NFL Grind Down Week 1: Tennessee Titans vs. Cleveland Browns

Vegas Overview

TEN @ CLE Team Spread Total Implied Moneyline
CLE -5.5 45.5 25.5 -235
TEN 5.5 45.5 20 200

Spread Quick Take: Cleveland has quickly become one of the public’s favorite teams as hype surrounds Baker Mayfield and the Browns offense. It’s the defense, however, that will make the difference in this one as the Brown’s pass rush looked wicked in the preseason while Marcus Mariota and the Titans offense struggled to get things going.

CLE -5.5
Confidence Level 4/10

Over/Under: Slow pace combined with one truly bad offense (Tennessee) has me thinking this could be a low scoring affair. Cleveland’s offense may get on a roll, but I’m legitimately skeptical the Titans will be able to do their part and score a couple of touchdowns.

Under 45.5
Confidence Level 6/10

Injury Situations

Player Team Pos Status Part Impact
Odell Beckham CLE WR P Hip 10
Dontrell Hilliard CLE RB P Leg 8
Kareem Hunt CLE RB O Suspension 6
Derrick Henry TEN RB P Calf 8
Jonnu Smith TEN TE Q Knee 1

Injuries to Monitor: This game has a couple of big-name injuries to monitor in Odell Beckham and Derrick Henry. Odell reportedly hasn’t been able to “open up” and go full speed in practice due to a hip injury but is probable to play. I’m treating Odell’s injury as a non-issue unless game day reporting is negative in regards to his health. Henry missed camp with a calf injury but practiced the last two weeks with no setbacks. Henry should be a confident full go come Sunday.

Matchup Factors, Team Identity Metrics, and Game Flow Expectations

Expected Game Pace and Tempo: Pace, and therefore volume, could be an issue in this game with the Titans ranking 23rd in neutral situation pace of play last season and the Browns ranking 14th. Cleveland was notably slower with Kitchens as HC. A slowed-down slugfest is an ideal scenario for the Titans and it seems likely the Browns will oblige by not pushing the pace too quickly.

Cleveland Browns Offense vs. Tennessee Titans Defense: The Titans have a lot of holes in their defense as they ranked 19th in defense DVOA last season, including 21st in pass-defense DVOA and 15th in rush defense DVOA. Tennessee ranked dead last in Running Back Adjusted Fantasy Points allowed (18.39) and represent a strong overall matchup for Nick Chubb who is likely to see his role expand this season with Duke Johnson no longer siphoning pass-catching duties.

Tennessee Titans Offense vs. Cleveland Browns Defense: Overall, Cleveland is a solid team defensively but were susceptible to the run game at times last season, ranking 25th in rush defense DVOA. As stated above, a slow grind it out game is exactly what the Titans want and they’ll likely try to take advantage of the Browns defense by giving Derrick Henry as many touches as he can handle.

Cleveland Browns Projections Breakdown

Quarterback Projections

Player Team Rank Proj ProjAtt ProjYds Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ FD Pts/$ Y
Baker Mayfield CLE QB10 18.91 36.11 279.69 Rank 23 Rank 25 Rank 23 Rank 19

TEN Schedule Adjusted QB DVP (‘18): Rank #30

2018 Opportunity Metrics:
Att/Gm: 34.7 (Rank 15)
RuAtt/Gm: 2.8 (Rank #26)
DeepBall/Gm: 5.4 (Rank #3)

2018 Efficiency Metrics:
Accuracy Rating: 2.8 (Rank #25)
Air Yards/Att: 9.5 (Rank #4)
AdjYPA: 7.1 (Rank #15)

Baker has all the hype in the world surrounding him this season, but he may not see enough volume to put up truly elite stats. Mayfield ranked just 15th in pass attempts per game (34.7) last season but looked to make the most of his limited attempts by throwing downfield often – he ranked third with 5.4 deep balls per game.

It’s those deep balls that are likely to make or break Baker’s value each week, and especially this week as his volume could truly be limited in a slow-paced game. Mayfield ranked fourth last season with 9.5 air yards per attempt and it would be unsurprising to see that number increase this season with an improved receiving corps.

Quick Summary: Baker is not worthy of cash game consideration this week but is almost always viable as a stack option in tournaments.

