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Fantasy Football Beyond The Box Scores 2023 Retrospective: Cleveland Browns

Welcome to the eighth entry of the Beyond The Box Scores Retrospective series, which looks back at the top fantasy football narratives and stats from each team’s 2023 season. Just like last year’s playoffs, we somehow already have three AFC North teams, as Cleveland is next up in alphabetical order. The Browns started five different quarterbacks in 2023 but still found success thanks to their excellent defense and a few weeks of Elite Dragon magic from Joe Flacco; let’s take a look at what we can learn from it.

Ground Rules: Check out the first edition here for a full explanation of what’s going on. All scoring is Half-PPR, Week 18 stats are not included (so a full season is 16 games), and only players currently being drafted in the top 200 of Underdog Best Ball drafts are covered.  


Deshaun Watson

The Box Scores

  • Total Points: 90.8; QB35
  • Games Played: 6
  • Points Per Game: 15.1; QB26

Beyond The Box Scores

  • Full Games Played: 5
  • Points Per Full Game: 18.3; QB15

Watson dealt with multiple injuries during the 2023 season, giving hope to all that karma might be real. When he did play, Watson’s metrics weren’t particularly inspiring. His 6.6 yards per attempt and 66.8 PFF Passing Grade both ranked among the bottom 16 out of 41 qualified QBs in a season that saw a LOT of bad quarterbacks play significant time. Rushing value helped Watson to elite fantasy status as a Texan, and he did average 28.4 yards on 5.2 attempts (1.8 designed and 3.6 scrambles) in his five healthy games. That’s certainly nice, but that level of rushing production isn’t enough to turn a bad passing quarterback (which Watson has been since his arrival in Cleveland) into a QB1.


Watson’s QB24 ADP is lower than his 2023 points-per-full-game ranking, making him a potential value if you want to draft him in a league where more than one quarterback is necessary.

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Running Back

Nick Chubb

The Box Scores

  • Total Points: 21.1; RB86
  • Games Played: 2
  • Points Per Game: 10.6; RB29

Beyond The Box Scores

  • Full Games Played: 1
  • Points Per Full Game: 14.7; RB8

Chubb tore his MCL early in Week 2, so there isn’t much to draw from his 2023 season. Instead, let’s remember that Chubb has been an elite running back for essentially his whole career. He has finished as a top-10 RB in Half-PPR points per game every year since 2019. He has also ranked among the top five running backs in Next Gen Stats’ yards over expected per attempt every single year of his career. The only thing keeping Chubb from being the decade’s most dominant fantasy back has been a lack of receiving work, as he averages just 1.6 receptions per game for his career.


The real question with Chubb is whether the 28-year-old will still be himself when he returns to the field in 2024. If he is, his current RB24 ADP could be the biggest bargain of this year’s draft. But that’s hard to expect from a veteran back with plenty of tread on his tires coming off his second significant injury to one knee (Chubb also tore his left MCL in college). It is potentially a good sign that the Browns haven’t made any big moves at the position, but they did sign D’Onta Foreman to replace Kareem Hunt, and Jerome Ford is still around. Ultimately, the decision whether or not to take Chubb is more about risk, draft strategy, and your faith in medical advancements than it is about him as a player. I personally might take the shot in a few leagues, especially smaller leagues where I am still confident I can fill my lineup if Chubb turns out to be a zero, but I don’t recommend going all-in on Chubb bouncing back in 2024.

Wide Receiver

Amari Cooper

The Box Scores

  • Total Points: 191; WR14
  • Games Played: 15
  • Points Per Game: 12.7; WR17

Beyond The Box Scores

  • Full Games Played: 14
  • Points Per Full Game: 13.3; WR15

I considered giving Cooper a second special split, as his numbers are affected by the fact that he scored nearly a quarter of his season’s fantasy output in a 46-point Week 16 explosion. But those points count just the same, and the average top-24 wide receiver’s best game was worth 15% of their total points, so Cooper’s reliance on one massive week isn’t as huge of an outlier as you might think. Additionally, Cooper averaged 14.8 points in his five games with Watson (the Browns’ presumed 2024 starter) under center, and those five games don’t even include that marvelous Week 16 performance. When Watson played, Cooper also averaged seven targets on a very juicy 15.9-yard ADOT. If we look at his full season (which included some very suspect quarterback play), Cooper still finished 14th among WRs in yards per route run.


Cooper is a value at WR29 in ADP. Yes, his 2023 numbers are skewed by one huge game. Yes, he will be 30 when the season starts and doesn’t carry the same upside as many of the receivers around him (the receiver position is absolutely stacked this year). But no matter how you slice it, he was a top-20 fantasy WR in 2023, and his situation is essentially identical heading into 2024 (no, Jerry Jeudy doesn’t scare me). Due to his age and lack of upside, Cooper isn’t the kind of player I recommend reaching too far on, but he is absolutely worth scooping up at his current draft price.

Note: Elijah Moore is just barely outside the 200 ADP threshold at 205, and Jeudy was covered in the Denver Broncos edition of this article.

Tight End

David Njoku

The Box Scores

  • Total Points: 160.7; TE5
  • Games Played: 16
  • Points Per Game: 10; TE6

Beyond The Box Scores

  • Games Played With Deshaun Watson: 5
  • Points Per Game With Watson: 6.3; TE19

Njoku’s 2023 season is exactly why this exercise of looking back not just at season-long finishes but also at the narratives and changes within a season is so important. Over half of my in-season blurbs on Njoku focused on the huge impact the Browns’ constantly shifting quarterback situation had on his production. And, unfortunately, his worst performances came with Watson under center; he also averaged just 5.2 targets per game from Watson compared to 8.8 without him. A lack of production with his likely 2024 quarterback is also not the only red flag from Njoku’s profile: He ran over half (54.7%) of his routes from in-line, was asked to pass-block on 8.8% of his passing-play snaps, and had the sixth-lowest ADOT of any qualified tight end. On the positive side, Njoku ranked fourth at the position with an impressive 7.1 YAC per reception, so he finished ninth in yards per reception despite his low ADOT. There is also an argument that Njoku’s role expanded as the season went on regardless of who was under center: He averaged an incredible 9.3 targets from Week 9 onward, including games of six and nine targets with Watson starting.


That was a pretty negative blurb, but I actually don’t hate Njoku in 2024 drafts. This is mainly because a lot of regression and “Watson doesn’t throw to tight ends” has already been baked into his TE10 ADP. We saw him command truly elite volume down the stretch of last season, which is a lot more than can be said for most tight ends being drafted in that range. If his breakout continues even with Watson back at the helm, Njoku is a steal. If not, I don’t think you’re missing much by drafting him over guys like Jake Ferguson and Dalton Schultz.