By: Matthew Gajewski (Twitter: @BiasedTuna)
“The Ultimate Diamond in the Rough”
Coming into 2016, Kenny Britt was widely considered a first-round draft bust. However, the 28-year old receiver beat all odds and finished the season with 68 receptions for 1,002 yards and 5 touchdowns. Impressively, he did this on 111 targets, coming from a combination of Case Keenum and Jared Goff. This offseason, Britt left Los Angeles’ stagnant offense for Cleveland. He signed a 4-year, $32.5 million dollar contract, immediately becoming the Browns’ most proven pass catcher.
Although Britt broke out just in time to land a solid contract, he has not always been productive. The former first round pick had never eclipsed 48 receptions and 775 yards in a year before 2016. Additionally, Britt battled numerous injuries and off-field incidents early in his career. In 2011 he missed 13 games with a torn ACL and in 2012 he was suspended for one game after multiple off-field incidents. While they don’t tell the whole story, these events likely played a role in Britt’s lackluster production early in his career.
However, along with nagging injuries, Britt’s poor likely resulted from dreadful quarterback play. With the Titans, he caught a majority of his passes from Vince Young, Kerry Collins, Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Likewise, with the Rams, he suffered through Austin Davis, Shaun Hill, Nick Foles, Case Keenum, and Jared Goff. If these names don’t make you cringe, some stats will. Prior to 2016, the Rams hadn’t produced a 1,000-yard receiver since Torry Holt in 2007. Similarly, no receiver during Britt’s time in Tennessee had more than 1,079 yards receiving (Kendall Wright in 2013).
Despite never playing with an elite passer, Britt’s talent provides massive upside. In 2016 under Case Keenum and Jared Goff, Kenny Britt finished as the WR26 in standard leagues and the WR28 in PPR. In the Rams offense he received a 21% target share overall and a 22.2% target share in the red zone. With this volume he finished with 1,002 yards (303 coming after the catch) and 5 TDs.
In the Rams offense Britt was asked to run all over the field. In addition to leading the team in overall target share, he dominated deep passes with a 33% target share. Overall, Britt was targeted down field 25 times. He caught 13 of these passes for 431 yards, making him the most effective deep option on the Rams by a long shot (2nd was Brian Quick with 215 yards).
Likewise, Britt excelled in the shallow game. Particularly, Britt dominated short crossing routes. He was targeted 17 times on these routes. Catching 15, he finished with 224 yards and 2 TDs. His WR rating (QB rating when targeting a specific wide receiver) on these routes was an unbelievable 158. Having Britt on the field directly improved quarterback play for the Rams. Britt’s overall WR rating on the year was 96.2. By itself this is a fairly impressive number. However, Britt’s expected WR rating was 76.2. This discrepancy between expected and actual WR rating is one of the largest in the league. In other words, under Keenum and Goff, Britt was not expected to produce anywhere near as much as he did.
Moving to Cleveland, Britt will be entering another one of the worst offenses in league. However, there is room for optimism in this offense. With Terrelle Pryor leaving in free agency, Britt’s only competition for targets this season is second year pro Corey Coleman. Coleman struggled to stay on the field during his first year. If this continues it could leave Britt with an opportunity for an elite target share, similar to what Terrelle Pryor had in the offense last year (25% target share).
Looking at offensive fit, Britt should slide in smoothly as Cody Kessler’s main weapon, assuming he starts. Last season Kessler excelled primarily in the short game. His multitude of short passes led to the 5th best overall adjusted completion percentage in the league at 78.2%. Britt’s best routes are shallow crossing routes, which Kessler targets often. In his second year under center, Kessler should benefit from an improved offensive line. The additions of JC Tretter and Kevin Zeitler, along with a full season from Joe Thomas and Joel Bitonio, should give Kessler more time in the pocket to find Britt. While their offense should be improved, Cleveland will likely suffer from negative game script again in 2017. This will only inflate pass attempts and targets to Britt.
Overall, you should expect Britt to double down on his 2016 campaign. With Pryor leaving in free agency, Britt should step in and compete for WR1 duties immediately. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Britt is currently being drafted at 13.08. Getting a receiver with Britt’s potential this late is downright stealing. Draft Britt with confidence in fantasy drafts, knowing you are locking down Cleveland’s primary pass catching option.