After giving my selection for most underrated and overrated players in upcoming fantasy football drafts, my pick for biggest sleeper is Cleveland Browns running back Isaiah Crowell. Most importantly, “The Crow” has the privilege of running behind a newly revamped offensive line that includes ProFootballFocus.com‘s top offensive guard duo of Kevin Zeitler and Joel Bitonio in addition to future Hall-of-Fame left tackle Joe Thomas and free agent addition Center J.C. Tretter. Last season, the Browns offensive line ranked in the Top5 in terms of creating yards before contact for running backs, and the line has only gotten better. Crowell, the 24 year-old former first overall running back recruit out of high school, believes that he will have a “Monster Season” and coach Hue Jackson has stressed during OTA interviews how the need to get the running game going early in games from the start of the season to set the tone for the franchise moving forward. Early reports out of training camp suggest that backup running back Duke Johnson is actually the leader for the slot receiver role, which further solidifies Crowell as a rare workhorse volume running back. Another major factor in Crowell’s sleeper status is that he is currently ranked as the 13th best running back per FantasyPros.com with an ADP of 25, making him a 3rd round pick depending on league size. Looking at the names in the same tier as Crowell, he is slotted about right where he should be when taken in consensus, but in many drafts, rookie running backs Joe Mixon and Christian McCaffery may leapfrog Crowell based on pedigree and training camp hype. Even a player like Marshawn Lynch, who is 2 year removed from the NFL grind and has a stable of capable young running backs behind him could sneak his way past Crowell by the time your draft rolls around in late August.
Additionally, while the Cleveland Browns will be by no means compete for a Super Bowl this season, their defensive additions of Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers through the draft and Jason McCourty and Calvin Pryor through free agency and trade plus promising young players such as Joe Haden, Danny Shelton, Emmanuel Ogbah, Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey under the new scheme of aggressive Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams, the Browns defense should keep games a lot closer than previous iterations of the franchise’s embarrassingly awful defense. Closer and lower scoring games should mean that offensive mastermind Hue Jackson should be able to utilize a more balanced approach to game flow by pounding Crowell to improve upon his 7 TDs and 952 yards on only 198 carries. Lastly, Isaiah Crowell was RFA tendered and is on a one year deal, which should further motivate him to out perform his UDFA status and cash in on a hefty pay day, even if it is with another franchise in 2018.
BenK’s Razzball Ruling: Sleeper! Let the other owners in your league reach on unproven rookies and big names while you roll with “The Crow”.
If you don’t believe me, check out the latest RazzBlitz Podcast, where Zach, Matt, and Uncle Daddy Tehol took some time to discuss the Cleveland Browns backfield situation and even projected that Crowell could end up with a 1,500 yard campaign!