The Cleveland Browns have released veteran Jamal Lewis, leaving the door open for Jerome Harrison to play a bigger role in the offense in 2010.
Over the final three weeks of last season, Harrison led all running backs in fantasy points on NFL.com. In fact, he outscored the second-best back (Jamaal Charles) by 14 points.
During that time, Harrison rushed for a new franchise-record 286 yards and scored three touchdowns in a win over the Chiefs.
Harrison had entered the game with 301 rushing yards for the entire season.
With Lewis out of the mix, Harrison is the favorite to open 2010 atop the depth chart for coach Eric Mangini.
That alone will make him a potential No. 2 runner in fantasy football. The question, though, is whether or not Harrison can handle the workload of a true featured back. At 5-foot-9 and 205 pounds, he doesn’t appear to possess the size to take the punishment of 20-25 carries for an entire season.
Browns GM Tom Heckert echoed that sentiment, telling the Cleveland Plain Dealer he isn’t sure Harrison will make it through 16 games. As a result, I’d look for the team to add a power running back as a compliment during the offseason.
The Browns also have James Davis and Chris Jennings on the roster, but neither fits that mold.
Whether or not that player takes short-yardage and goal-line work from Harrison will go a long way to determining just how much value Harrison will have in 2010.