Here is The Game Day’s Cleveland Browns 2021 Preview: 2020 Recap, Team 2021 Outlook, 2021 Betting Tips, and 2021 Fantasy Football Outlook. Be sure to check out more of our NFL preseason coverage here.
Browns 2021 NFL Preview: Cleveland 2020 Recap, 2021 Team Outlook For Fantasy Football & Betting
Cleveland Browns 2020 Recap
- Final record: 11-5 (6-2 Home / 5-3 Away)
- Division regular-season finish: 3rd in AFC North
- Result: Lost in Divisional Round
The 2020 Cleveland Browns were a tale of two units. While the Browns fielded the 14th-best offense, scoring 25.5 points per game, their defense could not stop a small leak in a dam with a piece of chewing gum. Cleveland’s defense surrendered more points than the offense scored, yielding the 12th-most points per game at 26.2.
What saved the Browns was their (+5) turnover differential, which helped them outperform their expected W-L record of 8-8. Without that, I doubt the Browns would have secured their first winning season since 2007 and their first playoff berth since 2002.
Cleveland’s talented roster has taken years in the making, but the pieces are finally in place. Baker Mayfield‘s third season was a significant improvement as he lowered his interception rate from 3.9 percent to 1.6 percent year-over-year. He also managed to have an excellent season mostly without Odell Beckham Jr., who was limited to just seven games by injuries.
The Browns also had one of the top ground games in the NFL behind Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. All that offensive firepower enabled them to overcome their defensive woes, which improved after a rough start. Overall, there were many positive takeaways from last season which will carry over into what could be a terrific 2021.
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Cleveland Browns 2021 Offseason Changes
Browns 2021 Offseason Departures
- Larry Ogunjobi, DT, Bengals
- Terrance Mitchell, CB, Texans
- Kevin Johnson, CB, Retired
- Vincent Taylor, DT, Texans
- Kendall Lamm, OT, Titans
- Olivier Vernon, DE, Unsigned
- B.J. Goodson, LB, Unsigned
- Karl Joseph, S, Raiders
- Andrew Sendejo, S, Unsigned
- Taywan Taylor, WR, Texans
- Marvin Hall, WR, Patriots
- Sheldon Richardson, DL, Unsigned
Browns 2021 Free-Agency/Offseason Additions
- John Johnson, S
- Troy Hill, CB
- Takkarist McKinley, DL
- Anthony Walker, LB
- Malik Jackson, DL
- Jadeveon Clowney, DE
Browns 2021 NFL Draft Picks
- Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern (Round 1, Pick 26 Overall)
- Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame (Round 2, Pick 52 Overall)
- Anthony Schwartz, WR, Auburn (Round 3, Pick 91 Overall)
- James Hudson, OT, Cincinnati (Round 4, Pick 110 Overall)
- Tommy Togiai, DT, Ohio State (Round 4, Pick 132 Overall)
- Tony Fields II, LB, West Virginia (Round 5, Pick 153 Overall)
- Richard LeCounte, S, Georgia (Round 5, Pick 169 Overall)
- Demetric Felton, WR, UCLA (Round 6, Pick 211 Overall)
Cleveland Browns 2021 Outlook
We know what the Browns do well and what they want to do on offense, which controls the tempo of the game by efficiently running the football. Doing so also protects Baker Mayfield by limiting how often he has to drop back to pass.
As noted at the top of the article, Cleveland’s issues are primarily on the defensive side of the ball. GM Andrew Berry prioritized those deficiencies during the offseason by bringing in talented free agents such as Troy Hill, John Johnson, and Jadeveon Clowney. The Browns also catered their draft to defense, selecting defensive players with five of their first seven picks.
With an improved defense and high-powered offense, Cleveland appears to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender in 2021. While they play in a tough division, they’re every bit as talented as the Ravens and Steelers, if not more so. If the Browns stay healthy and their defense holds up, they’re going to be a force in the AFC this year.
Cleveland Browns 2021 Fantasy Football Preview
For all of Baker Mayfield‘s weapons, he’s been more of a game manager than a gunslinger throughout his career. He’s never thrown for 4,000 yards in a season and has seen his yards per game decrease in each of the last two years. While he’s become more efficient as a passer, Cleveland’s run-heavy attack limits his fantasy value, making him a QB2.
Nick Chubb continues to be one of the best traditional running backs in the NFL. Despite missing four games with injuries last year, he still rushed for over 1,000 yards and set a career-high with 12 touchdowns. He doesn’t get much work in the passing game due to the presence of Kareem Hunt, but he still gets enough volume and red-zone carries to be an RB1.
Thankfully for Hunt, there are enough touches to go around in an offense that averaged the fourth-most run plays per game last year (30.9). Despite Chubb’s elite production, Hunt still saw the 11th-most carries (198) in the NFL last year while also ranking 18th in targets (51) at the position and scoring 11 total touchdowns. While he won’t see that many carries again if Chubb is healthy, Hunt still gets enough of the pie to merit RB2 consideration.
Similar to Chubb, Odell Beckham Jr. is coming off a productive but injury-shortened 2020. His once-elite production has fallen off since arriving in Cleveland due to injuries and the team’s reliance on the run, but he’s still a capable WR2 when healthy (which he currently is). Jarvis Landry served as the Browns’ top receiver last year when Beckham was out, but he’s more of a WR3 when Beckham’s on the field, and Rashard Higgins becomes an afterthought.
Austin Hooper is a factor in the passing game as well, but his fantasy value has taken a considerable hit compared to when he was with the Falcons. After posting the second-fewest receiving yards and receptions of his career, he’s merely a TE2 due to the lack of volume.
Cleveland Browns 2021 NFL Futures Bet Tips
Browns To Win AFC North (+150)
With the Steelers regressing and the Bengals still rebuilding, the AFC North is shaping up to be a two-horse race between the Ravens (+115) and Browns. The Ravens remain incredibly dangerous with Lamar Jackson under center, but the Browns have improved enough where they could give Baltimore a run for its money, especially after finishing with identical records last year (11-5).
Based on how both teams are trending, you can’t go wrong with either one. I think I prefer the Ravens based on their recent history and Jackson’s MVP ceiling, but the Browns are right there with them and could come out on top.
Browns To Make Playoffs (-225)
Even if the Browns don’t win their division, they’re still a good bet to make the playoffs. They’re trending in the right direction and have too much talent to not at least snag a Wild Card berth. The question isn’t whether Cleveland makes the playoffs, but how far they can go.
Baker Mayfield To Win AP NFL MVP (+3500)
Despite his longshot odds, it’s not far-fetched to believe that Mayfield is a legit MVP candidate. If the Browns manage another 11 or 12 wins and emerge as Super Bowl contenders, Mayfield will very much be in the MVP conversation, especially if he continues to improve in the pocket.
Baker Mayfield Under 29.5 Passing Touchdowns (-120)
In his three NFL seasons, Mayfield has yet to throw for more than 27 scores. Despite playing every game last year, Mayfield managed only 26 passing touchdowns in an offense that ran the ball the fourth-most times per game. Assuming the Browns maintain their run-heavy philosophy, there simply won’t be enough opportunities for Mayfield to reach 30 touchdowns, even if Beckham Jr. stays healthy.