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Era-adjusted fantasy football player rankings: Jim Brown, Otto Graham leading legends of the Cleveland Browns


To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the creation of fantasy football, The Athletic is reviewing the best fantasy players and fantasy seasons in NFL history.

A detailed overview of the system used to grade historical fantasy performance can be found in our greatest fantasy players of all-time introduction page, but here’s a quick summary.

Fantasy player performance is era-adjusted so that players who dominated during lower scoring eras can compete versus players who racked up huge point totals in higher scoring eras.

After these adjustments are made, players are then given credit for having a starter-caliber season (one point), a quality season (one point), an impact campaign (1.5 points) or being an elite starter (two points). These points stack and are measured in both non-PPR and PPR and serve as the basis for determining who are the best fantasy players in NFL history.

Now that we have the preliminaries out of the way, let’s look at the best fantasy players in Cleveland Browns team history!

(Note: the numbers listed below are for the player’s performance while on the Browns.)

All-time fantasy starting lineup

QB: Otto Graham

RB: Jim Brown

RB: Leroy Kelly

WR: Dante Lavelli

WR: Mac Speedie

TE: Ozzie Newsome

SuperFLEX: Ray Renfro


Quarterback — Otto Graham

Starter Quality Impact  Elite PPR Str PPR Qual PPR Impact PPR Elite Career Points
10 10 12 14 10 10 12 14 92

Had fantasy football existed back in Graham’s era, he would have been a yearly contender for the No. 1 overall pick. Graham and Bobby Layne are tied for the most elite-caliber seasons among players at any position. Graham ranks second to Fran Tarkenton (104) for most career points at quarterback and places fourth in career points at any position (behind Tarkenton, Don Hutson, and Jerry Rice). Graham never finished lower than fourth in QB fantasy scoring and ranked first or second seven times, including in each of his final four seasons in the league.

Running back — Jim Brown

Starter Quality Impact  Elite PPR Str PPR Qual PPR Impact PPR Elite Career Points
9 9 12 6 9 9 9 10 73

Brown’s 73 career points are the most by any fantasy running back. Brown is tied for the all-time RB lead in quality seasons in both non-PPR and PPR and leads all running backs in impact and elite campaigns in both non-PPR and PPR. No other running back has more than four elite points in non-PPR and only one other running back (Marshall Faulk with 8 points) is anywhere close to Brown’s 10 elite PPR career points. He was a consensus No. 1 fantasy RB five times and only finished lower than fourth in either non-PPR or PPR scoring once, that being a sixth-place finish in PPR in 1960.

Brown was so dominant at the end of his career that his 346.8 PPR points in his final season would have ranked second in RB PPR scoring in 2021. What makes that even more incredible is Brown did this in a 14-game season compared to the 2021 running backs having 17 games to post their point totals.

Running back — Leroy Kelly

Starter Quality Impact  Elite PPR Str PPR Qual PPR Impact PPR Elite Career Points
7 5 3 0 6 3 1.5 2 27.5

Kelly gets lost in Cleveland history because he was on the same franchise as Jim Brown, but Kelly’s achievements are notable in their own right. Kelly can even make a claim that Brown cannot, as Kelly ranked first in non-PPR RB scoring for three straight years (1966-68). That is something Brown did not do, and is a feat matched only by three other running backs (Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith, and Marshall Faulk).

Wide receiver — Dante Lavelli

Starter Quality Impact  Elite PPR Str PPR Qual PPR Impact PPR Elite Career Points
10 6 4.5 4 10 6 4.5 6 51

Lavelli was one of Otto Graham’s primary passing targets and that role led to Lavelli ranking in the Top 10 in non-PPR end scoring seven times and PPR end scoring six times. Lavelli’s 51 career points ranks fifth all-time among ends and wide receivers, and one of the players in front of him, Gino Cappelletti, racked up a lot of his points as a kicker. Lavelli’s four non-PPR elite career points and six PPR elite career points rank tied for third, respectively, all-time among ends and wide receivers.

Wide receiver — Mac Speedie

Starter Quality Impact  Elite PPR Str PPR Qual PPR Impact PPR Elite Career Points
7 5 6 4 7 5 4.5 4 42.5

Yes, that was his given name, and Speedie more than lived up to it. Speedie finished in the Top 7 in WR non-PPR scoring in four his seven NFL seasons and in the Top 8 in WR PPR scoring on five occasions. To put his fantastic 1947 season into perspective, Speedie’s 216.9 PPR points held the Cleveland WR PPR record until 1966 and it still remains the ninth highest PPR total ever posted by a Browns wide receiver.

Tight end — Ozzie Newsome

Starter Quality Impact  Elite PPR Str PPR Qual PPR Impact PPR Elite Career Points
9 6 3 0 10 5 3 2 38

Newsome hit the ground running in his rookie season of 1978 by ranking fifth and sixth, respectively, in TE non-PPR and PPR points, but he was just getting warmed up. From 1979-84, Newsome ranked between first and third in TE PPR scoring every year except 1980 when he placed ninth. He was just as dominant in TE non-PPR scoring in that span, finishing in the Top 4 five times. Newsome’s 10 starting-caliber PPR seasons ranks tied for fifth all-time among tight ends and his 38 career points total is tied for sixth at this position.

SuperFlex — Ray Renfro

Starter Quality Impact  Elite PPR Str PPR Qual PPR Impact PPR Elite Career Points
9 3 3 2 8 2 1.5 2 30.5

It might come as a surprise to see Renfro as the SuperFlex for the Browns until one takes a closer look at his accomplishments. Renfro’s nine starter-caliber seasons in non-PPR ranks tied for third all-time behind Graham and Brown among Cleveland players and his eight starting-caliber PPR campaigns place tied for fifth best on this franchise.


All-time best era-adjusted fantasy seasons

QB: Otto Graham, 1946 (124.9 points)

RB: Jim Brown, 1965 (312.8 non-PPR, 346.8 PPR)

WR: Mac Speedie, 1947 (149.9 non-PPR, 216.9 PPR)

TE: Ozzie Newsome, 1983 (133 non-PPR, 222 PPR)

SuperFLEX: Ray Renfro, 1953 (156.8 non-PPR, 195.8 PPR)

(Top photo: Focus on Sport/Getty Images)





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