What does the new OC Alex Van Pelt bring to Cleveland?
Alex Van Pelt has an impressive resume that includes quarterbacks coach for the Buccaneers (2 years), Packers (6 years), and Bengals (2 years). He has worked with Aaron Rodger and Andy Dalton. If you remember, Van Pelt was a backup quarterback for the Buffalo Bills for nine seasons so his playing days and QB coaching background give us an early hint to the focus of his skillset. The Browns’ Baker Mayfield could use some mentoring and having an experienced quarterback coach like Van Pelt could do the trick.
Last year, the Cleveland Browns were a popular offseason future bet. A lot of their players were considered breakout fantasy picks by top legal US fantasy sports betting providers. They had just traded for Odell Beckham and Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb were entering training camp with more confidence and pro football experience. Unfortunately, the season didn’t go according to plan, which is why there was an overhaul with the coaching staff. This season, the Browns are +500 to win the AFC North and respectively Over/Under to win 8.5 games
What can we expect from Alex Van Pelt’s offense?
This is tough to answer since we only have one year of OC data from 2009. But, I will try my best to compile what he did as an OC as well as what his QBs did when he was a QB coach to project what he could be in 2020. Back in 2009, Van Pelt ran the ball better than he passed it – the Bills were second to last in pass attempts and third to last in yards. This could play heavily into the run-heavy scheme that Head Coach Kevin Stefanski is known for deploying. The plot thickens because Van Pelt may or may not be calling plays depending on how he calls plays during the pre-season (according to Mary Kay Cabot). The lack of a quarterbacks coach currently on the Browns staff leads me to believe that Van Pelt will be more focused on the development of Baker Mayfield than actually running of the offense.
Fantasy Positional Impact
If Van Pelt strikes gold, he can transform Baker Mayfield into a young Aaron Rodgers. I assume that is the Browns’ hope although I am not as optimistic as some in Baker’s future. Van Pelt was the quarterbacks’ coach when Rodgers won the top fantasy QB title for his fourth time. So he might transfer some of that knowledge to a budding Baker Mayfield. Baker hasn’t finished as a top-12 QB in fantasy his first two years and took a step backward as a sophomore despite playing two more games. All of this is in spite of the plethora of offensive weapons that surround him. I think that Mayfield takes a step forward in being a more consistent passer with a higher completion percentage but I feel that the run-heavy scheme that will be used will cap him as a mid to high QB2.
If there were a single running back in Cleveland, they might be in the argument for the top three drafted players – unfortunately, the Browns have Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Chubb and Hunt are both great running backs. They each have all of the skillsets needed to succeed as a running back at the NFL level and in fantasy football regardless of format. The “problem” is that they both play for the Browns. Predicting when each back will pop off that monster game is going to be playing a game of roulette that is too rich for my blood. According to FF Calculator, Chubb is going at the turn of the first round but Hunt is falling to the fifth. I would much rather take a swing with Hunt than Chubb at these prices as each of them has a ceiling of an RB1 and neither one of them has a floor that kills a week.
An added bonus to owning Hunt is the near 30% of targets that went to the running back in Stefanski’s offense in Minnesota.
Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry … I feel like this section writes itself. These guys are studs and terribly undervalued. The receiving core behind these guys is also a crapshoot. So, I feel quite confident in drafting either of them. I could easily see the Browns being able to post two WRs in the top24. Odell and Jarvis should account for anywhere between 40-50% of the targets in this offense. The only hampering issue is the number of passes to be spread around with a run focused gameplan. I am not touching anyone else in this receiving core besides these two (unless it is a dynasty league and I’m taking a chance with Donovan Peoples-Jones).
The Browns acquired Austin Hooper this offseason to pair with David Njoku. Hooper was a stud last year for fantasy and Njoku had a decent finish two years ago as a top 12 TE. Njoku suffered a violent injury that ended his 2019 season too early but the timeline has him returning to full health for the upcoming season. Van Pelt has even spoken highly of Njoku in offseason press conferences. Again, the “problem” here is two really good guys for essentially one position. Unlike RB though, TE is a much more difficult position to project on a game by game basis. And although I like Hooper and Njoku, I will probably avoid both of them in drafts this year despite the ability to finish as a TE1. Hooper will get drafted but Njoku could be a waiver wire gem in season.
Finally, I think Cleveland is a team that can come in second in their division (they are not beating Lamar Jackson and the Ravens) or come in last and be “fighting” for a first overall pick. However, for fantasy, and particularly redraft, there is a lot of value to be had. I particularly like Jarvis Landry and will be owning him in a lot of leagues. Baker should produce a handful of QB1 weeks and ultimately finish as a decent QB2. Chubb and Hunt will cannibalize some of each other’s fantasy points but I would be shocked if they were both healthy and either finished outside the top 24.