Dynasty Football: Cleveland Browns Rookie Receivers

Browns Corey Coleman

There is one criticism that you could never level at the Cleveland Browns, and that is that they are boring off the field. Between the drama of Johnny Manziel and the substance woes of Josh Gordon, the loyal Cleveland Browns fan base have a lot to talk about and have long suffered.

In another wave making off-season move the Cleveland Browns hired former MLB general manager Paul DePodesta as “chief strategy officer”. DePodesta is most famous for his work as an assistant with the Oakland Athletics,where along with Billy Bean, he helped formulate the “Moneyball” approach to roster building. The question on everyone’s lips was,can analytics work in football, and more specifically the NFL draft?

Alongside GM Sashi Brown and new head coach Hue Jackson, DePodesta worked the draft board to the tune of 14 selections. Twice they traded down in round 1, from the second and eighth overall picks. They wound up at number fifteen overall, and with a pocket full of future sections to boot. So far so good.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of their draft was how they loaded up on pass catchers. The clubs previous regime famously claimed that you didn’t need to draft wide receivers and that you could find them on the street! The Browns receiver room certainly proves that hasn’t been the case. They entered the draft with only Brian Hartline, Taylor Gabriel, Terrelle Pryor,and the often injured Andrew Hawkins of any note on their depth chart. Josh Gordon (arguably one of the most explosive receivers in the league) is still suspended and has no concrete date for reinstatement, and their top receiver from 2015, Travis Benjamin, left for the Chargers in free agency.

The Browns selected four wide receivers in the 2016 draft, starting in round one with the electric Corey Coleman, and continuing on day three with Ricardo Louis,Jordan Payton and Rashard Higgins. What was a barren position for the Browns, now seems crowded, and carries a lot of question marks.

So what does this mean for your Dynasty rosters? With rookie drafts in full flow and owners looking to improve their teams, which of the Browns new weapons should you target, and at what price point? Let’s take a look.

Corey Coleman | WR| Baylor
Selected in Round 1 (15th overall)

In many people’s view Coleman is regarded as the best receiver to come out of this draft however, I don’t necessarily agree. While I like Coleman enough, I don’t have him ranked over either Laquon Treadwell or Josh Doctson on my rookie big board. Treadwell has been maligned for his average athletic profile and slow forty time, but in my opinion is a much better technician and a more rounded receiver than Coleman. Treadwell wins at the line of scrimmage with a variety of head fakes and smooth footwork, and he will bowl over defenders for a contested catch. Doctson, while less aggressive than Treadwell, is also a very smooth technician and has the speed to go with it.

The Browns have gotten themselves an exciting playmaker in Coleman. He has tremendous deep speed, a thick and rugged NFL build. Coleman can flip the field position in the blink of an eye. He has solid technical skills and gives corners nightmares with his ability to sell the deep ball almost putting them on skates at times. The reason I can’t endorse him ahead of Treadwell and Doctson is two fold.

Firstly it’s the landing spot. The QB situation in Cleveland is sketchy at best. If you were to guarantee me sixteen games of a motivated Robert Griffin I’d feel much better about Coleman in dynasty drafts, but as we all know that is far from guaranteed. There is no guarantee that RG3 will even be the starter, with Josh McCown and third round rookie Cody Kessler in the mix. As I said,it’s pretty sketchy.

Secondly, when I’m picking higher up the board in a rookie draft, I like to take the prototype outside receivers. Ideally the combination of height,length,speed and versatility. Doctson and Treadwell fit that profile more than Coleman, and are more likely to return value in my opinion. I see Coleman as a bigger built DeSean Jackson. A huge deep threat, with massive big play potential.

I’d be happy to have Coleman on any of my Dynasty rosters,he’s going to be fun to watch and will have big days in Fantasy. But at his current 1.02 price point I’m not comfortable selecting him over Treadwell and Doctson, who both have a higher floor with a similar upside.

Scott Sewell - USA TODAY Sports

Scott Sewell – USA TODAY Sports

Ricardo Louis | WR | Auburn
Selected in round four (114 overall)

The Browns second addition to the position came out of nowhere. Louis wasn’t exactly highly touted as a potential dynasty asset. He is an impressive athlete, but has limited college production with only his senior year as a starter, but if you take a closer look at him, there is a lot to like.

Firstly the measurables, Louis ran a 4.43 forty yard dash and had a 38 inch vertical jump and at 6’2″ he has the size to go up and get the ball. He’s raw, but has the physical tools to be molded into a useful player at the NFL level.

Louis also has nice after catch ability. He ran a lot of sweeps at Auburn, exploiting holes in coverage and showing some of that brake away speed on tape. When you watch Louis, you are immediately struck by how thick he is. He almost has the build of a running back and at times he shows nice vision and cutting ability with ball in hand. He is also a finisher at the end of his runs, lowering his pads and fighting through tackles. He shows some proficiency in his route running and made some impressive contested catches. His production was modest (46-716-3td’s) in his lone season as a starter at Auburn, but it would be fair to say that the QB play was at the very least,poor.

