The 2014 NFL Draft will be held May 8th through the 10th.
I break down my list of draft picks on three key metrics: 1) DVOA. 2) Draft Value. 3) Talent Formula. I use the analytics of http://www.footballoutsiders.com to target areas that are the weakest. I have found their analysis to be accurate. They use systematic-data called DVOA, which is dynamic in pin-pointing weaknesses and strengths.
DVOA is a method of evaluating teams, units, or players. It takes every single play during the NFL season and compares each one to a league-average baseline based on situation. DVOA measures not just yardage, but yardage towards a first down: Five yards on third-and-4 are worth more than five yards on first-and-10 and much more than five yards on third-and-12. Red zone plays are worth more than other plays. Performance is also adjusted for the quality of the opponent. DVOA is a percentage, so a team with a DVOA of 10.0% is 10 percent better than the average team, and a quarterback with a DVOA of -20.0% is 20 percent worse than the average quarterback. Because DVOA measures scoring, defenses are better when they are negative.
Assessing the needs of the Cleveland Browns, using DVOA, I have compounded a list of holes that need plugged versus the value of talent in the draft. Value simply can not be ignored when drafting. The holes and cracks that need fixed this upcoming season are, in random order:
- Outside Linebacker
- Right Tackle
- Wide Receiver
- Inside Linebacker
- Offensive Guard
- Corner Back
Not all must be filled via the draft, and can be addressed through free agency. As it stands right now, before the up coming off-season transactions and the Scouting Combine, here is my review of draft picks vs. value. They are listed in order of availability:
1] OLB: Kahilil Mack – Anthony Barr.
1] RT: Greg Robinson- Cyrus Kouandjio – Taylor Lewan.
2] WR: Jarvis Landry – Paul Richardson – Odell Beckham Jr.
3] ILB: Shayne Skov – Chris Borland.
3] QB: Brett Smith – Aaron Murray.
4] RB: Devonta Freeman – Marion Grice.
4] OG: Spencer Long – Brandon Linder – Jon Halapio.
5] CB: Jaylen Watkins – Aaron Colvin.
6] S: Isaiah Johnson – Isaiah Lewis.
7] P: Tom Hornsey – Cody Webster.
I have been highly critical of our linebacker unit for a long time, and this year is no different. Far too many fans get caught up in D’Qwell Jackson, calling him a “beast”. In truth, that is the furthest from the facts. He is a tackling machine, but that is it. He is not a play-maker. He doesn’t change a game. Opposing offenses do not game-plan around him. He isn’t known for being a run-stuffer. He isn’t feared by opposing quarterbacks. Dare I say replace Jackson?
Mingo has upside, but still has been relatively inconsistent and has a tendency to get bullied in the ground game. Kruger is over-paid and Robertson is just bad. Jabaal Sheard is coming into his own at a position he’s not used to. Our linebacker unit has contributed to the success of opposing tight-ends; they’ve allowed the short passes to be a bullet to the head; they’ve given up big runs to opposing teams; and they’ve allowed far too many big-plays.
The 2013 chart above shows the stats on the over-all defense. The linebackers are responsible for the tight-ends and runningbacks. As the statistics clearly show, our linebackers have under-performed, and is actually one of the worst in the league. [Keep in mind, according to DVOA, a negative number is the best result for defensive ratings.]
The qualities I look for in a linebacker are:
- Physical Attributes
- Quickness/Speed [the two are not the same.]
- Effectiveness Against The Pass
- Effectiveness Against The Run
- Ability To Get To The Quarterback
- A Play-Maker [opposing offenses must take into account his whereabouts]
- Pursuit – Sideline To Sideline Speed.
I feel the two best linebackers who could make a significant impact is Kahlil Mack and Anthony Barr. These two plyers have met my personal requirements.
Offensive lines are still the most under-rated, under-appreciated positions on the field. The Browns currently have two pro-bowlers on the line, but the line consists of five positions. Since the retirement of Ryan Tucker, the right side of the line has been a gaping hole. According to DVOA, Joe Thomas is the best in the business. However, we don’t have the ability to clone Thomas, therefore the right side is a top priority.
The qualities I look for in an Offensive Lineman are:
- Physical Abilities/Attributes [Strength, quickness, intelligence -ability to read blitz]
- Effective Pass Protector
- Effective In The Run – Pull
- Continued Improvement
- Stats Against Top Talent
- Coach-able Weaknesses
The Wide Receiver position – we clearly see Josh Gordon being a top NFL Wide Receiver, among the elite. However, as any Browns fan is aware, there is a huge drop in talent after Gordon. Davone Bess and Greg Little are DVOA ranked 89th and 90th respectively. Which makes Gordon’s numbers all the more impressive knowing opposing defenses focused on him.
The qualities I look for in a Wide Receiver are:
- Quickness Off The Line
- Physical Attributes [tough, agility, intelligent, body control, focus]
- Ability To Make First Tackler Miss
- Second Gear [full stride speed]
For shear value, meeting all of my requirements, I would select Jarvis Landry or Paul Richardson. I stumbled upon Jarvis Landry watching someone else, his quarterback, Zach Mettenberger. [Just as I had previously felt RGIII looked better than he was because of his outstanding wide receivers, I also believe Mettenberger looks better than he is because of his wide receivers.]. Landry or Richardson would certainly open up the passing game and take it to an elite level. Just as Josh Gordon single-handedly improved the quarterback play, I think having either one of these two draft choices will significantly raise the passing game to an elite level. Just a few highlights – [only a tool!]
