The Cleveland Browns were not a top-tier fantasy defense in 2012, as they only forced multiple turnovers in three games all season and finished with 96 points (21st in ESPN standard leagues). Part of that can be blamed on cornerback Joe Haden serving a four-game suspension to start the season and missing another game due to an oblique injury.
But some dramatic changes are coming for 2013, with new defensive coordinator Ray Horton bringing an aggressive 3-4 defensive scheme and notable additions made in free agency (Paul Kruger) and April’s draft (Barkevious Mingo) to help bolster the pass rush. The Browns did finish with 38 sacks in 2012 (tied for 11th in the league), but that number doesn’t look as good when considering they faced 600 pass attempts (tied for fifth-most).
With a new scheme, new coordinator and some added talent, can the Browns defense be a factor for fantasy football owners in 2013?
Cleveland’s schedule this year, in terms of games out of it’s division, includes the entire NFC North and AFC East along with games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars. That means many favorable matchups are coming, with the only particularly bad matchups coming against the Green Bay Packers in Week 7 and Week 14 against the New England Patriots. Two games within their division against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 4 and Week 11 will also be challenging, but for the most part the Browns’ defense has the potential to be a solid bye week fill-in with upside, and possibly more than that.
That Week 14 game against the Patriots will come at playoff time in most fantasy leagues, which is obviously not ideal, but Cleveland’s defense could help a lot of owners win their league with a very favorable matchup on the slate for Week 16 against the New York Jets.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.