Spotlight - WR Braylon Edwards, Cleveland Browns
Posted 8/26 by Jason Wood and David Yudkin,
Exclusive to Footballguys.com
Jason Wood's Thoughts
Every season, the best receiver in college is awarded the Fred Biletnikoff Award. I'm sure most of you know that Braylon Edwards won the award last year as he dominated the Big 10. But did you realize that the Browns have another Biletnikoff winner on the roster?
Antonio Bryant won the very same award as a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh (he was THE GUY at Pitt before Larry Fitzgerald). Yet, entering his fourth season, and his first full season (he was traded midway through 2004) as a Cleveland Brown, most view him as nothing more than an afterthought.
That's a HUGE mistake in my book.
Antonio Bryant came into the league with one issue, immaturity. He shouldn't have come out so early and frankly it impacted his relationship with the Cowboys coaching staff, particularly Bill Parcells. After starting as a rookie, Bryant was relegated to backup duties behind Keyshawn Johnson, Joey Galloway and Terry Glenn (in some combination) and that was tough for him to take. After all, did you realize that Bryant was the leading rookie receiver with 733 yards in 2002?
Bryant has a new lease on life and will start in Cleveland alongside Braylon Edwards, with Dennis Northcutt playing his natural slot position. Bryant and Edwards both have the physical gifts you want in a top tier receiver. We're not sure if Braylon has the maturity (although I think he does), so in a sense they're similar in that regard too (but Antonio's maturity should have been front and center by his 4th season).
Both Edwards and Bryant have great deep speed and are capable of making plays in tight (meaning in short yardage and the red zone). Bryant's career 14.9 YPC should remain intact in the Browns downfield passing system. By most accounts, the Browns coaching staff plans on using play action off a pounding ground game to throw downfield to the wideouts. With TE Kellen Winslow out of the picture and neither Lee Suggs or Reuben Droughns being particularly gifted receivers, I think both Edwards and Bryant can and will see a lot of targets.
BUT...you have to remember that Trent Dilfer has NEVER thrown for more than 3,000 yards (let alone 4,000) in his 11 NFL seasons, nor was be brought on as the Browns starter to re-invent himself as a prolific passer. So with that in mind, it would be difficult for Bryant and Edwards to emerge as every week fantasy starters, regardless of their effectiveness.
- Braylon Edwards and Antonio Bryant won the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top collegiate receiver
- With Andre Davis traded to New England, and Dennis Northcutt best suited for the slot, they both seem to have a clear path to starting this year and beyond
- With Kellen Winslow sidelined and the RBs not particularly great receivers, Bryant and Edwards should see a high proportion of the team's passing targets
- Trent Dilfer has never thrown for 3,000 yards in a season, why would that change now?
- The Browns seem intent on playing a conservative brand of football as they rebuild a less-than-competitive roster
Fast forward to 2006 or 2007, and I think the Browns are set up well to have a dynamic passing attack. Edwards is the "can't miss" rookie that will get all the press and the media attention, but don't forget about Antonio Bryant either. He was arguably as talented as Edwards coming into the NFL but his maturity issues lowered his stock and ended up forcing him out of Dallas. But assuming the Browns are only using Dilfer as a veteran stopgap, once the Browns real QB of the future is in place, I think these two WRs could both vie for 1,000 yard seasons and top 20-30 fantasy rankings.
David Yudkin's Thoughts
The Cleveland Browns enter the season with a team in transition, led by new head coach Romeo Crennel and imported quarterback Trent Dilfer. Many other faces are different (especially on defense), and there have also been major changes on offense as well. Add it all up, and the Browns roster could easily have changed more than any team in the NFL.
The Cleveland WR corps appears talented on the surface, but there has been so much mediocrity production-wise in recent seasons that one has to wonder if its been a product of coaching, a lack of talent, or a lack of motivation. That all could change with Crennel spearheading a mantra of discipline and hard work, and with his time at three-time champion New England, the players should be open to listen.
How successful the receivers are will depend on how well Dilfer plays and how often the coaching staff will let him throw the ball. In 11 years and 119 games played (regular and post season), Dilfer reached 300 yards passing just 4 times and had 3+ TD passes eight times. To be fair, some of those games he did not start or play a major role, but he still has not been the second coming of Dan Marino despite being the 6th pick overall in the 1994 draft.
