Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Will Browns Analytics Lead to a First Round Quarterback?

Does a first round quarterback always lead to instant success?  Well, no, and it's not just the Browns.  

    Browns media and fans expect the Browns to draft a quarterback in the first round in order to replace Johnny Manziel, and we will also try to rush the new guy into the starting lineup as soon as possible.  It's just what we do.  

   But I'm not sure if Sashi Brown is going to follow the script.  He was selected based on the idea that he is an "analytics" guy, meaning that he is going to try to get players that are actually a sound investment.  I doubt whether that value investing philosophy translates to running out and getting a quarterback with the highest draft pick we have.  

    The buzz is that none of the quarterbacks available this year are NFL ready superstars.  Jared Goff and Paxton Lynch are both juniors, Carson Wentz is a true senior but played ball at a small college.  Connor Cook, Dak Prescott, Kevin Hogan  and Cardale Jones are also well qualified prospects who will probably be drafted.  Among the top prospects, Goff, Lynch and Wentz are supposed to be first round guys, though there is some disagreement about which one is actually best.  On that basis, I don't think it is smart to draft one of these kids at the number 2 overall position.  

In the recent past, Cam Newton got his team to the Super Bowl, but not every quarterback succeeds. From 2011 forward, first round picks Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden, Eli Manuel,  Blake Bortles, John Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Jameis Winston, and Marcus Mariota, did not get it done for their teams, and some of those guys have been cut by the team that drafted them. It's not just the Browns.  

If a guy comes out early, is he mature enough to make up the difference?  Who figured out that Aggie Sophomore Johnny Manziel was two years more mature than the average quarterback?
Meanwhile, in the 2016 draft, there are legitimate Pro Bowl caliber players with guys like Ohio State DE Joey Bosa, Mississippi LT Laremy Tunsil, Florida State CB Jalen Ramsey, and others.  These guys are much more valuable than a good-but-not-great quarterback that probably won't start regularly until 2017.   Remember that Jared Goff and Pax Lynch are juniors, and you will recall what happened the last time we took an underclassman quarterback.  Namely Johnny Manziel turned out to be not quite as mature as we thought.   

The analytics guys should be able to figure out which positions are most likely to be impact players.   Fans always want skill position players, namely quarterbacks and wide receivers, with much less emphasis on defense and offensive linemen and tight ends.   Is that the real right answer?  I've always suspected that it might be better to draft defense first, and not overdo the skill positions, but I admit I don't know for sure.   I think you could go back in the draft and see which draft strategies worked the best and try to emulate those. It seems like the Patriots and Ravens usually do a pretty good job at drafting, and the Browns not so much.  It might worth thinking about trading back in the draft to get some extra picks, and maybe even some for 2017.

    It'll be interesting to see how the new "moneyball" approach influences the draft especially in the first round.       

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