So, these are "real" football players? -- John Dorsey's Cleveland Brown first and second round 2018 draft


D
-i-s-a-s-t-e-r.

It is spelled the same way whether it's "football guys" making dumb picks or Harvard brainiacs.

The temporary face of the Cleveland Browns, John Dorsey, has managed to spin gold into spandex in the first two rounds of the 2018 NFL draft, following a pattern that perhaps can be described as eclectic, but probably is better termed schizophrenic.

With the first pick in the draft, Dorsey and company decided to marry the tape, embrace the on-field numbers, and throw out everything else, including the context that produced those numbers.

Mayfield had a great fifth year senior season and a remarkable college career. I would like to let you in on a little secret, however. Historically that means nothing to NFL success.

Behold the list of the most efficient quarterbacks in college football history:


1Sam Bradford*175.6220072009Oklahoma
2Baker Mayfield*175.3720132017Oklahoma
3Marcus Mariota*171.7520122014Oregon
4Tim Tebow*170.7920062009Florida
5Kellen Moore*168.9820082011Boise State
6Ryan Dinwiddie*168.8920002003Boise State
7Colt Brennan*167.6520052007Hawaii
8Bryce Petty*166.0320112014Baylor
9Johnny Manziel*164.0520122013Texas A&M
10Danny Wuerffel163.5619931996Florida

That's no joke. Do you notice anything? Most of these guys ran some variation of the modified "air raid" offense that Baker ran.

How about that Big 12 conference? The top 5 quarterbacks in the conference in 2017 all had insane completion percentages and TD to INT ratios.

RK
PLAYER
TEAM
1
OKST
297
457
65.0
4553
35
9
2
OKLA
262
369
71.0
4340
41
5
3
TTU
296
434
68.2
3547
30
8
4
WVU
250
388
64.4
3490
34
12
5
TCU
242
360
67.2
2838
21
6


Who is Will Grier? Nic Shimonek, anybody? Did Texas Tech or West Virginia have close to the talent Baker was surrounded with? Ask Bryce Petty or Graham Harrell how hard it is to put up gaudy numbers up in the Big 12.   

Anyone familiar with a guy named Brandon Weeden? In his senior season with Oklahoma State he completed 72.4% of his passes (to Baker's 70.5%) for 4,727 yards (to Baker's 4,627) with 37 touchdowns (to Baker's 43) and 13 interceptions (to Baker's 6).  Comparable statistics in the same conference to say the least.  Weeden's junior statistics are nearly identical to his senior statistics.  Weeden has prototypical size, ran a 4.8 forty (like Baker) and scored higher on Wonderlic (intelligence) testing than Mayfield (as did 3 of the 4 other top drafted quarterbacks in this year's draft).

We could do this same exercise with Manziel's red-shirt freshman and sophomore seasons . . . oh, wait, Manziel did it in the SEC conference.

The defensive level of play in the Big 12 is historically so bad that it made Justin Gilbert look like a legitimate #8 overall pick when compared to the overall level of defensive play in the conference.

Can we agree that at least part of Baker's game is extending the play with his feet and getting outside the pocket to make plays? 


You can run a big red marker through that part of his game after his poor athletic testing at the combine. 

Baker's 4.84 forty yard dash time was slower than Petyon Manning's. It was three-tenths of a second slower than Russell Wilson and Tyrod Taylor -- two of the four successful NFL QBs in today's game of a similar stature to Baker. That gap is huge. 

Johnny Manziel learned that he could not do the same things in the pro game that he did in college because of the speed of NFL front seven players. Manziel ran two tenths of a second faster than Mayfield!

So now that we've considered the athletic tool kit, we are left with Drew Brees and Case Keenum as our comparables -- second and fifth round draft picks in their NFL drafts.

To have today's Drew Brees would be amazing. But I'll let you in on another little secret that nobody talks about. Drew Brees didn't really work out for the team that drafted him.

Let's look at his first three seasons with the Chargers when he learned to play in the NFL as a 6' quarterback:




Year
Team
CMP%
YDS
TD
INT
Rating
2003
57.6
2,108
11
15
67.5
2002
60.8
3,284
17
16
76.9
2001
55.6
221
1
0
94.8

Brees didn't play much in his first year and struggled mightily in his second and third years. The Chargers were so bad with Brees in his third season that they earned the #1 overall selection in the draft.  They used that pick to draft Eli Manning and traded Manning for Phillip Rivers because the Chargers had given up on Brees being a franchise quarterback.