The past few seasons the Browns ranked Bottom 10 in points scored, passing yards, and passing TD, but that was mostly under the Butch Davis regime. Now enter Crennel, who has no track record as a head coach and thus no offensive trends or track record to evaluate. However, by all accounts, the team is expected to emphasize a stout defense and a ball control offense, much like the Patriots minus Tom Brady and many other talented offensive players. Cleveland acquired former Denver Bronco Reuben Droughns to help add depth at running back, and teamed with Lee Suggs and perhaps William Green, Cleveland should have, at the very least, some options at running back this year.
Here is a breakdown on the top wide receivers that should be the biggest playmakers in Cleveland this season.
Bryant was slated to become a star in Dallas as a 2nd round pick out of Pittsburgh and 63rd pick overall in 2002, but his run-ins with Bill Parcells on the sidelines and sporadic performance on the field led to his trade to the Browns. Bryant paid dividends quickly, as he had back-to-back games with 100+ receiving yards and 2 TD receptions after coming to Cleveland last year. Between the two teams, Bryant totaled 58-812-4, his first season with more than 50 receptions and 800 yards. Bryant ranked as the #37 WR last year and ranked 32nd in his rookie season, making him the highest-ranking receiver currently on the Browns roster.
Northcutt, 5'11". 175 lbs, was a 2nd round pick out of Arizona and the 32nd overall pick in the 2000 draft. His receiving yardage has increased steadily the last few seasons (211, 601, 729, and 806 yards), partly due to him playing in more games each season. Even so, his fantasy ranking has remained in the WR 40s. He’s currently listed as a starter on the Browns’ depth chart, but he could easily lose time to Andre Davis or rookie Braylon Edwards. He’s played 72 games with just three games with 100+ receiving yards.
Edwards becomes the next can’t miss WR prospect, following in recent seasons players in the vein of Charles Rogers, Larry Fitzgerald, and Andre Johnson. The Browns needed help everywhere, and some fans may have preferred a franchise QB or a stud RB over a WR that could take several years to develop. In four seasons at Michigan, Edwards totaled 252 catches, 3,541 yards, and 39 TD including 97-1,330-15 as a senior. His draft report highlighted his size, speed, and playmaking abilities but at times he has suffered from the dropsies.
- Edwards could someday be a star and the other players have all shown that they can produce under the right circumstances.
- Best-case scenario for the WR would be the running game goes nowhere; the defense stumbles; and the Browns try to air it out to stay competitive. They seem to have one game a year with around 400 passing yards and a bevy of TD receptions.
- Any of the Browns WR could become Dilfer’s favorite target and by extension become a viable fantasy option should he continue to go to him or if other WR get injured.
- The combination of the Browns, Crennel, and Dilfer doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as, say, the Rams, Martz, and Bulger.
- The sum of the parts might be decent, but there are too many guys to go around, meaning all of them will get a small piece of the pie and individually they do not look promising for fantasy purposes.
- The Browns could likely try to pound the ball and limit passing attempts to minimize risk and avoid turnovers.
Change is good when your team has been perennially mediocre. The Browns have had only two winning seasons in 14 years, and a lot would have to go right this year for them to even break even in terms of wins and losses. It’s been a while since the Browns had any really outstanding fantasy players, and that trend should continue again this year. If you are looking at Cleveland players on draft day, you are looking at roster depth, as only deep leagues will have any Browns in the lineup on fantasy opening day.
Quotations from the Message Board Thread
To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there),
Predicting the Cleveland WRs stats in the past has been like predicting the NE WRs. You know SOMEBODY is going to get theirs, but you can never tell who it's going to be from week to week or from season to season. Now we're further complicating the matter by adding a super-talented Rookie into the equation and giving them a new head coach and new QB, both of whose preferences are a wild card. I don't think Cleveland will have a very good passing offense this season. I think it's very likely that ONE of the guys will wind up in the top 30, but I can't for the life of me guess who it is going to be, so I won't touch anyone. I wouldn't waste a draft pick on a guy with a 25% chance of maybe finishing as a decent WR3.
Braylon's game is real. Cleveland's offense is experiencing change to the point of chaos so everyone knows there will be inconsistency, but I actually think Dilfer will be a good first QB for Edwards. A vet who is calm in the pocket should be able to capitalize on the few opportunities Braylon has more than a young QB trying to learn along with everybody else.
I like Braylon Edwards...
as a Colt,
as a Eagle,
as a Packer,
as a Seahawk,
heck even a Jet or any NFL team not named the Browns
Come on people he's a rookie on the Browns getting the rock tossed to him by who... Dilfer, Trent Dilfer.
Braylon Edwards Projections
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