Few teams in the NFL are dealing with this current COVID-19 outbreak quite like the Cleveland Browns, who currently have 20 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list. With the Browns set to play on Saturday, how has this current situation impacted Donovan Peoples-Jones’ fantasy football outlook?
The Browns are reeling right now
Included on the Browns’ long list of COVID-affected players are quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum, wide receiver Jarvis Landry, and tight end Austin Hooper. Running back Kareem Hunt has been ruled out for this week with an ankle injury, meaning the skill players in Cleveland’s offense have taken a huge hit.
The Browns offense has struggled to find its rhythm at times this year, scoring 10 or fewer points in four of the last six games. Right now, it looks like the Browns will be counting on Nick Mullens to lead them against the Raiders.
Donovan Peoples-Jones has taken a step forward
As of now, Peoples-Jones is healthy and slated to play, and he could be in line for a huge target share. DPJ has been the leading receiver for the Browns in his second season with 430 yards and 3 TDs. By no means are those staggering numbers, but Cleveland’s offense relies heavily on the ground game.
Peoples-Jones’ role has increased, as he’s seen 84% of the offensive snaps over the last three weeks. He’s earned 5 or more targets in each of those three games.
Last week, he posted 90 receiving yards, but we’ve also seen that he has a low floor. In the two weeks prior, Peoples-Jones only caught 3 of his 10 targets for a combined 26 yards.
As a big play waiting to happen, the range of outcomes for Peoples-Jones is wide. The problem we need to decipher this week is whether to trust an already inconsistent wide receiver with a third-string quarterback set to start.
DPJ’s fantasy expectations
First, we’ll start with the matchup with the Las Vegas Raiders. Vegas’ pass defense is better than most people give them credit for. They’ve been in the middle of the pack for the last four weeks, allowing the 15th-fewest fantasy points per game to wide receivers. In the last four weeks, they’ve given up 617 receiving yards and only 2 touchdowns.
I think the Browns lean on the ground game this week. They know Nick Chubb and D’Ernest Johnson can exploit a soft Raiders ground defense. While Las Vegas has been decent against the pass, they’ve given up the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs in the last four weeks.
I won’t be surprised if Chubb and Johnson combine for 30 touches in a game that has now been rescheduled for 5PM EST on Monday. The Browns will likely not ask Mullens to do much. They’ll want to run the ball, kill the clock, and play strong defense.
Peoples-Jones is a risky boom-or-bust flex play. If you’re desperate for someone that’s healthy enough to play, then I can understand putting him in your starting lineup. But I would look for more consistent options if you have them.