If you think the Browns are giving Mayfield a fourth year to prove himself after second and third seasons like Brees had raise your hand. 


I see you Dorsey . . . but if Baker plays like that in his first three seasons you'll be at Rock Bottom having a beer with Mike Pettine.

So, moving on to Case Keenum who, like Baker, was also a ridiculously productive college quarterback playing in a similar offensive system. Keenum has hung around, learned to play the game with his limitations, and made it pay dividends last year -- which was his fifth year in the NFL.   Even that wasn't good enough to make the Vikings believers. 


The Browns could have outbid the Broncos for Keenum in the offseason and had what Baker might become if he survives that long. The success of Brees (who has paid dividends as a free agent signing for his second team) is more of a model for signing Keenum than it is for drafting Mayfield.

Mayfield's big college moments were big. But can we deny that Manziel's big college moments were bigger?

Manziel, who put up very similar numbers to Baker's at a younger age, slayed the dragon that was Alabama and put up his gaudy numbers in the SEC's hay day -- as a red-shirt freshman and sophomore.  


The narrative that Manziel did nothing but throw the ball up for grabs to Mike Evans is lazy and dismissive.  Manziel had 3,000 yards passing to receivers who were not named Mike Evans in his sophomore season and completed 70% of his passes. His Heisman-trophy winning 2012 freshman season produced similar results.   He just ran the ball really well in addition to his system-aided passing exploits.  Did I mention that it was the same system that Baker ran at Texas Tech and Oklahoma?

As for leadership, if you don't think teammates loved Manziel or that he inspired loyalty as a college quarterback, you should ask his Aggie teammate Von Miller.

Baker had a huge game against Ohio State with 354 yards and 3 touchdowns.   The 2017 Ohio State squad was not the Crimson Tide of 2012 or 2013.  Ohio State's front four did not apply consistent pressure on Mayfield and he made first-read throws into wide open passing windows for most of that night.

A more impressive performance was turned in by Richard Lagow the week prior. Laglow threw for 410 yards and three touchdowns in a loss at the horseshoe with no running game and a supporting cast that does not compare to Mayfield's.

Ohio State was an uneven team defensively. When they could pressure a quarterback they were great. When they couldn't, the back end simply did not hold up. Iowa's Nathan Stanley threw for five touchdowns against no interceptions in a game where the Hawkeyes' offensive line kept the pocket clean.

Baker played a great first half against Georgia until they figured out a way to keep him in the pocket in the second half and apply pressure. Mayfield was forced to play a pro-like game from the pocket and make small window throws. He struggled, taking five sacks and throwing an interception.

Baker then struggled in the Senior Bowl game surrounded with players that leveled the playing field and trying to execute a pro-style offense.

The Browns made the ultimate pick for need at #1 overall, and did so based on equal parts stat-book scouting and Dorsey's confirmation bias.  Dorsey himself stated that he had attended six of Mayfield's games when unemployed, jumped on reporters at the first suggestion that Mayfield had character issues, and surrounded himself with Mayfield supporters who would support the pick he had already decided upon. 


Mayfield's projected path for success relies on an outlier in Brees, who himself did not develop quickly enough to save his team from using a #1 overall pick to draft another quarterback. Thinking that Baker can make a jump to become Drew Brees quicker than Drew Brees became Drew Brees seems more like wishful thinking than good scouting.

It's gotta be Chubb, right?

At least the Browns were poised to take the best defensive player in the draft at the fourth pick in Bradley Chubb. Myles Garrett and Chubb collapsing from the outside while Ogbah and Obenjobi disrupt the interior. That's a defensive dream worth having. And then it happened again. Reach number two of the night at the fourth pick to draft Denzel Ward.

The Browns apparently drafted for perceived need instead of the best player available again. I don't hate Ward the projected NFL player. He's fast. His recovery speed is terrific, even in short areas. He is smallish, however, and is not the kind of instinctive "real football player" that Dorsey promised us. At the spot picked it seems to me that you need to come out with a "lock down" corner.

Ward has poor trail technique and because of his diminutive size will struggle with bigger receivers. Simmie Cobbs of Indiana ate Ward alive in the first game of the season.





Cobbs (who is still on the board as a potential third day pick) had 11 catches for 149 yards, primarily being covered by Ward. Think what A.J. Green might do to this kid.

