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Cleveland Browns

2015 REWIND: 2014 Preseason Week-1 Dynasty-Fantasy Recap: CLE vs. DET

Twitter @FFMetrics

tags — 2015 Dynasty-Fantasy Scouting Report, Eric Ebron, Ryan Broyles, Charles Johnson, Terrance West, 2015 Dynasty Rookie Draft, Kyle Van Noy, IDP, Johnny Manziel, Fantasy Football Draft, PPR, ADP

 

I was smitten with this idea the other day, and decided to go through with it for the next few days or so…before the football news really starts going soon.

I was thinking about how we all get way too excited when we first get football news, and that includes me. I got to thinking that I should go back and re-read all the early preseason game recaps I did, and see what massive mistakes or pure genius I was onto upon witnessing the first preseason games.

So, I am going back through each Week-1 preseason game recap from 2014, and critiquing myself on the spot (my 2015 notes are in teacher-correcting red font). Below is an original, unfiltered, untouched up to avoid my embarrassment, Fantasy-Dynasty game recap from Week-1 of the preseason with my random comments from re-reading them today.

Note – I did not go back and re-watch these games before critiquing myself a year later. I’m just reading and reacting to what I wrote after what I saw last year. I hate re-reading my own stuff, so this will be the first time seeing it since I wrote it. Actually, it’s kinda like photo album or yearbook review. You know, where you look back and think, “What was I thinking when I wore that?

These 2014 preseason games ‘Rewinds’ will be posting in random order. Here we go…

**Our ever-evolving, ever-updating to opening-day, Moneyball scouted, 2015 Fantasy Football e-Draft Guide and Cheat Sheets are available now. Direct link: Draft Guide 2015 options **

 

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 — My biggest takeaway from this game is that Terrance West (10 carries for 22 yards, 1 rec. for 8 yards on 1 target) is ready to run the ball in the NFL. He’ll run behind Ben Tate (6 carries for 25 yards), but he’s a lot closer than I would have suspected. He’s already a solid, strong runner. Sometimes middle-round rookie RBs barely see touches in early preseason games, or they get their opportunities late in the 2nd-half against disjointed defenses. West was running with the Manziel team to start the 2nd-quarter, and took a game high 10 carries.

West will go as far as he is given touches. Tate is still the better, more experienced RB, but if the season goes south quickly…West may start seeing more and more touches. As a ‘Tate fan’, I wanted the gap between them to be much bigger. On this night, it looked closer than I would have suspected.

West ran for 100 yards on 16 carries opening day 2014…not as the starter (West had the same amount of 100+ yard rushing games as Jamaal Charles in 2014…ONE).

West then went for a TD in Weeks two and three…and looked on his way to FF-quality/usefulness for the entire season. Around Week-3, the Browns started playing musical RBs, and West was up and down for the rest of the season.

You have to realize that ‘musical RBs’ is the Mike Pettine tendency. People getting overheated on Duke Johnson are out of their mind. Weak QB play, tough division, ever-changing RBs…all of them talented–how can you confidently bet on just one?

However, just so we’re clear, Terrance West is the most-talented of all of them.

He is also the lowest in ADP today. 

 

 —  You know who looked fresh, solid, and non-injured: Ryan Broyles (3 rec. for 27 yards on 3 targets). If he is healthy, he makes this offense much better…and cuts into Golden Tate (1 rec. for 14 yards on 1 target).

I said, “If healthy…” I’m not sure Broyles can go five games with a major injury, but I’ll be suckered in again, I’m sure. He’s a talent when at 100%, and this is a perfect offense for him to work with–quick passes from a strong-armed QB, playing on a fast-track (turf) a bunch.

Broyles was between nicked up and forgotten with the new regime in 2014. Two ACLs within a few years has probably robbed what could have been an All-Pro career. I always keep tabs on him, in case he does make a move, but it’s likely not coming. It’s a shame. 

 

 — Broyles was not the most impressive WR on the field in this game (in terms of pleasant surprises), Cleveland’s 2nd-year WR Charles Johnson (3 rec. for 30 yards on 6 targets), if you looked quickly, you might have been confused into thinking it was Josh Gordon (2 rec. for 32 yards on 4 targets). Tall, athletically cut, fast with great acceleration. He ran after the catch with excellent vision. Very impressed with his debut. No lingering effects of his knee injury that I can see.

That’s right…Charles Johnson started the 2014 working with the Cleveland Browns. I hope keeping Taylor Gabriel and Travis Benjamin were worth exposing Johnson to being poached by Minnesota before opening-day. 

I completely believe that there is a behind the scenes battle between HC Mike Pettine and GM Ray Farmer, and since Farmer has shown to be mostly awful at what he does, and Pettine is very good at what he does–this comes as no shock. How Cleveland can constantly make personnel mistakes like this is surreal. Which does bring us to the Johnny Manziel discussion below.

