Confirmation of wide receiver Josh Gordon’s one-year suspension finally came this past week, which leaves the Cleveland Browns without their No. 1 wide receiver. A couple of additions were made this offseason, including Andrew Hawkins, who spent the first three seasons of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals. He missed the early part of last season due to an ankle injury, and finished with just 12 catches in eight games, but Hawkins was on the fantasy radar briefly in 2012 when he had 51 receptions for 533 yards and four touchdowns.
Tight end Jordan Cameron is now clearly the top option in Cleveland’s passing game, and Saturday’s decision to release Nate Burleson further thins their wide receiver depth. As of now Miles Austin and Hawkins are the team’s top two wide receivers, so both should see plenty of targets from Brian Hoyer….or Johnny Manziel.
Hawkins seems best suited to working out of the slot, but there were indications during the offseason that he won’t be limited to that role. The Browns need someone to help fill the void left by Gordon (159 targets in 14 games last season), and Hawkins should see plenty of opportunities with opposing defenses sure to focus on containing Cameron.
Austin’s name recognition seems to compelling fantasy owners to draft him over Hawkins, which still gives those that don’t overlook Hawkins a chance to buy incredibly low right now. I don’t expect huge numbers from Hawkins, but he would become an even more prominent target for whoever is under center for the Browns if Austin misses time to injury yet again. Pure target volume is the driving force for Hawkins’ fantasy value this year, but I think he’ll be an underrated asset in PPR leagues with 60-70 receptions a realistic projection.