Back to Ward's trail technique. Do you see in the video above where his inside shoulder is closed to the quarterback instead of open to see the flight of the ball? Watch more of his tape and you'll see him do this consistently. Dorsey commented on this saying that Ward tends to play the man instead of the ball, but once they teach him to play the ball "look out."


_________________________________
ADDENDUM:
Here is another example from Browns mini camp. 

Try out receiver Tony Morris from tiny Heidleberg college shakes Ward with a simple okey-doke move and Ward attempts to use his recovery speed to close on the receiver.   Notice how Ward attempts to use the receiver's eyes to guess the flight of the ball instead of turning his head to locate it.   This ball is slightly underthown by Mayfield and Ward should have had a chance to knock it down on this drill if he tracks the ball.


Ward shows poor trail technique in team drill on underthrown pass
_______________________________
As a supposed master of scouting, Dorsey has to know that Greg Schiano doesn't teach this technique. We saw Lattimore, Conley and Apple all drafted in the first round and none of them consistently did this.

This is uniquely a Ward problem and it occurs all too often because he's all-too-often relying on his amazing recovery speed after he loses position on the wide receiver.

As for Ohio State cornerbacks, Lattimore and Conley both played ahead of Ward in the 2016-2017 season because they were better players. Ward had some growth last season with more playing time, but I still think Lattimore and Conley (who started multiple seasons) were better players when drafted. Lattimore went 11th and Conley 24th.

I see Ward becoming a successful pro, but more likely as a slot corner or a complementary corner -- not a lock down guy who can shut down big, physical outside receivers. The Browns are littered with those kind of guys right now, and Boody-Calhoun was actually one of the highest PFF-rated players in this category for last season.

Ward is likely to be a marginal upgrade at that position after experiencing growing pains in the NFL. I am skeptical that he will ever become what they drafted him to be and think he was a reach at the fourth pick. He was not the best player available.

A walk-on offensive guard at #33, anyone?


The Browns' second day got more curious as the Browns began by completely ignoring need and apparently picking what they perceive to be the "best player available" at the thirty-third pick.

The Browns disregarded that they have two of the highest-paid offensive guards in the NFL and that the player picked does not project as a left tackle.

It could be that the first pick overall and the first pick of the second day do not play at all in 2018. It is unlikely that either will be starters. Are these the kinds of luxury picks that an 0-16 team can afford?


This likely plays into a longer-term strategy to move on from Zeitler's overpriced free agent contract next year.  To me that strategy seems to be a new shade of the Cam Erving lineman-in-waiting strategy.  Let's hope this one works out better.

Browns land Chubb after all.

The Browns then selected Nick Chubb two picks later. I didn't hate the pick . . . I'm just not sure he was the best running back, let alone the best player on the board. He has injury red flags. I would have taken Guise or Sutton here, but both dropped to lower spots.

Chubb could be really good if he stays healthy and continues to recover from his injury. He's the pick I am most excited to see. I just hope he is not Montario Hardesty.


The plodding storm.

Finally, the Browns traded out of the last pick of the second round and a few picks down into the third round to pick up an extra sixth rounder. Okay, but why?

Were they not worried that someone else was going to nab "their guy" in the next few picks? Where they so sure that a guy that they thought worthy of the 64th pick wouldn't be taken by 67? This is still a premium pick.

The Browns are already too young. They have a record number of draft picks in the last two years and added a ton of free agents. They can't possibly keep all these guys. What is another sixth round pick?

At pick number 67 they ultimately ended up with a defensive end with a "red flag" 4.92 forty yard dash time and not much sack production at the college level. Maybe they needed a lineman on the practice field that Mayfield would actually be able to outrun -- you know, for confidence.

Two days of "football guys" manning the draft room and nothing to inspire confidence that they actually know what they are doing. Browns fans suffered through two years of 1-31 to be set up for this?

I'm hoping for the best but expecting the worst on this one. The problem is that if it fails Dorsey will be sipping vino with Mike Holmgren at Carmen Policy's vineyard while Browns fans are debating which quarterback the Browns should take at the first pick in 2020.

So is there anything worse than having a bunch of smug Ivy League guys with 200 IQs sitting around thinking that they are the smartest guys in the room? Maybe having a bunch of smug "football guys" that were passed through state schools on athletic scholarships with 110 IQs thinking the same thing.
So, these are "real" football players? -- John Dorsey's Cleveland Brown first and second round 2018 draft So, these are "real" football players? -- John Dorsey's Cleveland Brown first and second round 2018 draft Reviewed by AT Dawgger on 12:44 PM Rating: 5

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