LT Joe Thomas is very solid, as is LG Eric Steinbach. As long as these two are playing you can count on a decent rushing attack and good blind-side protection. Fraley is a decent Center, but nothing special. The right side of the line is in a bit of trouble. Kevin Shaffer took the Right Tackle role from Ryan Tucker last season, but Shaffer has been having trouble with his knee. Tucker was suspended 4 games for illicit substances, then played at RG. He been recovering from a broken hip this offseason and his usefulness for the 2008 season is very much in question. That leaves a battle for RG between Rex Hadnot and Seth McKinney in which, no matter who wins, the Browns lose.
Even with an unsettled Right side of the line, I like the run blocking ability of the group. They ran for 4.3 yards per carry (6th best in NFL) last season. For all the praise Derek Anderson and the passing game has received, Cleveland was ranked higher in the run game than they were at the pass. The pass protection may suffer a bit, but they were very good in 2007 and have some room to slip without getting Anderson killed. They gave up 19 sacks last year which was 3rd best in the NFL.
I'm avoiding Derek Anderson this year. Not because I think he'll implode, or that he'll have a remarkably bad year, rather it is because his perceived value is far higher than his actual value. On average, Anderson is going in the fourth round of a 12-team draft. That is just too early. There are a half dozen other QB's that will give you about the same production but can be grabbed anywhere from the fifth to the ninth round. He's simply not worth it. Successful fantasy football players get players before everyone hops on the bandwagon and they become an overvalued commodity. I would be very surprised to see Derek Anderson improve with the much, much tougher schedule the Browns will be facing. Last year he got to beat up the pitiful NFC West, and the 3/4 pitiful AFC East. This year he faces the AFC South and NFC East.
I love the season outlook for Jamal Lewis this year. He has no competition for his job, astable coaching situation, decent line, takes goal-line carries, and is on an offense that scores points. So why the $^#& is his average draft position behind "blown ACL, job sharing" Ronnie Brown??? Or Laurence Maroney? Or Willis McGahee? He scored more fantasy points than all of them, and is in a better situation than all of them. Fantasy gold. Everyone still has the image of him plodding along in Baltimore as a washed up RB ignoring his excellent 2007 where he ran for 37 less yards than Adrian Peterson at 4.4 yards per carry, had the same receiving numbers as Peterson, and only scored 2 less TD's (he also did it in 14 games just like Peterson). As for the "old and broken down" perception, he's 28, younger than LaDainian Tomlinson.
Braylon Edwards has arrived. He looks to be a safe WR1. His high TD total scares me a little because that has a way of fluctuating year to year. I would expect a slightly worse 2008 season but not by much.
Donte Stallworth has always been a total fantasy football tease. For years he has been drafted way too high, and failed to produce. He'll be the third receiving option behind Edwards and Kellen Winslow, and I don't think there are enough passes to go around to turn him into much more than a WR4.
Joe Jurevicius should not be drafted. He underwent multiple surgeries on his knee, was the 376th Brown to get a staph infection, and may not play in 2008.
Kellen Winslow Jr., like Ben Roethlisberger, is excellent when not maiming himself with a motorcycle. He had his knee scoped in the offseason but has been practicing and should be full speed for the regular season. I fully expect him to replicate his 2007 numbers of 82 catches, 1106 yards and 5 TD's making him one of the top tight ends out there.
Let's take a look at what this group was like in 2007. Third worst in NFL in yards allowed, sixth worst in sacks, middle of the pack in turnovers. In short, not good. Let's see what changes they made:
The Browns love DT's. Their entire line is made up of them. RDE Robaire Smith is a DT playing out of position, DT Corey Williams was acquired from Green Bay to play LDE taking over for Orpheus Roye. Shaun Rogers will be the Nose Tackle in their 3-4 alignment, but I wouldn't hold my breath on him making a large impact. He has always been talented, but lazy, out of shape, and unmotivated. That he was given a huge amount of money in the offseason probably won't help. The Brown lost NT Ethan Kelley who started in 2007. The lack of a DE who can rush the passer will really hurt this defense, especially when we take a peek at their secondary.
At LOLB, Willie McGinest is just about done. He'll likely rotate with Antwan Peek. ROLB Kamerion Wembley regressed in his second season, but he's a good player. D'Quell Jackson will start at ILB, while Andra Davis, Beau Bell, and Leon Williams compete for the other ILB spot. Overall this is a fairly weak group.
Browns fans, you might want to cover your eyes. This may be the worst secondary in football. The Browns traded away their best CB in Leigh Bodden (a guy Bengals coach Marvin Lewis believes to be one of the best CB's in the NFL) and replaced him with...no one. Backup Daven Holly is set to take his starting spot. Or at least, he was until he blew out his ACL and MCL in May. Now 2007 fifth round pick Brandon McDonald will start next to second year player Eric Wright and the Browns have no depth at CB whatsoever. Sean Jones is a good safety, but Brodney Pool is a liability. He doesn't make a lot of tackles or interceptions. Look to start QB's and WR's who are playing against the Browns. Also, opposing Tight Ends ate the Cleveland secondary alive, and that was before they got worse.
The Brown will get scored on a lot this year. That may help the offensive fantasy players, because shootouts are very profitable, but don't touch this D with a 10-foot pole.