Cleveland Browns Depth Chart and Fantasy Preview: Is Amari Cooper an Undervalued Fantasy WR in 2024?

After a disappointing season from Deshaun Watson, what can fantasy managers expect from the Cleveland Browns offense in 2024?

Despite losing both their starting quarterback and running back last season, the Cleveland Browns still managed to produce multiple fantasy producers in 2023.

After making a handful of additions to the offensive side of the football this offseason, what can fantasy football managers expect from the Browns’ offense in 2024?

Cleveland Browns Fantasy Depth Chart

QB
Deshaun Watson, Jameis Winston, Tyler Huntley

RB
Nick Chubb, Jerome Ford, D’Onta Foreman

WR1
Amari Cooper, Cedric Tillman, Michael Woods

WR2
Jerry Jeudy, Jamari Thrash, Jaelon Darden

WR3
Elijah Moore, David Bell

TE
David Njoku, Jordan Akins, Giovanni Ricci

Deshaun Watson’s Fantasy Outlook

The Browns haven’t gotten the level of production they expected when they traded a boatload of draft assets and signed quarterback Deshaun Watson to a lucrative contract extension back in 2022.

After having a full offseason to prepare with his new team and his lengthy suspension from the NFL in the rearview mirror, Watson averaged just 15.2 fantasy points per game (PPG) — which ranked 27th on per per-game basis at the quarterback position in 2023.

Sure, it is worth mentioning he was battling a shoulder injury throughout the season that would eventually cost him the majority of the season, but his lack of production while on the field last year should certainly concern fantasy managers that we will never see the dominant fantasy production we became accustomed to when Watson was under center for the Houston Texans.

Watson averaged just 186 passing yards per game and never topped 50 yards rushing in any game during the 2023 campaign. Again, the context of a shoulder injury certainly could’ve played a factor in these disappointing stat totals, but projecting Watson for a return to fantasy glory feels more hopeful than logical at this moment.

What is particularly puzzling is the incredible run of production the team got from veteran backup quarterback Joe Flacco for a five-game stretch from Weeks 13-17, where he was the QB2 overall in fantasy football with 1,616 yards and 13 TDs during that span.

Flacco threw for over 250 in all five games, which is a mark Watson hit only once during his six appearances in 2023. The fact that Flacco — who signed with the team during the middle of the season — vastly outproduced Watson on the field is a little concerning.

Watson will turn 29 years old this season and still has all of the physical tools that made him such a fantasy force back in Houston, which does give him some upside in relation to where you’ll be able to get him on draft day. Yet, I can’t help but feel that Watson is on a bit of a make-or-break year in Cleveland if his middling play from last year continues in 2024.

Nick Chubb’s Fantasy Outlook

Nick Chubb’s 2023 season got off to a great start with 127 total yards in the 2023 season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck the very next week when he tore his ACL, MCL, and meniscus in a devastating injury sustained against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2, which abruptly brought his season to a close and even put his status for the start of the upcoming year in jeopardy.

For those of you who remember Chubb’s college career at Georgia, he suffered a similar catastrophic knee injury when he tore his MCL, LCL, and PCL while dislocating in a gruesome hit he took against the Tennessee Volunteers back in 2015.

I don’t bring this up to revisit violent memories of the past, but a running back rehabbing from a second career-threatening knee injury who is set to turn 29 years old later this year makes it far from a certainty he will return to the level of excellence we have seen from him during his NFL career.

If all goes perfectly and Chubb makes a full recovery, he is in the RB1 conversation. Excluding last season, Chubb finished as a top-20 fantasy back for five consecutive years with a minimum of 996 yards and eight TDs.

What is more impressive about his production in Cleveland’s offense is that Chubb was a great fantasy producer while ceding a significant amount of work to Kareem Hunt during his prime years.

Hunt may no longer be in the picture, but the team did add D’Onta Foreman in free agency and saw some encouraging things from Jerome Ford in 2023 after Chubb was unavailable due to injury.

If Chubb is ready by the start of the 2024 season, it is a possibility he’ll work alongside another back in this offense, which puts him more in the RB2 range with some legitimate risk coming off of a major knee injury for an older running back.

Amari Cooper’s Fantasy Outlook

Amari Cooper has felt like the poster boy for the safe, yet kind of boring, fantasy receiver over the last three years of his career. He is a reliable veteran option who produces solid numbers every year of his career but has never truly produced an elite fantasy campaign.

Need proof? Cooper has never finished outside of the top 35 at the WR position in any of his first nine years in the NFL, but has never finished as a top nine WR in any season either.

His production profile is remarkably consistent, too, never catching fewer than five touchdowns in a season but never hitting the double-digit threshold in a single campaign either. In addition, Cooper has caught a minimum of 68 passes for six straight years but has never topped 92 in a season.