Note, as you go into the next section: At the time, the football analyst world loved Johnny Manziel. He started the 2014 NFL Draft process as the #1 overall prospect for most scouting analysts. Post-draft, ‘they’ wanted him to be the opening-day starter. This 2014 preseason game only fueled their fire. The football intelligentsia wasn’t just a little wrong…they were off by hundreds of miles…again. How many times can a group be 100% wrong with 100% agreement, and have 0% pushback or ramifications? The answer: every time.

Keep worshipping the shield…

Johnson can only go as far as the Browns’ QB situation takes him, which brings us to Johnny Manziel (7-11 for 63 yards, 0 TD/0 INT, 6 carries for 27 yards).

 

 — My NOT quick Johnny Manziel summary: Better than Blake Bortles‘ debut, but not as good as Teddy Bridgewater’s (and I’m done speaking of Derek Carr among the hot rookie QB names).

Johnny Manziel is the all-around better, more exciting version of Blake Bortles. What do I mean by that? As passers, in college, when you really studied them both in the pocket...there wasn’t much to love. Much of their excitement came from simple passes: Slants, screens, one-step lateral fire to a WR. I am speaking of them in college games that mattered, not them stepping on helpless foes.

I get that there are only a few Tom Brady’s and Peyton Manning’s in the world, but that’s what we’re looking for, right? The elite of the elite…and those elite are usually adept pocket passers. Manziel and Bortles are not comfortable picking apart defenses in the pocket. They are more ‘throw to spots’ guys.

What I mean by spots: You’re a WR who is supposed to be 10 yards down field, slanting in on the QB’s five-step drop, it’s a timing/rhythm play…so the QB drops back and looks for you there. If you’re not there/open, guys like Manziel or Bortles either take off running…or throw it anyway. The ‘throw it anyway’ part is the scary part. Teddy Bridgewater, by comparison, survey’s the field and the various options. Teddy looks to a 2nd and/or 3rd option…and does not gun it into trouble as much as the other guys will.

Bortles did this in his preseason debut–throwing to spots, and they were on the money…but the ball arrived there very ‘matter of factly’. His passes meandered downfield, if I may be so bold. I’ve seen this with him at Central Florida. No pads, in shorts, and/or against Roast Beef State…Bortles looks sensational, like Logan Thomas. Against tighter situations, he’s more of a no-read, flimsy, non-instinctual QB. The Jags are hoping he develops the skill…it’s a hard thing to ‘learn’. Nature vs. nurture.

Manziel has a different flair to all this. He has one passing option in his mind when he drops back. If he looks at it, and it’s not there…he’s gone…and he has magic feet, so it makes sense. Bortles cannot do that nearly as well…he runs like a slow TE, whereas Manziel scats like a nifty punt returner. Manziel can temporarily succeed in the NFL with this style. Teams will ‘stay at home’ on rushing the passer for fear of his running, and that will give Manziel more time to choose to throw or scramble for other options. Manziel is a terrific improviser.

Manziel also has a nice release and velocity. So when he fires a pre-destined downfield pass…it’s harder for a DB to break on. When Bortles floats throws against 1st-team NFL defenses, it’s going to be trouble. Manziel’s issue is that he is smaller, so when he is in the pocket…or even rolling out, it is harder for him to see over 6’5″ DLs. Of the two flawed options, give me Manziel…on the field, not off it.

Likely, I wouldn’t have Manziel as my NFL option for long. It was breathtaking to see how small, thin-framed among QBs he is when contrasted against real NFL D-Linemen in this preseason debut. Pocket QBs might get sacked 1-2-3 times a game…many of them with the sacker’s velocity slowed by an OL holding them. Rare is a full speed, open body shot to a pocket QB…and when happens, the QB usually ducks last second, and folds down into it. Manziel is going to be on the move, in the open field, running full speed while the much larger, faster defenders are in an open sprint as well. The physics are not in Manziel’s favor. If you try to make him a pocket passer, you force Superman to stay as Clark Kent all day…and who wants that? Manziel cannot succeed without running. Enjoy it while it lasts Cleveland, it probably cannot last long.

By my count, in this game, Manziel locked on one receiver and threw it to him 70%+ of the time. He ran 20%+ of the time after seeing the first read was a no-go. He had just a couple of scanning the field throws, but they came off of rolling out/scrambling/improvising.

Manziel would not get any better as the preseason unfolded, and by the end of it we went from ‘he might have a few moments, and then crash’ to ‘Chernobyl meltdown’. As we saw more Manziel v. the pros, it was not good–it was embarrassing. We were anti-Manziel coming out college, but thought he’d run around and create a little chaos for a while (like a few games, similar to what Terrelle Pryor did in his Oakland QB-moments). By the end of the preseason you could see Manziel was totally unprepared–and that likely came from taking his job as a joke.

