- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
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Maybe the bye week will help solve some of the problems the Cleveland Browns have been dealing with, but it's more likely the defense the defending champion New York Giants play will create more. That just can't be a good thing for the Browns' passing game; and it definitely doesn't help fantasy owners who keep waiting for consensus top-5 wide receiver Braylon Edwards to get his game going.
Edwards, the 20th overall pick in ESPN average live drafts, and fourth at wide receiver, hasn't delivered much return on those investments. With a not-so-grand total of 14 fantasy points through four games and five weeks, he's tied for No. 72 in wide receiver points, with the Patriots' Jabar Gaffney and the Jaguars' Mike Walker. Gaffney is a disappointment, but not to Edwards' level. You could have drafted him after round 10. Walker wasn't drafted at all, he's owned in 1.9 percent of leagues and 10 of his 14 points came this past week. And that's who Edwards is tied with?
So yes, it's really been a disappointing campaign for Edwards, at a different level to other top receivers like Randy Moss, Torry Holt and even Chad Johnson. Edwards is bringing little to the fantasy table, and there's little reason for his owners to keep using him. With the Giants and their ferocious pass rush up next, and a difficult schedule for the Browns basically the entire season, why would Edwards start producing like 2007 anytime soon?
Edwards hasn't caught as many as four passes in a game so far, nor has he topped 32 yards receiving. While facing the Cowboys, Steelers and Ravens to start the season can't be fun, what excuse is there for little production against the lowly, Ohio rival Bengals? Edwards did score on a four-yard fade route in the fourth quarter, as Derek Anderson threw a short pop fly that Edwards leaped for, but there wasn't much else.
While Anderson made that pass, he didn't make many others, and that's one of the many reasons the Browns are struggling. In fact this was a largely unwatchable game: the score of the big Ohio matchup was 6-3 into the fourth quarter. Anderson, a fantasy hero and Pro Bowler a season ago, was no better than Cincy backup Ryan Fitzpatrick. Anderson played a poor game, and the calls for Notre Dame product Brady Quinn to replace him have been constant since Week 1. On Monday night it will be more than just Browns backers watching, and if the Giants take a large lead early, one has to wonder if a quarterback change will occur.
Don't get the idea this potential changeover to youth and the future will be good for Edwards, though. Quinn is largely untested, and much of Edwards' preseason fantasy hype, coming off a monster campaign of 80 receptions, 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns, was predicated on Anderson repeating his Cinderella season. All bets are off with, essentially, a raw, untested quarterback in the lineup. Plus, this hasn't been all the fault of the quarterback. Even last season Edwards dropped more passes than most wide receivers, and while he remains confident he and his team will turn things around, he hasn't made big plays. He's looked sluggish. Even coming off a week with his first touchdown, our ESPN Fantasy projections are giving him three catches for 24 yards, and two fantasy points. Woo-hoo!
The Browns need stronger offensive line work to establish the run game, and get Jamal Lewis back to his 2007 level. It would alleviate some of the pressure on Anderson and the passing game, that's for sure. The possible return of Donte' Stallworth to the lineup should help Edwards a bit. Maybe return isn't the correct word; Stallworth has yet to play this season, but one would presume another weapon would make things easier for Anderson and Edwards. Then again, tight end Kellen Winslow, while nowhere near his productive 2007 self, is tied for 10th in fantasy points at his position. He's been usable, and only Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez have been better-targeted tight ends. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel on Winslow. Can we say the same for Edwards?
Eric Karabell is a senior writer for ESPN.com who covers fantasy baseball, football and basketball. He has twice been honored as fantasy sports writer of the year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. His new book, "The Best Philadelphia Sports Arguments," was published by Source Books and is available in bookstores. Contact Eric by e-mailing him here.
14hMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne