Isaiah Crowell Fantasy Football Stock Profile: Strengthened Offensive Line and Lack of Competition Could Mean RB2 Production - Roto Street Journal
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Isaiah Crowell Fantasy Football Stock Profile: Strengthened Offensive Line and Lack of Competition Could Mean RB2 Production

Isaiah Crowell

Position: Running Back

Team: Cleveland Browns

Talent: 7.5/10

When fantasy owners hear Isaiah Crowell, they’ll typically experience a mix of emotions. He’s shown flashes of greatness during his 3 year career, taking handoffs for the lowly Browns (120 yards and a TD on 16 carries in Week 4 of last season comes to mind), but has yet to develop the consistency that he’ll need to not only help the Browns climb out of the league’s basement, but also make him a constant on fantasy football rosters. However, coming off a 2016 season featuring career-highs in starts (16), attempts (198), and yards (952), Crowell’s stock seems to be rising heading into 2017.

Crowell’s talent has been evident since his departure from Alabama State in 2014. The Browns scooped him up after the draft, and Crowell ended up playing in all 16 games as a rookie, racking up 607 yards and 8 TDs. His yardage numbers have been steadily increasing every year, and 2017 looks like a likely candidate to keep that trend alive. His 4.57 speed and impressive strength haven’t seemed to diminish with his increased workload, and with virtually no competition at running back in Cleveland, Crowell’s potential is sky high. It remains to be seen if he can become a viable passing option out of the backfield — he totaled just 40 catches and zero receiving TDs last season — but as a runner, he’s only getting better.

Opportunity/Usage: 9/10

Heading into 2017, both Crowell and Browns head coach Hue Jackson are making it very clear that the running game will be a priority this season. This is obviously great news from a fantasy perspective, but it’s not all that’s got Crowell’s stock rising in this department. This offseason the Browns went out and bolstered their offensive line, adding Kevin Zietler at right guard and JC Tretter at center to form arguably one of the sturdiest offensive lines in football. Free agency additions like these can speak even louder than words when it comes to a team committing to a certain facet of the game, and everything out of Cleveland in recent months indicates a strong reliance on the run game moving forward, with a healthy amount of those carries likely going to Crowell.

A former running backs coach, Hue Jackson has long held a reputation as a run-heavy offensive gameplanner and seems determined to return to that style next season. The coach has already made his intentions to feed Crowell very clear, stating:

“Got to run the ball more…I’d be the first to tell you that. I beat myself up about that. I’m a coach that likes to run the ball. But I think we all recognize where we were in games last year….

“[My message to Crowell is] go take it to another level,” Jackson said. “The guy had almost 1,000 yards a year ago when I didn’t hand him the ball. What can he have if I do hand him the ball? … I’ve just got to turn around and give it to him, let him make it happen…I think Crowell is poised for a big year. I think he deserves it.

With virtually just Duke Johnson as his competition for touches, Crowell will get plenty of opportunity to shine in 2017. What he’ll do with those opportunities will be a whole other story.

Coaching Scheme: 9/10

Again, Browns head coach Hue Jackson is certainly a run-first head coach. His past shows this, and his recent additions to the offensive line ensure that it will continue. Jackson calls the shots in Cleveland’s offense, and he seems determined to make sure Isaiah Crowell plays an important role in the team’s offense next season – a great sign for fantasy owners. Despite this, Cleveland was tied for dead last in the NFL last season with just 350 rushing attempts, leading to 1,712 team rushing yards on the year, good for 19th in the league. A number of factors could’ve contributed to these numbers, but obviously a main factor was likely Cleveland’s 1-15 record as a team. It’s hard to run the ball effectively when you’re constantly trailing, so much of Crowell’s success in 2017 could hinge on Cleveland’s ability to be in close games – not exactly a great sign considering the Browns have managed just 4 wins in the past 2 seasons and haven’t had a winning record since 2007.