Manziel does have some skills. I would not 100% close the door on his career yet–if it was the party boy stuff holding him back, and if he cleans up his life. In the end, he’s too small, and not mentally designed to run a real NFL offense. He could work ‘OK’ in gimmick offenses, but not traditional offenses…and the NFL loves traditional offenses.

 

 — Mikel Leshoure (8 carries for 31 yards, 2 targets) looked competent in this game, so if the Lions were smart, they’d trade him now…to like Houston. Gone is Leshoure’s nice power-agility combo he left college with (injuries, and extra weight it looks like). However, he is still a powerful, solid NFL RB option. Not a star, just useful…but a potential mess off the field.

Career over. The guy’s a mess off the field, and no one even touched him as a free agent last season, even with all the RB injuries that hit around the league. 

 

 — You should sue every NFL or Fantasy analyst who said Eric Ebron (1 rec. for 2 yards on 4 targets) is “…the next Jimmy Graham or Vernon Davis.” Someone started this nonsense, and then the parrots ran with it. Again, I say…so this is where you get your football ‘info’ from? These are the same people talking about who looks good in camp, and who doesn’t…and creating various frenzies. 

Eric Ebron was lost, and moved clumsily this entire game. He is not graceful. He is not a dominant athlete. He is every backup TE in the NFL…one you throw the ball to once every other game; not by choice/design. If you force any NFL-worthy TE 3-4-5 targets, he’s going to have some decent plays or two, but it doesn’t mean they are true difference-makers. An entire industry once again conned itself, and took the Lions down with them. Ebron should have been a 3rd-4th round draft pick TE, a backup for a while who could take time to gain experience to be more NFL-useful. When he is thrust into playing early, and flops, it’s going to put pressure and be humiliating for everyone involved.

Ebron has a ton of red-flag issues–Ebron often says that he “needs to just concentrate more,” and has stated his ‘confusion’ with the playbook because “he has to learn so many different positions”…they are all excuses hiding a fact no one(especially Ebron) wants to face: He is nowhere near as good as anyone thought. Well, as you guys thought. I’ve been in the clubhouse on this one since day-one.

He is going to be like the Stephen Hill of TEs from this draft…a ton of initial promise spoken of by analysts, looks good in shorts, but overlooked on his real ability to play the position.

This seems like a shoulder shrug now, but 99.9% of football analysts pegged Ebron as a future star, and/or a ‘next Jimmy Graham’ in the 2014 NFL Draft…and all endorsed him as a 1st-round draft pick–and it was wrong. WAY wrong. How do they keep getting away with this? I was in the 0.1% camp against Ebron right away…and now, no one cares. I’m impressed with our computer scouting models, at least… 

 

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 — A couple of IDP notes, and they are all Detroit related, and it is encouraging for them:

1) Kyle Van Noy (1 PD) is a great-looking athlete on the field. He almost sacked Manziel on a play, and because it was ‘almost’ it doesn’t matter. Lost in this play was that Manziel was scrambling to his right, and Van Noy looked like he was shot out of a cannon closing in on him. So much so, I stopped the tape and rolled it back to watch it again a couple of times. Which made me then stop, and watch tape focusing on the Detroit-D, just to watch Van Noy’s overall play. He has a great first step/movement.

We had a mixed bag of scouting on Van Noy coming out of BYU. Great speed, OK agility…possibly too small to be a big-time DL, but a little too big for traditional OLB (coverage, open field tackles). However, he has a quicker game speed than I gave credit…at least from this glimpse. He has skills to be put to use. I’ll be watching to see how Detroit uses him for future Dynasty/IDP purposes.

‘Star’ is on the table here, but we need to see more. Van Noy missed half the 2014 season with an injury in the preseason. When he got back to the active roster, he was just a special team’s guy–Detroit was healthy and semi-dominant on defense last year, so Van Noy did not crack into any serious playing time. He could/should in 2015.

 

2) I have mentioned the name Jerome Couplin (2 tackles) in passing on College Football Metrics.com. He’s a UDFA Safety for the Lions. He had a couple of very nice tackles in this game. I’ll expand more on that on CFM in coming days.

I’m not saying Couplin is a future star, but I think he can play–and team’s kept poaching him all 2014…from DET to BUF to PHI. He is on Philly’s roster in 2015.

 

3) Justin Jackson (2 tackles) is a UDFA athletic freak LB out of Wake Forest. He’s super raw, but one to watch as the Lions try to sneak him onto their practice squad. You want your favorite team to try to poach him.

Jackson was eventually gone from Detroit, a long shot to stick on the active roster…and then bounced around–most recently from Washington to Oakland, to Dallas. He is on the Cowboys roster today. He’s one to watch if he can breakthrough in a year or two. He has a few ‘star potential’ metrics showing in our system.

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