Not much went right at the “Mistake by the Lake” on either side of the ball for the Cleveland Browns in 2014, including a defense that ranked 23rd overall and dead last against the run. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still a few players of interest to IDP owners in Cleveland.
Unfortunately, you aren’t going to find any of those players on the Browns’ three-man defensive front. Cleveland’s highest-scoring defensive lineman in 2014 was veteran Desmond Bryant, who checked in 36th. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s middling IDP DL4 territory in a 12-team league. The 29-year-old did manage 50 tackles and five sacks a year ago, but Bryant’s little more than an uninspiring depth addition late in fantasy drafts.
Much the same can be said about 12-year veteran Randy Starks, who joined Cleveland in free agency after seven years in Miami. Starks hasn’t been an especially IDP-relevant player in several years, and that’s not likely to suddenly reverse itself in Cleveland in 2015.
The “crown jewel” of the Browns’ IDPs is undoubtedly veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby, who suffered through a down year in his first season in Cleveland, missing four games and failing to reach 100 tackles for the first time since 2011. At 33 it’s fair to wonder in Dansby’s best days are behind him, especially after Dansby’s per-game production ranked outside the top 30 last year.
Still, Dansby did post 20 tackles over the last two games of the season, and so long as he’s on the field the vet will see tons of tackle opportunities. There could easily be LB1 upside present with Dansby in 2015 – just don’t pay LB1 prices to get it.
The Browns’ leading tackler among linebackers in 2014 was fourth-year pro Craig Robertson, who came one shy of the 100-stop mark after being forced into a larger role by Dansby’s injury. From Week 11 to Week 16 last year, only two linebackers posted more fantasy points than Robertson, but with Dansby back in the fold and youngster Christian Kirksey nipping at his heels, the odds of a repeat performance aren’t especially good.
It’s a sure sign that your defense isn’t playing well when a safety leads the team in tackles. Yet that’s exactly what happened to the Browns in 2014, as strong safety Donte Whitner paced the team with 106. However, thanks in part to a Cleveland stat crew that’s heavy on assists and low on solos and in part due to a lack of big plays, the 10-year pro managed only a low-end IDP DB3 finish. We might consider Whitner as a second defensive back if you prefer to wait at the position on draft day, but it’s a lukewarm recommendation.
Finally, free safety Tashaun Gipson made something of a name for himself as an up-and-coming player in NFL circles last year thanks to finishing second in the NFL with six interceptions. However, even those six picks weren’t enough for a top-50 fantasy finish, and trusting big-play reliant defensive backs in IDP leagues is usually asking for trouble.