Obviously there are red flags with Louis, as well as his limited production in college, he sometimes fails to fight back to the ball, and tends to wait for a pass. I also wonder how many of Auburn’s plays were designed to exploit holes in coverages, and I would like to see more of Louis’ ability to create for himself with the ball in space.

I haven’t yet seen him on many peoples radar in rookie drafts. I think the lack of production on his resume and his landing spot with the Browns has turned people off the thought of drafting him, but he’s someone I’m definitely looking to take a shot at in the late rounds. If you have a big roster, there is no harm in adding a quality athlete that was drafted by a team with a wide open depth chart at his position. In shallower leagues, you may even be able to add him as a free agent, either way he is a player to monitor.

UCLA Jordan Payton

Wally Skalij – Los Angeles Times

Jordan Payton | WR | UCLA
Selected in round 5 (154 overall)

Jordan Payton should have had more draft buzz. In my pre-draft analysis of receiver prospects, I completely overlooked him! Sometimes I like to evaluate using measurable and like to be wowed by athletic ability, but that can sometimes overshadow how good a Football player a prospect is. Go and find a scouting report on Payton and it will mostly tell you about how slow he is and how he’s not going to scare a defense deep. I look at him and see a sure handed receiver that is at times exceptional at the fundamentals of the position.

He is a nice route runner, wins contested catches, he gets out of his breaks smoothly and is aggressive against press coverage and in winning the battle at the line of scrimmage. I’d even go as far as to say that he does some of these things at least as well as the top prospects at his position if not better. Seriously, when you look at the tape, his work at the line is so impressive. He shows skills that some seasoned pros don’t display. A wicked first step followed by aggressive hand movement allows him to win.

There are some obvious flaws in Payton’s game. The book on him is that he is slow, and though he did run a respectable 4.47 forty, his lack of deep speed is evident on tape in my opinion. He often has the corner beat but fails to break away with the ball in hand. If used as a deep receiver he may have to make a living winning contested catches, something he shows an ability to do on tape.

On the surface of it, Payton profiles as a reliable NFL possession receiver in the right scheme, I personally think he has some potential as that big slot guy that seems to be becoming vogue in the modern NFL. Like Louis though, he is an intriguing dynasty value pick. He’s better than advertised, and he has a wide open depth chart to go and win a starting job. If used correctly, Payton could turn a late round dynasty pick into a solid PPR asset on your roster. Like Louis, target him late in drafts when your league mates are looking at the more heralded prospects that have more situational value than talent. Payton in many ways has both.

Colorado State Rashard Higgins

Andy Cross – Denver Post

Rashard Higgins | WR | Colorado St

Selected in round 5 (172 overall)

Some analysts had a second round grade on Higgins coming out, the Browns nabbed him at value in round five. The thing that stood out to me about Higgins tape was that he does the difficult things with ease, but struggles with the fundamentals. He didn’t exactly blow up the combine with his athletic ability but he has sure hands, and tracks the deep ball as well as any receiver in this draft class.

Nicknamed “Hollywood Higgins” in college, he doesn’t exactly lack for confidence, which can work in a couple of ways. He could rise to the competition and be a solid pro, or he could be over confident and believe his own hype. Sometimes you see a lack of effort when blocking on tape,

Higgins is perhaps the most polarizing of the Browns rookie crop off pass catchers. Some analysts are high on him, thinking that with the right coaching and work ethic he could become a big part of the Browns offense. Others see a diva without the ability to separate at the pro level. I think the truth lies somewhere in between. Higgins was often the best player on the field at Colorado state, a big fish in a small pond. I Think when he begins to work at the pro level and understands the step up in competition he will become a solid Fantasy asset. Many of his failings can be coached up, and working at the highest level with Hue Jackson is not a bad place to be to do so. I don’t expect immediate impact from Higgins, but I do believe he will make the roster and with time become a good NFL receiver.

In dynasty drafts I’ve seen Higgins go as late as round 3, but he has been a buzz name in the draft process in dynasty circles. If someone wants to jump for him earlier, I would let them do it. I wouldn’t move up or give up more assets to secure Higgins, but would be happy to take the value at a late third round price point.

Overall I think the Browns did great work at the receiver position in this draft. Coleman comes in and is immediately the best receiver on the roster and a no-brainer dynasty pick anywhere outside the top 2 of your rookie draft,depending on personal preference. Higgins is a wait and see Dynasty add, but a worthy pick in round three or later if he can work on his fundamentals,and maximize his gifts. Both Louis and Payton intrigue me greatly, and as I said they don’t seem to be on the mainstream radar. I wouldn’t advocate adding both, unless you have a huge roster. It’s probably a case of picking your flavor from the two. Louis is raw but has explosive athleticism, Payton has a really well rounded game and does the basics really well. In shallower drafts, both could conceivably be priority UDFA’s to keep an eye on.

The four rookies will be given every chance to make this roster, and it will be interesting to see how the camp battles shake out. One thing is for sure, as usual, the Browns won’t be boring.

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