Running Back Projections

Player Team Proj Rank ProjRu% ProjTar% Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FDFT
Nick Chubb CLE 14.28 RB14 65% 7% Rank 14 Rank 25 Rank 21 Rank 21
Dontrell Hilliard CLE 7.51 RB44 22% 8% Rank 35 Rank 8 Rank 60 Rank 13
D’Ernest Johnson CLE 0.42 RB100 1% 1% Rank 94 Rank 94 Rank 93 Rank 94

TEN Schedule Adjusted RB DVP (‘18): Rank #32

2018 Nick Chubb Opportunity Metrics:
Opportunity Share: 48.4% (Rank #29)
RZ Opportunity Share: 70.5% (Rank #12)

2018 Nick Chubb Efficiency Metrics:
Yards Created: 388 (Rank #9)
YPC: 5.2 (Rank #8)
Yards Per Route: 1.57 (DNQ)

Nick Chubb was the biggest winner of Cleveland’s off-season as Duke Johnson was shipped out of town. Newly acquired Kareem Hunt won’t be available until the second half of the season and the only Dontrell Hilliard and D’Ernest Johnson are left to threaten Chubb’s workload. Chubb should see a sharp increase from his 2018 opportunity share (48.4%) and should see more action in the passing game as well. We currently have Chubb projected for 65% of the Browns Week 1 carries and that comes across as too low for me. I am not convinced that either Hilliard or Johnson will factor into this game much other than getting involved to give Chubb a few quick spells or to mix in for some pass-catching work.

Chubb ranked well in most efficiency metrics last season, including 5.2 yards per carry and is truly poised for a big season if he’s able to maintain that efficiency with a bigger role.

Quick Summary: Nick Chubb is one of the best overall RB options on the slate. He can be used in all formats and his expected workload makes him one of the ‘safer’ cash game options.

Wide Receiver Projections

Player Team Proj Rank ProjTar% ProjTar Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
Odell Beckham CLE 15.83 WR7 24% 8.67 Rank 33 Rank 84 Rank 45 Rank 93
Jarvis Landry CLE 11.77 WR33 19% 6.86 Rank 38 Rank 67 Rank 22 Rank 39
Rashard Higgins CLE 8.92 WR62 15% 5.24 Rank 29 Rank 4 Rank 68 Rank 9
Taywan Taylor CLE 2.54 WR141 5% 1.63 Rank 134 Rank 134 Rank 134 Rank 134
Damion Ratley CLE 3.09 WR138 6% 1.99 Rank 129 Rank 128 Rank 124 Rank 130

TEN Schedule Adjusted WR DVP (‘18): Rank #10

2018 Odell Beckham Opportunity Metrics:
Target Share: 28.5% (Rank #5)
RZ Target Share: 29.9% (Rank #10)
Route Participation: 94.3% (Rank #4)

2018 Odell Beckham Efficiency Metrics:
Yards Per Route: 2.55 (Rank #14)
ADOT: 12.2 (Rank #45)
YAC per Reception: 2.3 (Rank #28)

So this guy Odell, he’s pretty good. We don’t have any sort of sample to pull from when projecting target share for Cleveland’s receiving corps, but Odell should lead the way followed by Jarvis Landry. We currently have Odell projected for a 24% target share which makes him WR7 on Sunday’s main slate. Jarvis Landry is projected for a 19% target share which makes him WR33. Once again, pace of play could limit Odell’s opportunity this week – we currently have him projected for 8.67 targets which likely is not a heavy enough workload to pay off his price tag. Rashard Higgins is expected to eat up the majority of the remaining targets. We currently have him projected for a 15% target share.

Quick Summary: Odell is the top target here but his hip injury and potential low target volume make him an avoid for me in cash games. His big-play ability makes him a weekly tournament option. Neither Jarvis Landry or Rashard Higgins should be used outside of Cleveland stacks and neither are particularly good options this week.

