Jerome Ford Fantasy Outlook: Will This Cleveland Browns Backup Get His Chance?

A 2022 fifth-rounder, Cleveland Browns RB Jerome Ford has a shot at relevance in a top-heavy backfield. What is his fantasy outlook in 2023?

With Kareem Hunt still a free agent, there’s an opening for the backup running back job behind Nick Chubb in Cleveland. With that in mind, what is Cleveland Browns RB Jerome Ford’s fantasy football outlook for 2023?

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Jerome Ford’s 2023 Fantasy Outlook

Any discussion of Ford — or any Cleveland RB, for that matter — must include Chubb. Because Chubb not only is the Browns’ unquestioned bell cow, he’s also one of the best pure running backs of his generation. Chubb’s netted an incredible 5.0+ yards per carry in each of his five NFL campaigns.

Yet, he’ll turn 28 in December and is coming off his first 300-carry season ever — including college. In other words, he’s starting to rack up enough mileage to at least give managers pause. Can Chubb possibly dominate again in 2023? Or will we see the beginning of a slide?

Additionally, one must consider that the Browns recently have deployed two running backs consistently. Chubb and Hunt have played respective 1A and 1B roles for several years.

Even with the run-capable Deshaun Watson at the helm, there’s still room in this offense for two running backs. In other words, it’s doubtful that the Browns will task Chubb to go it alone.

That’s where Ford enters the picture. After toiling for three collegiate seasons with minimal roles — two for Alabama and one for Cincinnati — Ford finally broke through for the Bearcats as a senior after fellow RB Gerrid Doaks graduated, netting 1,539 total yards and 20 scores.

The effort netted Ford a fifth-round selection in last year’s draft. He possesses the physical frame and bell-cow abilities to eventually earn meaningful NFL work. And his speed should come in handy if he’s utilized in a Hunt-like pass-catching role.

Ford’s biggest competition should come from Demetric Felton, whose great college hands (55 catches at UCLA in 2019) have transformed into great pro hands.

It’s quite possible that Cleveland will utilize both Ford and Felton in the passing game, but that wouldn’t bode well for the former’s limited fantasy value. To be a top-45 RB, Ford will need several receptions per game and quite possibly some goal-line rushes.

So yes, there’s a clear, yet narrow path for Ford to become fantasy relevant in 2023. He needs to comfortably beat out Felton for the handcuff job and then pick up the slack after Hunt’s departure. Doable? Sure. And if you’re going to bet on one Cleveland running back not named Chubb, then Ford is the highest-upside option.

But if Chubb goes down, I’d expect the team to find another back rather than lean entirely on Ford and/or Felton. Essentially, Ford would need to show dramatic development in his second season to merit trusting as a fantasy starter if Chubb gets hurt. We haven’t seen it yet. Managers would be wagering more on faith than on evidence.

The fact is, there are plenty of No. 2 and No. 3 RBs out there, many of whom have the experience and demonstrable NFL chops to deliver 15+ touches per game if called on. Ford’s primary advantages consist of shallow competition beyond Chubb. In most leagues, that wouldn’t be enough to garner a roster spot.

The most obvious exception would be if you draft Chubb. In that scenario, snagging his handcuff would be a must. Despite playing every game last year, Chubb missed three contests in 2021 and four in 2020. You don’t want to be left entirely exposed if he’s forced to the sidelines for a week or two.

Just remember that Ford only has about a 50% chance of being a fantasy starter if Chubb misses time. Felton could sneak in, and so could any number of free agents biding their time, waiting for a desperate team to come calling.

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