Cleveland Browns - 2014 Preseason #FF Preview
The emotions ride high in the NFL. When it comes to the city south of the lake, fans have emotion in spades. It has always been a love-hate relationship. Well, with their second pick in this year’s draft, the Browns created a one man quarterback controversy, because love him or hate him, Johnny Manziel is the man in Brown. Last year, no other team attempted as many passes as the Cleveland Browns (681). That is not to say we are going to see the same Browns. They are attempting to reinvent themselves, again. The question remains: do they know what the hell they are doing? This is the team that drafted Johnny Manziel only after they spent $100,000 on a study that concluded Teddy Bridgewater was the best quarterback in this year’s draft. Genius!
Immediately after the draft, it came out that Josh Gordon, last year’s fantasy phenomenon, was heading for yet another suspension. One would think they had warning of his latest failed drug test prior to the draft, at least a whiff. Even if they did not, the writing was on the wall with Gordon. Hell, they were rumored to be shopping him around last year, but nobody wanted the off the field headache that Gordon brings with him. That speaks volumes considering the talent. So, why not address the need in the draft? Either this is a sign that Ray Farmer, the new GM, has a vision, and is sticking to his guns, or he is stubborn and incompetent. Well, at least Farmer landed the head coach he wanted… Oh, wait…
As far as who will be under center, that question is still up for debate. Brian Hoyer is poised to take the job. The Browns seem eager to wrap up his contract. Read the tea leaves anyway you want. They see potential in Hoyer and desire to lock him up before he steps onto the field and shows his true worth. If successful, getting him under contract now would save them money in the long run. The Browns eagerness to get him to sign on the dotted line not only reveals their confidence in him, but also their trepidation with Johnny Freefall. Ideally, Johnny Manziel, who slipped in the draft until the 22nd pick, would take time to learn under an experienced quarterback, ala Rodgers under Favre. Oh, but we all know that is not how Johnny Football rolls. He has stated he is gunning for the starting role week one, even though reports from camp refer to him as inconsistent thus far. It can be devastating for a rookie if they do not experience some level of success. Cleveland gave up the second most sacks last year. They did take one offensive lineman in the draft, 3rd rounder Joel Bitonio. If Manziel is thrust into the game too quickly, it could be disastrous for his psyche.
New head coach Mike Pettine brought in Kyle Shanahan to be his offensive coordinator. Kyle was the OC for Washington the last four years; He was OC in Houston the two years prior. Four of those six years, his offense landed in the top ten. The rushing scheme did well in Houston and in Cleveland. Alfred Morris has rushed for at least 1200 yards in his two first years in the league. Many credit Shanahan for helping RG3 transition so successfully into the league in 2012. His coaching style has also seen many successful receivers as well, while in Houston, Andre Johnson led the league in receiving yards in 2008 and 2009 under Shanahan’s tutelage. There is no doubt, Shanahan brings a wealth of experience, and a record of success. But, the question still remains: will Manziel be ready when the Browns call on him? It will help Manziel in the long run if he is brought along slowly and not thrust into the fire too soon. That means, it will be up to Brian Hoyer, who tasted success last year, albeit briefly. Hopefully, Hoyer will be under center come week one. This should help Manziel learn the ropes. Although he is a wild card, he is a definite grab in later draft rounds. He could earn his keep on his legs alone. According to 4for4, Manziel’s ADP is the 18th QB off the board. He is going as the 134th pick overall, ahead of guys like Tannehill and McCown. Guys going just before him are Andy Dalton and Ben Accosthisfurberger. Regardless who starts in Cleveland, they are going to need a great deal of help from their receivers. Looking at the line-up does not inspire confidence however.
There is one word that sums up the Browns passing attack, “chronic”. That word works in so many ways, too many for Josh Gordon; as an adjective, he is always deadly on the field, yet he is constantly in trouble; as a noun, it is precisely what gets him in trouble. Last year, he led the league with 1,646 yards and saw the end zone 9 times. This year, he will still see the end zone, however his vantage point will be from the bench. At this point, it is only speculation as to how many games JG will miss due to the chronic. The safe money would say a year suspension, 8 games, which was speculated at first, seems impossible with the latest news. On the morning of July 5th, Joshua Caleb Gordon was arrested for driving while impaired. To all you dynasty leaguers, trade NOW while you still can. This dude is in chronic trouble. Some analysts are even questioning if Gordon dons a NFL uniform again.
