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Fan View: Are the Cleveland Browns not yet ready to trust analytics?

The OBR is proud to present terrific analysis by Browns fans as part of our regular coverage. The following article was submitted by Jeff Mitzel.

This week's signature move and blockbuster trade with Philadelphia signals an affirmation and belief in Hue Jackson and also a team not quite ready to embrace analytics.

Understanding and comprehension of this week's trade spiders in all directions from there amidst familiar voices and storylines.
  • This week's trade and move toward increased numbers also signals a roster shakeup.  Joe Thomas lamented every new regime brings in its own players.  Thomas is right.  Those numbers will fit somewhere on the Browns roster not withstanding Ray Horton's rehire as a possible moderating force in the direction of stability on one side of the ball and with players he knows and likes.

  • Change followed by stability is the familiar forecast made official this week.  Though, somewhere across the past dozen or so promise makers change has appeared as the easier part of promise making.  Philadelphia bet the farm one of the top two QB's is just what they need along course toward success and stability.  The Browns just bet one of the top two QB's isn't.

  • A well-publicized analytics report ranks Goff between Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rogers in the top ten all-time quarterback prospects.  3rd round pick Russell Wilson at 5'11" was passed over by most teams that hire experts to figure this stuff out and also made the list.  Analytics can be spooky good.  Or so it seems.

  • Counter to all things analytics is Hue Jackson who believes in himself and has Andy Dalton and AJ McCarron as evidence he possesses more than confidence and also possesses a clue.  Early second round pick Andy Dalton finished with the fifth best QBR rating and 7th highest grade by PFF last season.  Jackson sounded off this week  on the importance of an environment in which a quarterback can grow and succeed when asked about finding a franchise quarterback. Jackson reportedly has a quarterback in this year's draft he likes.  Browns fans know it just isn't Goff or Wentz. 

  • The Browns also have RGIII, and if success is about having the right environment then Browns fans could be pleasantly surprised.  Pundits didn't ask Jackson what exactly makes for the right environment, but if the right environment includes winning Jackson has addressed that in saying he expects to win.  If the right environment also includes wide receivers then there is some work to do amidst Jackson's recent comments that the position needs to be addressed.  

  • In trading down the Browns also bet Jaylen Ramsey isn't the great transcendent player possessed by championship defenses and the kind of impact player that moves things quickly along course of winning and creating that right environment.  Ramsey is touted as both an Ed Reed type safety that covers ground in a hurry and makes big plays down the field and also a Troy Polamalu player in the box.  A pass first league is also a pass defense first league, and players like Ramsey who come around once every ten years or so are players that help build the kind of championship defense Ray Horton touts as why he is here and what is being built.

  • Championship defenses have great players and playmakers at all three levels.  The Ravens rode a defense built around Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Terrell Suggs for years.   Browns fans who see the glass half full with a young Danny Shelton and a bigger stronger Barkevious Mingo who has added 20 extra pounds of muscle and which bodes well to no longer play pinball with large bodies on the way to the quarterback may agree with Joe Haden and seen Jaylen Smith as exactly what the Browns needed.

  • Browns decision makers similarly traded down and eschewed Khalil Mack, projected as a perennial pro bowler and top player in the 2014 draft by Browns scouts.  Players are found all over the draft, and deal makers not lacking in confidence are convinced they'll find them.  Still, it's not easy.  And, players like Gilbert and Manziel selected in that year's draft and who generously project as needing time to develop coupled with a 3-13 season is also one of the quickest paths to a head coaching search.

  • Of the ten players selected after Manziel, two made the pro bowl, Teddy Bridgewater, the top rated QB by Browns scouts, and Jason Verrett, the Browns top rated corner.  Good players are indeed available throughout the draft, and Browns scouts nailed it.  Though, even a best case draft scenario of Jason Verrett and Teddy Bridgewater vs. Khalil Mack's 15 sacks last season makes one think.  Mack arguably creates the most problems for Joe Thomas, and if there is one thing as difficult as finding a franchise quarterback it's finding a guy who puts up 15 sacks and creates pressure against the kind of top tackles found deep in the playoffs.  Browns have lacked both.

  • The deep thinkers may be counting on the same scouts in preparing for this year's draft.  A trade constructed with picks loaded in next year's draft may also be constructed with next year's QB darling, Deshaun Watson, in mind, and a pair of first and second round picks goes a long way toward a move up to the top of the draft.  The current Browns thinkers will also know a lot more about the Browns roster, and Paul DePodesta will have a much better handle in framing the draft process.  A trade that signals wait until next year also portends as a smart move.

The same Bill Parcells who was recently sought out by DePodesta once called owner Randy Lerner and gave the same advice taken by Sashi Brown to trade down and gather picks to rebuild.   Browns decision makers eschewed that decision at the time and walked away with Courtney Brown.  Parcells walked away with fShaun Ellis and John Abraham in first round picks offered the Browns and who made a combined six pro bowls as the Jets constructed a top five defense across three consecutive seasons.

Things can work either way.   The sure thing can be not so sure.   And players are found all over the draft.

Browns fans swirling in speculation will know more and know where the Browns are headed in a short few days.


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