In recent years, the Browns have been a franchise where WR1s become WR3/4s and TE1s become TE2/3s. Jarvis Landry typifies this fantasy football regression. He has been activated for tonight’s game — can he be a reliable starter?
Jarvis Landry’s former fantasy greatness
From 2015 to 2017, Landry was a top-13 fantasy WR for three consecutive seasons while leading the Miami Dolphins’ passing game. He joined Cleveland in 2018, where he posted a lesser-yet-respectable WR18 campaign, following that up with a WR12 effort in 2019 (despite Odell Beckham Jr. joining the team). That turned out to be the pinnacle of the Browns’ passing success, as they shifted to a more run-heavy and defense-focused approach to winning. And that explains why Landry dropped to the WR33 position last season.
That’s because Baker Mayfield averaged 33.4 pass attempts per game in 2019. Last year, it dropped to 30.4. This year it’s down to 28.8. Only six teams have thrown fewer passes. Cleveland realistically can feed only one or two receivers per game. With Landry out since Week 2, Donovan Peoples-Jones has gradually asserted himself as a useful-to-valuable fantasy commodity, especially with OBJ banged up and struggling.
Back to Landry — his knee injury against Houston was terrible timing for a guy who started the year by outperforming his preseason WR42 ADP. In Week 1, he capitalized on Beckham’s absence, hauling in all 5 of his targets for 71 scoreless yards.
Should you start Landry in Week 7?
Much has changed for this team since Week 1. And by “much,” I mean almost everything, at least on the fantasy side. Tonight, Mayfield, Nick Chubb, and Kareem Hunt are out. Beckham is on the down side of questionable. If he sits, then Landry seems like a worthwhile WR4+ dart throw, even against a tough Denver defense. I don’t envision Cleveland’s ground game amassing more than about 50 yards. Landry, Peoples-Jones, and a healthy David Njoku would be expected to keep the chains moving.
However, Landry might not earn a full complement of snaps. He hasn’t played in more than a month. It’s entirely possible that he’ll be eased back in. So by starting him, you’re rolling the dice on a decent-target evening. That’s certainly not guaranteed.
If Beckham somehow plays, all bets are off for Landry. This offense has enough trouble generating an effective passing attack with Mayfield in the lineup. The opposing Broncos have a top-five pass defense, giving up only 229 receiving yards per game. Returning from a multi-week injury, Landry probably would take a backseat to Peoples-Jones. That should not inspire confidence for any fantasy manager.
If you’re rostering Landry and have a WR3 to plug in, it would be safest to sit him tonight, wait for a great game, and then try to trade him for someone. Or, if Beckham’s injuries become long-term issues, Landry could return to top-40 status. But at this stage, if you’re hoping for a top-40 receiver, each week has better options available on waivers.