Fantasy football can be a brutal game at times. We play this for fun, but some weeks feel more like work than play. With byes fully upon us in Week 7, this week is already thin. Now, the Cleveland backfield has some major injuries ahead of their Thursday night game. With everything in flux, can you lean on Demetric Felton or D’Ernest Johnson for fantasy this week?
Is Demetric Felton worth starting Thursday night?
The Browns’ top-two running backs are injured, and their backups will take the field instead this week. Does that make any of them worth starting for fantasy? Let’s look at the injuries before looking ahead to the replacements.
Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are both out
Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt have already been declared out for Thursday’s matchup against Denver. Chubb had already missed the last game with a calf injury. Hunt, meanwhile, has now been placed on IR with wrist and knee injuries of his own.
With those two out, Browns fans and fantasy managers alike are turning their attention to the team’s depth chart to see who’s next on the list. Fantasy managers are scrambling to the waiver wire to pick up the next best option in the Browns’ backfield, but is there anyone worth rostering right now?
Demetric Felton is the next man up
Rookie RB Demetric Felton will likely be handling the RB1 duties this week, according to beat reporters. He hasn’t rushed a single time out of the backfield, but he’s done some work in the passing game so far this year. He returned 2 punts and caught 2 passes for 14 yards in last week’s loss to the Cardinals.
Even though he doesn’t have a carry to his name yet this year, Felton could be in line for a large workload. The Browns may need to lean on the running game with signal-caller Baker Mayfield dealing with a shoulder injury. While Felton might not be a bell cow, his change-of-pace style could meld nicely with Cleveland’s offensive style.
Felton has 90 total yards on 8 catches this season to go with his lone touchdown from Week 2 against the Texans. For fantasy managers, he’s been very hit or miss — with a heavy emphasis on the miss, at least so far. Perhaps that tide is about to turn in Week 7 against the Broncos on Thursday Night Football.
Pick up D’Ernest Johnson as a flier
Behind Felton on the depth chart is third-year RB D’Ernest Johnson. Some fantasy managers may recall Johnson as an occasional waiver wire addition last year when Chubb missed time. Johnson didn’t do much with his chances in 2020, rushing 33 times for 166 yards and catching 3 of 4 targets for 14 yards. The Browns saw enough to keep him on the roster over Duke Johnson in 2019, though.
This season, Johnson did not play a single offensive snap until Week 3 against the Bears. In that game, he only managed 2 rushes for 9 yards. His only other rush attempt this year came last week when he ran for 2 yards. Needless to say, he hasn’t seen much of the field yet this year.
Based on how each running back is built, it’s likely we’ll see Felton fill the Hunt role and Johnson the Chubb role. Hunt and Felton are both players who do better with the ball in space and can make defenders miss one on one.
Much like Chubb, Johnson is more of the first- and second-down rusher who’s better grinding it out between the tackles. I fully expect to see a smattering of touches for both backs, making Johnson my preferred target due to his lower cost in fantasy.
Other fantasy options
Outside of these two, there are a couple of other deeper options I’m also targeting ahead of Thursday’s game. Newly-signed RB John Kelly is a flier in deeper dynasty formats, based solely on his opportunity. Kelly was signed and recently released by the Rams. Still, he showed that he had talent in college that should translate to the pro game.
Outside of the running back room, I am keeping a close eye on WR Donovan Peoples-Jones. DPJ went off last week, catching 4 of 5 targets for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns. I’m not saying he’ll do that again, but he might be the best athlete on the field for the Browns on Thursday night.
Last but not least, the Browns expect to get veteran WR Jarvis Landry back in the lineup as well. Landry returns from injured reserve after missing the last four games due to a knee injury. The timing couldn’t be better with the team’s top-two rushing threats sidelined. Landry could be a sleeper option for jet sweeps and screen passes out of the backfield, essentially garnering rushing attempts of his own.
Whether you go with Felton, Johnson, or someone else, you might want to start them no matter what. There are six teams on bye this week, so fantasy points could be hard to come by on Sunday. Getting something on the board on Thursday is better than taking a zero. Just some food for thought.