In 2013, Gordon reeled in 87 receptions. Who is going to step up in his stead? Well, Jordan Cameron, their Tight End or according to his twitter account “pro bowl pass catcher”, should fill the void. Cameron will roam the mid-field, perfect for rookie quarterbacks and those gunslingers often under pressure. Regardless of starting slinger, Cameron will be a safety valve behind an offensive line that gave up the third most sacks last year (49). I think Cameron will continue this trend, and without Gordon in the line-up, Jordan Cameron could be poised to break 100 receptions this year. Pyro ranks Cameron as a tier III tight end. Cameron had amazing chemistry with Hoyer. In the two games Hoyer started (he got hurt early in the third game he started), he threw 5 touchdowns, 4 of which went to Cameron. In those two games, Cameron caught 16 passes from Hoyer. The chemistry is there for these two to build upon. According to 4for4, Cameron’s ADP is 52 and is the fourth tight end off the board. If Gordon is put on ice for a whole year as expected, the early 5th round is a bargain for the kind of production he may put up.
Jordan Cameron - TD Machine
The other three wide receivers to note are Miles Austin, Andrew Hawkins, and Nate Burleson. Pyro ranks Hawkins as wide receiver #72. Right behind him at # 73 is Miles Austin. This would make for a nice tandem, except that these are Cleveland’s highest ranking wide receivers going into the 2014 season. So, if you are in a 12 team league, and you start 3 wide receivers, that makes for a total of 36 positions. Even if every single team started a wide receiver at the flex spot, that only accounts for 48 wide receivers. Austin is entering his 7th year in the league and has never returned to the player he was back in 2009 and 2010. Last year, he continued to struggle with injury and brought in a miniscule 2.2 fantasy points per game. Andrew Hawkins did slightly better with 2.5 fantasy points per game. Burleson comes in at wide receiver # 93. Since entering the league in 2008, he has only played all 16 games one time. During that 2011 season under gun slinger Matthew Stafford, he caught 73 balls for a total of 757 yards and 3 touchdowns. If Austin can keep his quads stretched and loose, and if Burleson can possibly avoid late night pizza pickups, these guys could make for a nice supporting cast. However, without a real go-to receiver, neither can carry the load, especially with such question marks at the quarter back position.
Although Cleveland only had the third fewest rush attempts last year, can you blame them with the likes of McGahee, Ogbonnaya, and Edwin Baker. The Browns made some interesting moves to spice up the backfield. The most recognizable name is certainly Ben Tate. Currently, Tate is the 24th back off the board and has an ADP of 57. He is going before guys like Joique Bell, Pierre Thomas, and Christine Michael, all of whom I like better. Here’s the thing, if you look a little closer at Cleveland’s roster, the position is not locked up by any means. First of all, Tate was marginally successful in a dynamic Kubiak offense. When he became a free agent, he garnered little attention from the league. In all likelihood, the starter will be their number one draft pick Terrance West. The Browns positioned themselves to get him, much to the chagrin of the Ravens draft strategist, Ozzy Newsome. Now, clearly the powers that be in Cleveland have proven to be a bunch of douche canoes over the years, however, trading up to get this guy was well worth it. He currently has an ADP of 96, running back 35. I would take West over guys like MJD, and Ray Rice any day, both of whom are going before West in current mock drafts. If you don’t know him, West had a spectacular season last year in college. He scored 41 touchdowns, again, in one season. He ran for a total of 2,519 yards, and had 26 catches for another 258 yards and one more touchdown. Alright, so it was in the FCS against inferior competition. But the numbers don’t lie. One last point, he did tie the FCS record for career touchdowns with 84. The guy that he tied… Adrian Peterson.
Another rookie that commands attention is the undrafted rookie, Isaiah Crowell. In 2011, he played for Georgia and went on to become the SEC freshmen of the year. Well, apparently Ray Charles was the only one to have Georgia on the mind (Crowell was suspended one game for a failed drug test). After his promising rookie campaign where he averaged 4.6 yards a carry, he was swiftly booted from the team for felony gun possession. So, yeah, there’s baggage, and his bags carry automatic fire-arms. However, if indeed there is a RBBC in Cleveland this year, I might take a flyer on Crowell with my last pick.
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By Jeremy Battaglia