Am I the only one in the world with high hopes for Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden heading into the upcoming fantasy season?
He doesn't have household names around him, but that does not mean Weeden cannot post very respectable, at a minimum, fantasy numbers. Wide receivers Josh Gordon (suspended first two games) and Greg Little could be on the verge of taking their respective games to the next level. Look for Gordon to be a deep threat, while Little moves the chains. Speaking of a safety blanket, veteran receiver Davone Bess is about as sure-handed as they come. He will complement Gordon and Little nicely.
The Browns have a potential hidden weapon at tight end in Jordan Cameron. The third-year pass-catcher is quite athletic and has a chance to shine if he can remain on the field. Don't ignore what new Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski and OC Norv Turner have done with this position in the past (Kellen Winslow, Antonio Gates, to name a few).
Cleveland's offensive line is rock solid and features arguably the best left tackle in the NFL in Joe Thomas. Running back Trent Richardson should be a workhorse and keep defenses on their heels behind this front five.
Don't discredit Weeden
Weeden has several games that could result in possibly having to play catch-up and, for the most part, an enticing slate of fantasy football matchups:
Miami Dolphins (Week 1), Baltimore Ravens (Week 2, Week 9), Minnesota Vikings (Week 3), Buffalo Bills (Week 5), Detroit Lions (Week 6), Green Bay Packers (Week 7), Jacksonville Jaguars (Week 13), New England Patriots (Week 14), New York Jets (Week 16).
Look at the start of his schedule ... it's a shame that he will be without Gordon for the first two games. The Ravens should get it together by Week 9, but they could be quite shaky to start the year. Pittsburgh (Week 12, Week 17) and KC (Week 8) were left off the list because they have enough to be strong secondaries. I can see those matchups going either way.
Weeden's arm is legit, and he has done well this offseason at improving his mechanics. His footwork and release look much cleaner than they did last year. Turnovers will remain part of the equation for the to-be 30-year-old passer in 2013.
I optimistically forecast 4,025 passing yards and 20 touchdowns for the well-aged second-year man. Let's say he throws the same 17 interceptions total of a year ago and loses a fumble, Weeden checks in as the 14th fantasy quarterback on last year's leaderboard (263 points), which is good for an improvement of 11 places from his rookie year. I wouldn't be surprised at all if he tops 4,300 yards, which gives him 277 fantasy points, and none of these figures include projected rushing stats.
All of talk about Weeden losing his job to Jason Campbell or Brian Hoyer is nonsense, as far as I am concerned. Weeden will outplay the both of them in camp and solidify his status - rightful, at that - as Cleveland's top dog. Draft him as a very low-end QB2 or strong third with the upside for being a worthwhile matchup play. He is an ideal late-round gamble for leagues with best-ball lineup formats or those with a QB flex spot.