There aren't many Fantasy owners who have a lot of faith in Isaiah Crowell, but the Browns still seem to like him. Crowell got close to 900 total yards with five total touchdowns last season, dominating carries in Cleveland. But it's not like he delivered big Fantasy points, notching 10-plus points just five times in 16 games (and 11 over two seasons). After the Browns picked everything but running backs in April's draft, Crowell's best-case scenario is to continue splitting reps with Duke Johnson. But between the Browns offensive line losing multiple starters and new coach Hue Jackson interested in putting his own stamp on the squad, Crowell's role is far from promised. For now he's no better than a pick after 100th overall in standard and PPR formats.
Crowell may be punished by the Browns for an extremely insensitive Instagram post, Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reports. The Browns said they have no plans to cut Crowell, but that just an apology for the post would be insufficient, and that he must take steps to make a positive difference after the post. It's unclear what these steps will be, but it's likely there will be more updates in the near future.
The Browns are expected to be a "run-oriented football team" in 2016, running game coordinator Kirby Wilson recently told Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. If so, Crowell could be poised for a breakout. New coach Hue Jackson has implemented a dynamic rushing attack in his previous stops, including the past two seasons as the Bengals' offensive coordinator. Perhaps Jackson has visions of implementing a similar breakdown of reps to his previous backs in Cincinnati -- Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard -- with Crowell handling the first two downs and Duke Johnson serving in a change-of-pace role. During Crowell's first two professional campaigns, the Browns ranked in the bottom half of the league in rushing yards per game on both occasions, yet he managed one 100-yard showing, averaged 3.9 YPC, and reached the end zone 12 times on the ground. With additional carries likely incoming, the first 1,000-yard season of his career could be imminent.
Browns head coach Hue Jackson believes Crowell will have a "sensational" 2016 season, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. "I've been getting so much mail or phones calls with people saying, 'Well wait a minute, why don't you guys have a running back?' " Jackson said. "I really think Isaiah Crowell is a really good running back. I think he's going to have a sensational season, I really do." The Browns are apparently confident that Crowell and Duke Johnson will form an effective duo, as the team surprisingly opted not to select any running backs in the 2016 NFL Draft. Johnson impressed as a pass-catcher last season, but there's nothing from Crowell's first two years in the league to suggest that he's anything more than a low-end starter, if that. Regardless, he's the favorite to serve as Cleveland's featured runner, with Johnson likely slated for a third-down and chance-of-pace role. It is possible the team could let its two running backs compete for the starting job.
Crowell, who carried the ball 15 times for 53 yards in Sunday's loss to Pittsburgh, finished the season with 185 carries for 706 yards and four rushing touchdowns. Crowell also hauled in 19-of-22 targets for 182 yards and one receiving touchdown, but his pass-catching prowess was largely limited by the presence of rookie Duke Johnson, who was used much more frequently on passing downs. The 22-year-old Crowell racked up nearly 100 more rushing yards than he did in 2014, but reached the endzone on the ground half as many times. The presence of Johnson can partially explain that reduction, but a more significant factor is likely the overall offensive ineptitude, as Cleveland simply couldn't get any consistent quarterback play. Crowell remains under contract with the Browns through 2017, but will presumably be employed in a timeshare yet again next season, placing a limit on his overall fantasy upside.
Crowell rushed 16 times for 88 yards and a touchdown during Sunday's loss to the Chiefs. The Browns' passing game really struggled Sunday, as quarterback Johnny Manziel completed just 13 of 32 passes for 136 yards, but Crowell was a solid producer, and he's now found the end zone in two of his last three games. Up next is a Week 17 matchup against the Steelers, who need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|5||10/09||New England Patriots||5||14.00|
|8||10/30||New York Jets||3||13.13|
|12||11/27||New York Giants||26||20.38|
|16||12/24||San Diego Chargers||30||21.50|
|3 Year Avg||166||656||6||14||134||0||114|