Cleveland may not exactly be a contender in the AFC, but with additions on both sides of the ball and a newfound reliance on the run game in the horizon, they may be in the win column a bit more this season – which bodes well for a successful season for Isaiah Crowell.

Surrounding Talent: 8/10

Of course, we all know what Cleveland did with the draft this year: with 4 picks in the first 2 rounds, the Browns departed the War Room with all-world DE Myles Garrett, versatile safety/return man Jabrill Peppers, athletic tight end David Njoku, and duel-threat QB Deshone Kizer. Either Kizer, Cody Kessler or Brock Osweiler will likely handle QB duties, and with Corey Coleman and Kenny Britt occupying the attention of the defensive backfield, Crowell finds himself a part of a sneaky-talented offense. Kizer, Kessler or Osweiler all present somewhat competent options at quarterback, but none are exactly equipped to lead an air raid offense, which further indicates Crowell’s increasing role in the game plan.

The previously-mentioned Zietler and Tretter will join future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas on an offensive line that challenges the likes of Dallas, Oakland, and others for tops in the league. Running behind this line is an obvious point in Crowell’s favor, and should open up some lanes so we can see some more runs like this:

Risk: 8.5/10

Although Crowell has yet to fully breakout as a consistent fantasy RB option, he hasn’t been a slouch the past few years, either. In ESPN’s consistency ratings, a formula that uses player fantasy output over time to determine player consistency, Crowell ranked 11th among running backs, ahead of names like Lamar Miller, Jeremy Hill, and Jay Ajayi. Obviously he’s developing a sense of consistency, especially considering his career-high 4.8 YPC a season ago, which are all good signs.

Injury-wise, Crowell has been a rock since he’s entered the NFL. A pulled hammy kept him out of a few weeks of OTAs his rookie year, and he’s been on the field since. He played in all 16 games for the first 3 years of his career, an impressive feat for a running back who exhibits his bruising, between-the-tackles style of running. All things considered, if you decide to spring for Crowell in your draft this year, you can expect a healthy amount of playing time.

Overall Stock Score: 42/50, B

Ceiling Projection/Scenario: Crowell’s ceiling is high, especially considering his recent trend of improving his usage and yardage totals every year. Hue Jackson makes good on his promises to feed Crowell, and the line is as beastly as advertised, facilitating well over 1,000 yards and double-digit TDs for the third year back.

260 carries, 1,250 yards, 10 TDs; 45 catches, 400 yards, 2 TDs

Floor Projection/Scenario: Worst-case scenario for Crowell this year, excluding injury, would be an increase in competition coupled with injuries to the team’s offensive line. If Duke Johnson can show some flashes of his time at the University of Miami, the Browns will likely have no choice but to form a dreaded RB by committee, all but eliminating Crowell’s effectiveness as a fantasy option. The team remains horrendous and cannot consistently maintain the run game, despite Jackson’s desire to do so. Crowell is left floundering.

200 carries, 900 yards, 5 TDs; 25 catches, 200 yards, 0 TDs

Bottom Line: Ultimately, 2017 is a big year for Isaiah Crowell. He could break out as a consistent fantasy option, or he could fall by the wayside with the dozens of decent running backs who could never figure out how to consistently bring it week in and week out. It’s a tall order for a young back on a struggling team, but with Cleveland’s improvements to the offensive line and commitment to the running game, Crowell could have many early opportunities to showcase his talents and make his case as your fantasy RB2, with the potential for sturdy RB1 numbers if everything bends in his favor.

2017 Predicted Stat Line: 235 carries, 1,100 yards, 6 TDs; 40 catches, 300 yards, 1 TD

We used this formula to nail David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliott in 2016. Check back for more Fantasy Stock Profiles throughout the off-season to stay ahead of your fantasy football league.


  • Youngest member of the RSJ team. Boston sports and not much else. 0 for 2 closing the deal on Tinder dates. Venmo: @SeanKeegan

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