the recent past. In the wake of LeBron's departure, the city is looking for a new face for their professional sports landscape and they might have it in a Browns' uniform.
And no, we're not talking about Jake Delhomme.
The Browns scored some fantastic quality in the 2010 Draft, and hope new President Mike Holmgren can work similar magic in Cleveland as he did in Green Bay and Seattle. Let's look at the Browns heading into this season.
The Browns cleaned house under center, replacing both Brady Quinn and Derek Andersonwith former Carolina quarterback Delhomme. Delhomme was a miserable failure with the Panthers last year, but every indication is that he is only babysitting the starting job until former Texas Longhorns star Colt McCoy is ready to take over. While many draft analysts doubted McCoy's arm before the draft, his track record at Texas is dripping with success. It's only a matter of time until McCoy is the man in Cleveland, perhaps becoming the new face of the city post-LeBron.
Given McCoy's a rookie and Delhomme hasn't been good in years, having a Cleveland quarterback on your roster isn't recommended this year.
Similarly to the quarterback position, the Browns have a decent but not overwhelming veteran that will be complimented (if not replaced) by a rookie this year. Jerome Harrison ran for 862 yards and five touchdowns last year after taking over the primary running responsibilities from Jamal Lewis, and was a nice sleeper pick last year. However, second round pick Montario Hardesty from Tennessee could see a pretty fair amount of playing time on early downs, while James Davis and Peyton Hillis both fight for table scraps.
It's hard to see where the fantasy value is in the Cleveland backfield heading into this season, but of the four it might be safest to bet on Hillis to be a touchdown vulture.
Everyone knows Josh Cribbs is lightning on grass on a weekly basis, but last year's breakout player in Cleveland was Mohamed Massaquoi. After the Browns dealt Braylon Edwards to the Jets, Massaquoi finished the season with the team lead in receptions (34),yards (624) and touchdowns (3). Brian Robiskie will also be a factor in the passing game for Cleveland this year, but none of these guys should be considered a big-time fantasy option as long as Delhomme is under center.
Ben Watson and Robert Royal are listed as the top two TEs on the depth chart. Neither is going to light the world on fire, but Watson is a solid pick to steal a few touchdowns this year in the red zone.
The Browns' top two draft picks might make an immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball this year. CB Joe Haden and S TJ Ward could both be starters by Opening Day, adding much-needed depth to the Browns' secondary. In the North, they'll get plenty of chances playing against Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, all of whom like to throw the ball.
The defensive front is a mess, again, because DT Shaun Rogers has more legal issues that could keep him off the field. The addition of LB Scott Fujita from the Super Bowl Champion Saints will bring a solid veteran to a linebacking group that has some good talent with D'Qwell Jackson and Eric Barton. They will need to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks to help their young secondary, though, and could give up a lot of points this season.
Stay away from CLE DEF, but there could be solid IDP value in the linebacking group on this young unit.
2010 Regular Season Schedule (all times EST)
Yes, every game is at 1:00 ET because, well, all of the networks see little interest outside of Cleveland in many of these games. The schedule is rough both because of the divisional games, but there might be some match-up value against teams like Buffalo, Carolina and the running game might do well against New England this year. However, looking at this roster, you might be better served to know the Browns' schedule so you can start players playing against Cleveland.
The Browns will continue to run a 3-4 defense, but it could suffer in the absense of Rogers inside. On offense, it's no secret that the Browns will use Cribbs all over the field, but trying to determine how effective any scheme will be with the limited options and mediocre, overpaid Delhomme under center is hard to tell.