2014 Fantasy Football: Cleveland Browns Can Help Ben Tate's Stock in Draft

By Sean Cordy
Ben Tate
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Tate won’t be changing his jersey number from 44 as he leaves the Houston Texans for the Cleveland Browns, but he will be looking to boost his statistical numbers there. His stats will automatically increase due to ditching the second fiddle he played to Arian Foster in Houston. If you think he can be as good as his leading man in Houston, you’re right.

The Browns are going to be a ground-and-pound offense. They’ve replaced Rob Chudzinkski after one season as head coach with Mike Pettine, a defensive coordinator with experience under two teams that focused on the ground attack — the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills. According to ProFootballReference, both the Bills and Jets ranked at the top of the league in rushing attempts, as well as in the top two in rushing yards.

Though he acted as a defensive mind for both teams, it’s likely that he adopted a similar offense. Now, what made these teams so successful and reliant on the run game? Having a great running back duo.

The 2009-10 Jets had a pair of running backs who could shelve at least 100 carries each as well as over 500 yards each. Once the 2011 Jets ditched the tandem, they dropped to 16th in attempts and 22nd in rushing yards. Last season, the Bills saw a season that gave Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller approximately 200 carries and 900 yards a piece.

Remind you of someone? Yes, I’m referring to the tandem of Foster and Tate, who were quite successful in Houston when healthy. Now it’s time for Tate to become Foster in Cleveland, and the only way to do that is get him a man who can split carries well with Tate.

Since 2011, Tate has averaged 15 fantasy points when given 15-25 carries (the average carries a game for Alfred Morris under new Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan), and averages 14 points when receiving between 10-14 carries a game (on a consistent basis, that would give him about 225 points in the season).

My concern is that giving him an influx of carries will not do very well for him. He’s not used to the load that Foster did with over 300 carries in a season. He’s not a lone star yet, he needs training wheels. In fact…he needs a few.

Right now, all of the attention will fall on Tate during games. The Browns virtually have no QB. Even if they did have a good QB, they don’t have a reliable target down field aside from Josh Cribbs. That’s why I’m urging the Browns front office to build their team around Tate right away.

They have no time to waste after trading Trent Richardson with the Indianapolis Colts in which they received another first round pick that should be useful if they are to take this draft strategy.

Sammy Watkins out of Clemson is a special wide receiver who can become an immediate threat, such as Dez Bryant and Julio Jones had in their rookie season. Adding this wideout will improve their alleviate pressure on Tate, especially if they can add Derek Carr from Fresno State as their franchise quarterback.

There’s a chance that he could be taken before their next pick in the first round, but they would still be able to draft Jimmy Garappolo or A.J. McCarron (who’s already comfortable with a run-first offense) in the second or third round. But this leaves the question of who will split carries with Tate?

Carlos Hyde of Ohio State and Tre Mason of Auburn come to mind, both of which are likely to be available in the early second round. I really like Mason’s speed, and I think he’d compliment Tate very well.

Simply put, Tate is a player who the Browns see potential in and want to give him a full-time job. But what sounds intriguing for this promising tailback could also be his biggest fallback if not handled right. If the Browns truly think he can turn this team around, they need to wisely build this offense around him immediately. That will take pressure off of him.

Giving Tate about 275 carries should do well for the running back who has a career average of 4.7 yards a carry; putting him near the 1,200 yard mark and the upside of 12 touchdowns. You know who else had those numbers?

That’s right, Arian Foster in the 2011 season.

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