The point I’m trying to make is Cooper falls perfectly into the boring, veteran WR selection in your fantasy draft. At his draft price, that is completely fine.

During his two seasons in Cleveland, Cooper has produced a pair of high-quality seasons, especially when you take into consideration how unstable his quarterback play has been during his tenure with the Browns.

2023: WR20 (128 targets, 72 receptions, 1,250 yards, and 5 TDs)
2022: WR10 (132 targets, 78 receptions, 1,160 yards, and 9 TDs)

These numbers aren’t exactly earth-shattering, but when you add the context of Watson’s suspension in 2022, and his injury-riddled 2023 campaign while acknowledging the bulk of Cooper’s production came from backup caliber quarterback play, he has been great as a leading receiver in Cleveland.

Speaking of Watson, one encouraging sign of Cooper’s fantasy upside in 2024 is how productive he was when his starting quarterback was on the field in 2023.

Cooper’s production when Watson played more than 90% of the offensive snaps in 2023:

  • Averaged five receptions, 96 yards, and scored two TDs through five games

Cooper is set to turn 30 years old this offseason and is essentially a lock for another WR2 fantasy season with some potential upside to sneak inside the top 10 if Watson continues to heavily target Cooper in this offense and manages to play at the level we previously saw from him in Houston.

Unfortunately, I don’t feel confident projecting a full season from Watson, which means Cooper will likely produce another season where he finishes between WR10-20 in 2024.

David Njoku’s Fantasy Outlook

The real question for many managers regarding this Browns’ offense heading into the 2024 NFL season is what to do with the breakout season from David Njoku.

Quite frankly, Njoku got off to a really slow start over the first six weeks of the 2023 season. He was the TE22 with just 19 receptions for 162 yards and no scores. His involvement in the passing game was fairly limited, his production was disappointing, and the struggles of the passing game were still concerning with Watson struggling.

Yet, when head coach Kevin Stefanski was forced to turn to backup quarterbacks again, again, and again in 2023, we started to see Njoku’s role in the offense expand exponentially.

KEEP READING: Dynasty Consensus Rankings

From Week 7 through the rest of the season, Njoku was the TE1 in PPR formats with 62 receptions for 720 yards and six scores on 101 targets. It goes without saying that that is outstanding production for the TE position.

Njoku’s career year — 81 receptions for 882 yards and six TDs in 2023 — helped him finish as the TE6 overall, which becomes even more impressive when you recall he produced the bulk of his production with Flacco, P.J. Walker, and Dorian Thompson-Robinson under center.

Yet, can we definitively say he is in store for the same type of role in 2024?

On the flip side of Cooper’s rise in production when Watson was on the field last year, Njoku’s breakout didn’t come until Watson was off the football field.

Njoku’s production when Watson played more than 90% of the offensive snaps in 2023:

  • Averaged five targets, four receptions, 35 receiving yards, and 8.32 fantasy points over a five-game sample size.

Now, do these numbers suggest Njoku will revert back to a streaming option at tight end if Watson plays the whole season just because of this sample size? No, absolutely not.

Njoku was great to finish the year and is likely to get more looks schemed up from Stefanski because of his exceptional play, but it is worth noting that the production was considerably lower for Njoku when Watson was under center last season.

He is still a top-10 fantasy TE heading into the 2024 NFL and has top-five potential if the Browns continue to utilize him in a similar fashion to how they did over the back of last season.

Browns Fantasy Sleepers

Cleveland’s offense certainly has some sleepers to keep on your fantasy radar heading into the 2024 season, with the injury to Chubb clouding his status for the start of the year.

Ford is likely first in line to see an expanded role if Chubb is unable to go for the season opener, and he potentially carries some stand-alone value after seeing 15 carries in the one full game he played with Chubb last season. Ford finished the year as the fantasy RB16 with 1,132 total yards and nine TDs and showcased plenty of big-play ability in 2023.

Another back to keep an eye on is Forreman, who the team brought in via free agency this offseason. Foreman has managed to make a small fantasy impact with three different teams when the opportunity for an expanded role presented itself. He has 11 games of 80+ rushing yards over the last three seasons.

The receiver room is another place to keep an eye on for a potential fantasy producer to emerge alongside Cooper and Njoku in 2024. The team acquired Jerry Jeudy from the Denver Broncos this offseason via trade. Jeudy has mostly been a fantasy disappointment in the NFL, logging just one finish inside the top 24 at the position in 2022.

Speaking of fantasy disappointments, Elijah Moore turned 104 targets last season into just 59 receptions for 640 yards and two scores, which produced just a WR54 finish.

Moore is a versatile and explosive receiver who flashes real playmaking ability and separation skills, but wasn’t able to produce a fantasy-relevant season and now has more competition for targets with Jeudy’s arrival. He is worth a dart throw, but it is hard to picture Moore as much more than top 35 upside at the position.

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