In previous mock drafts, and before I started this particular blog – I had been in an “elite” group of “scouts”, playing for real money by creating a draft class. Winning the pot of gold was easier said than done: Draft players who will succeed in the NFL, and not necessarily who a particular team will draft. I was successful more than I wasn’t. And after the passing of my little brother, I never again played the “Scout Game”. However, I still participate in my own mock drafts for fun, and still successful, such as “drafting” Russel Wilson and Nick Foles.
The quarterback position has always been my crowning jewel – not only successful in drafting a quarterback, but accurate in knowing who not to draft. I’m not 100% right every time, but I am about 85% – 90% correct. I said Ryan Tannehill would be an NFL disappointment…I suppose one could argue he has his ups and downs, but not enough to deem him a bust.
I think too many people put too much stock in a quarterback’s size. There are far too many examples of tall quarterbacks getting hurt, and not living up to expectations; likewise, there are many examples of quarterbacks less than ideal size who have been very successful in the NFL.
In saying this, I would argue against Johnny Manziel being too small, too fragile for the Pros. I don’t even have a problem with his attitude. He certainly moves well enough in the pocket to find his passing lanes. My biggest concern with Johnny Football is this; in college, he was a big fish in a little pond. In the Pros, will he be a little fish in a lake? I think for him to be successful in the NFL, it will take special circumstances to achieve a satisfactory level of play. All the stars and planets will have to align for him.
Oftentimes, it seemed it was unorganized football – too much improvisation on his part, and that could very well be an indication of the inability to read defenses, or maybe not fully understanding his own offense. In the ultra-organized pro level, could he handle the discipline? Manziel always seems as if he is standing on hot sand – jittery. His skills and abilities are certainly off the chart, with extremely attractive attributes in his game, but, how do those relate to the pros? I also believe he has reached his growth ceiling. Manziel scares me too much to warrant selecting him high – but I’m certain some team will..maybe the Oakland Raiders. Maybe even Jacksonville. But whomever drafts him, it won’t be me.
I may regret it later.
I won’t draft questions marks, too risky. Every miss is a set-back. You can’t swing for a home-run at every-at-bat…it could cost you the game. Smart hitting…smart drafting.
Before I move onto all the qualities of a quarterback, the very first thing I look for is; How does that quarterback play when the game is on the line? If he stumbles; if he falters, I move onto the next quarterback. My quarterback must rise to the occasion, playing bigger than the game. The very next quality is: How does he handle pressure? My quarterback must handle pressure like a master teaching a student. Next, my quarterback must be a leader, this is too important of a quality to over-look. The greatest leader I have ever seen in my life-time was Joe Montana, a third-round pick who’s college coaches laughed at Bill Walsh for drafting.
The next thing on my list is; Does he do the little things right? That requires intelligence, and a quick mind. Does he check-down? Does he lead the defense? Does he throw the ball away? How many times has he not seen the open receiver? Is he quick to find his passing lanes? Does he take too many risks into tight windows? How many interceptions were his fault vs. the receiver? How does he handle a blitz? What is his accuracy against the blitz?
These questions lead me to his accuracy. His ability to move the pocket, stand in the pocket. His deep ball accuracy. His ability to extend plays. Does he make his receivers better, or do they make him better? That question can only be answered by the receivers. Do they have to adjust to the ball, do they have to come back to the ball, etc..
So, these are the distinctive qualities I look for in a quarterback. My two quarterbacks, taking value into account is Brett Smith and Aaron Murray. I never ask myself about the size of a quarterback – because I find it irrelevant. Only two general questions: Can he play? Does he meet my requirements? That’s it.
The qualities I look for in a Quarterback:
- Rises To The Occasion
- Handles Pressure
- A Leader
- Handles The Blitz/Accuracy Vs. Blitz
- Pocket Presence
- Extend Plays
- Deep Ball Accuracy
- Good Passer [timing, touch-pass, quick delivery, accuracy]
There are several top-rated quarterbacks in this draft who meet some of my requirements, but not all of them. I have found Smith to possess more than the others. And for value, he is my quarterback. There just isn’t a top-rated quarterback that I find worthy of taking above the third round. If I have to move up to the second-round to grab Smith, I will do that.
The Cleveland Browns rushing attack was simply non-existent. Willis McGahee was the 44th best rusher with 100+ carries, just ahead of Trent Richardson. Our second leading rusher was Ogbonnaya with less than 100 carries.
This upcoming off-season, I would go hard after Ben Tate, while drafting either Devonte Freeman or Marion Grice.
Currently, the Browns have a stable of running backs who are either over-the-hill, or practice-squad signees. Quite frankly, you just can’t establish a substantial NFL ground-attack with these types of players. Ben Tate and Devonta Freeman would be a force to be reckoned with.
Devonta Freeman is a player I would move up to draft. Here is just a sample. Keep in mind, this is a highlight video, and should never be the sole influence in judging a player, but it is one of many tools: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxiKpKVb-80
This is my first version, and will transform as we get closer to the May 2014 NFL Draft.