BREAKOUT - Braylon Edwards - Wide Receiver
Maybe I'm buying into this "magical 3rd season for a Wide Receiver" idea a little too much, but I just can't help it in this case. If you were designing the perfect NFL wide receiver, Braylon Edwards would be the prototype you would use. He has IDEAL size (6'3 220), great speed (4.4) and very good hands.
Last year he started to breakout, but this season he is going to be looking to established his place among the NFL's elite. In 2006, Edwards gained 850 yards receiving and scored 6 touchdowns. In route to those numbers, Edwards complied three games where he reached 100 yards and had 7 games with at least 4 catches.
He has many things going for him this year; most of which starts up front. The Cleveland Browns drafted Joe Thomas with the 3rd overall pick in the draft, and that alone should help the entire offense. Thomas should solidify the offensive line, which in turn should give whoever starts at Quarterback a chance to effectively run the offense, and should also open some holes to improve the run game.
Edwards, in a weird way, should benefit QB controversy in Cleveland. The increased competition level at Quarterback should improve the play of that position, and Edwards should see a more consistent player throwing him the ball, whether it be rookie Brady Quinn or incumbent Charlie Frye (Frye reminds me of Drew Brees as a guy who won't easily give him the starting job). Edwards also has the benefit of a good supporting staff. Joe Jurevicius was hurt at the beginning of the season, and shortly after he came back, Frye got injured. If you look at the 4 games that Frye/Edwards/Jurevicius played in together, Edwards averaged 65 yards a game and scored 2 Touchdowns.
The Browns run game, offensive line, and quarterback play should all be much improved this year and that should allow Edwards to have a monster season . I think he could match his 06 stats (850 yards 6 TDs 1 100 yard games) in the first 9-10 games of the season and could finish with roughly 1250 yards and 10-11 TDs.
BUST - Jamal Lewis - Running Back
In 2006 Lewis had a very respectable 1150 yards rushing and scored 9 TDs, but that came from running the ball over 310 times (3.4 yards per carry) behind a better offensive line than he has right now in Cleveland. I don't see him getting the ball as much this year. Last year Reuben Droughns only carried the ball 210 times (14 games) and with the Browns have a couple of nice backups/3rd down backs (Jerome Harrison/Jason Wright), I don't see Lewis getting much more that 250 carries. Now I do think Jamal Lewis is an improvement over Droughns and I think the Browns offensive line should be much improved. I can see Lewis getting close to the 4.0 YPC mark, but at only 250 carries, that only equates to 1,000 yards. Also, if you look at the Browns recent history, no running back has scored over 4 touchdowns in the past 3 years. It wouldn't surprise me if that trend continued.
MR DEPENDABLE - Kellen Winslow - Tight End
I know its hard to call someone dependable who has been hurt 2 of his 3 years in the NFL and has only played 1 season, but Winslow is that good. He showed last year why the Browns traded up to get him in the 2004 draft. He proved to be one of the top 5 pass catching tight ends in the NFL. Last year, he was giving Gates a run for his money at the beginning of the season for the crown as the leagues top Tight End. Of course, eventually Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates began to click and #85 reclaimed his throne. Last year Winslow finished the season with a very respectable 89 catches for 875 yards. He had 3 games with at least 90 yards and 9 games with at least 5 catches (thats 1 more than Gates). Kellen Winslow Jr. is a great option as a TE1 and should benefit from an improved offense.
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