Tight End Projections

Player Team Proj ProjTar Rank ProjTar Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
David Njoku CLE 8.30 TE11 13% 4.51 Rank 16 Rank 15 Rank 9 Rank 1
Demetrius Harris CLE 2.04 TE58 4% 1.26 Rank 53 Rank 54 Rank 55 Rank 54

TEN Schedule Adjusted TE DVP (‘18): Rank #31

2018 David Njoku Opportunity Metrics:
Target Share: 16.9% (Rank #8)
RZ Target Share: 14.5% (Rank #14)
Route Participation: 70.8% (Rank #6)

2018 David Njoku Efficiency Metrics:
Yards Per Route: 1.68 (Rank #68)
ADOT: 9.2 (Rank #12)
YAC per Reception: 3.2 (Rank #7)

David Njoku is expected to be a nearly every down TE this season for the Browns. Despite his potential increase in playing time, we currently have Njoku projected for a lower target share (13%) this week than what he averaged last season (16.9%). The addition of Odell to the Cleveland offense is likely to limit the looks Njoku gets on a weekly basis.

Njoku’s size makes him an excellent Red Zone target and gives him solid touchdown equity on an offense expected to move the ball. Njoku ranked 14th last season in Red Zone target share and it would be unsurprising to see that number increase this year even with the addition of Odell.

Quick Summary: Njoku is a touchdown dependent fantasy option. He’s best used in stacks with Baker.

Defense Projections

Player Team Proj Rank Sack INT PtsAllow Home? Favorite?
Cleveland Browns CLE 7.46 DST6 3.36 0.79 21.10 Y Y

The best fantasy defenses are those that are going to get pressure on the QB. Pressure leads to sacks and turnovers. Cleveland ranked just 28th in pressure rate (30.77%) and sack rate (5.58%) but have been much better at putting pressure on the QB this preseason. Encouragingly, the Titans ranked 26th in sack rate allowed last season and will be without LT Taylor Lewan who is out with a suspension. The Titans allowed seven sacks in their third preseason game against the Steelers.

Quick Summary: Cleveland is one of the top fantasy DST options of the week due to the matchup. Play them in all formats.

Tennessee Titans Projections Breakdown

Quarterback Projections

Player Team Proj Rank ProjAtt ProjYds Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ FD Pts/$ Y
Marcus Mariota TEN 15.8 QB27 34.41 234.85 Rank 18 Rank 17 Rank 7 Rank 24

CLE Schedule Adjusted QB DVP (‘18): Rank #21

2018 Opportunity Metrics:
Att/Gm: 23.6 (Rank 42)
RuAtt/Gm: 4.6 (Rank #8)
DeepBall/Gm: 2.6 (Rank #35)

2018 Efficiency Metrics:
Accuracy Rating: 3 (Rank #8)
Air Yards/Att: 7.9 (Rank #23)
AdjYPA: 6.4 (Rank #25)

The Titans were one of the most run-heavy teams last season running the ball on 48.22% of their plays which ranked second in the league. An emphasis on the run game meant very little volume for Mariota who only attempted 23.6 pass attempts per game last season. Mariota did pitch into the rushing effort himself, averaging 4.6 rush attempts per game which ranked 8th in the league among qualified quarterbacks.

When Mariota did get the opportunity to throw the ball he wasn’t trusted to throw it downfield, averaging just 7.9 air yards per attempt which ranked 23rd in the league. Short throws helped improve Mariota’s accuracy but greatly limited his fantasy upside.

Quick Summary: Just say no.

Running Back Projections

Player Team Proj Rank ProjRu% ProjTar% Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
Derrick Henry TEN 15.13 RB11 66% 7% Rank 3 Rank 5 Rank 5 Rank 25
Dion Lewis TEN 6.04 RB57 18% 6% Rank 59 Rank 64 Rank 54 Rank 65
David Fluellen TEN 0.83 RB94 4% 1% Rank 88 Rank 88 Rank 88 Rank 88

CLE Schedule Adjusted RB DVP (‘18): Rank #11

2018 Derrick Henry Opportunity Metrics:
Opportunity Share: 50.8% (Rank #26)
RZ Opportunity Share: 59.2% (Rank #15)

2018 Derrick Henry Efficiency Metrics:
Yards Created: 550 (Rank #2)
YPC: 4.9 (Rank #14)
Yards Per Route: 1.62 (DNQ)

Derrick Henry had a bit of a roller-coaster 2018 season as he split time in the backfield with Dion Lewis to start the season. Henry wasn’t able to separate himself from Lewis until later in the season which resulted in Henry owning just a 50.8% opportunity share last year. It’s safe to expect an uptick in workload for Henry this season and we currently have him projected for 66% of RB carries for the Titans to go along with a 7% target share. Those usage projections place Henry as RB11 this week.

Dion Lewis saw his role decrease as the season progressed last year and is likely to pencil into a similar low-volume role to start this year. We currently have him projected for just an 18% rush share and 6% target share. Lewis could see more field time if the Browns jump out to an early lead but it won’t be enough to make him a consideration in any format.

Quick Summary: There’s a non-zero chance Tennessee is able to establish the run and keep the ball out of Baker’s hands. 20+ touches is a realistic projection for Henry in that scenario which would make him a tremendous play this week. He’s a viable tournament option.

Wide Receiver Projections

Player Team Proj Rank ProjTar% ProjTar Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
Corey Davis TEN 10.75 WR41 20% 6.88 Rank 55 Rank 58 Rank 31 Rank 33
A.J. Brown TEN 7.88 WR77 16% 5.51 Rank 78 Rank 48 Rank 53 Rank 37
Adam Humphries TEN 6.52 WR96 20% 6.88 Rank 109 Rank 101 Rank 75 Rank 118
Tajae Sharpe TEN 1.98 WR156 4% 1.38 Rank 147 Rank 145 Rank 160 Rank 147
Darius Jennings TEN 2.24 WR148 6% 2.06 Rank 139 Rank 139 Rank 146 Rank 139

CLE Schedule Adjusted WR DVP (‘18): Rank #26

2018 Corey Davis Opportunity Metrics:
Target Share: 26.4% (Rank #8)
RZ Target Share: 26.8% (Rank #13)
Route Participation: 89.7% (Rank #16)

2018 Corey Davis Efficiency Metrics:
Yards Per Route: 2.27 (Rank #24)
ADOT: 10.9 (Rank #63)
YAC per Reception: 2.2 (Rank #39)

The good news: Corey Davis owned a 26.4% target share last season which was 8th best of all qualified receivers. The bad news: 26.4% of 23 passing attempts is not a lot. The addition of A.J. Brown and Adam Humphries is likely going to result in a decreased target share for Davis this year which makes him even less desirable as a fantasy commodity.

Quick Summary: There’s not enough opportunity here.

Tight End Projections

Player Team Proj Rank ProjTar% ProjTar Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
Delanie Walker TEN 7.23 TE19 13% 4.47 Rank 23 Rank 21 Rank 18 Rank 32
Jonnu Smith TEN 3.40 TE42 6% 2.06 Rank 40 Rank 40 Rank 37 Rank 39

CLE Schedule Adjusted TE DVP (‘18): Rank #3

2018 Delanie Walker Opportunity Metrics:
Target Share: 18.4% (Rank #6)
RZ Target Share: 20% (DNQ)
Route Participation: 63.2% (DNQ)

2018 Delanie Walker Efficiency Metrics:
Yards Per Route: 2.17 (Rank #43)
ADOT: 6.9 (DNQ)
YAC per Reception: 2.9 (Rank #86)

Delanie Walker is set to return from a brutal 2018 ankle injury. Similar to his pass-catching counterparts at receiver, the volume is expected to be a major issue for Walker this season. We have Walker currently projected for a 13% target share which gives him a 4.47 target projection for Week 1.

Quick Summary: Again, not enough passing volume.

Defense Projections

Player Team Proj Rank Sack INT PtsAllow Home? Favorite?
Tennessee Titans TEN 6.15 DST22 2.19 0.82 24.64 N N

A middling Titans defense draws a tough week one matchup and it’s hard to see them providing any sort of fantasy value without a random DST touchdown. Tennesse ranked 29th in pressure rate last season (30.59%) while Cleveland ranked second in sack-rate allowed (6.21%). It’s unlikely the Titans are able to put enough pressure on Baker to cause turnovers.

Quick Summary: #NahWave

DFS Recommendations

Optimal DFS Plays: Nick Chubb

Leverage Plays: Odell Beckham

Secondary Plays: Baker Mayfield, David Njoku

About the Author

  • Dan Gaspar (MrTuttle05)

  • Since his addition to the RotoGrinders community, MrTuttle has been continually climbing the Grinders leaderboards and is currently ranked in Top 150 overall. He has qualified for countless live finals as well and has proven himself to be one of the best high-stakes DFS players in the industry. You can find him on Twitter @MrTuttle05.


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