Cleveland Browns: Analytics shouldn’t be a dirty word any longer

Cleveland Browns Nick Chubb (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Cleveland Browns Nick Chubb (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

As the dissection of what was the Cleveland Browns 2018 season resumes, the team is being lauded, especially in the analytics department.

Analytics. You don’t hear that word so much when talking about the Cleveland Browns.

It’s not all that surprising, considering the Browns’ massive reliance on analytics led to a 1-31 record during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

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The Browns still have an analytics department and the philosophy still has clout, evidenced by Paul DePodesta’s role in the firing of offensive coordinator Todd Haley after head coach Hue Jackson was dismissed.

And analytics sites, such as Pro Football Focus, love two particular performances by two players heavily tied to analytics.

John Dorsey gets a ton of credit for taking Baker Mayfield with the No.1 pick in last spring’s draft, as he should, because ultimately, he had to make the pick all while staking his career on the choice.

Don’t forget though, that analytics sites, such as Pro Football Focus, loved Mayfield coming out of the draft and had him as the No. 1 player on their draft board. This alone caused some, not all fans, to question the pick.

Baker seems like the slam dunk pick now, but that wasn’t the case one year ago.

After all, analytics had just delivered the Dawg Pound a steaming pile of the garbage over the past two seasons.

Fast forward 12 months, and Mayfield finds himself on PFF’s all-rookie team, in addition to the bigger accolade as the website’s offensive rookie of the year.

The sited lauded Mayfield’s 100.2 quarterback rating from a clean pocket, as well as his 73.5 passer rating when facing pressure.  He had an adjusted completing percentage of 74 percent.

He also had the “dinosaur stats” of throwing for 27 touchdowns (a Browns rookie record) and 3,725 yards.

Running back Nick Chubb was also an analytical darling, leading PFF’s elusive rating (103.3). He also ranked first in yards after the catch attempt (4.47), while tying for third in forced missed tackles per attempt (0.23).

He came within an eyelash of a 1,000-yard season, despite not taking over as the featured back until halfway through the season. Plus, the guy didn’t fumble.

It also shouldn’t be forgotten how DePodesta’s “moneyball” approach is the reason Chubb wears an orange helmet.

Because the Browns took on Brock Osweiler‘s $16 million, the Browns received what became the 35th overall pick in the draft, and that turned into  Chubb.

Myles Garrett was also tied heavily to analytics. It’s one of the times advanced stats and the eye test were in sync. There was a clamoring for Mitch Trubisky in that draft (maybe you read some stuff here), but now look where the Browns are.

Garrett was credited with 67 quarterback pressures last season, which was tied for seventh in the NFL.

Myles Garrett projects to be even better than his 13.5 sacks this season, while Mayfield is all the range.

It’s also worth noting that Denzel Ward (9th) was ranked ahead of Bradley Chubb (13th) on PFF’s big board leading up to last spring’s draft. Dorsey shocked everyone when he took the Ohio State product over the surest pass rusher in the draft.

Ward ended his rookie campaign as the 15th rated cover corner in the game and has a Pro Bowl nod to show for it.

This isn’t to say the Browns were right to pass on Chubb, who had an outstanding rookie campaign, rather its to show they got great value from the pick at a position of need even when it went against the grain.

This diatribe isn’t meant to make analytics the crown jewel of the Browns resurgence, because no one can forget that Sashi Brown, DePodesta and his gang produced Corey Coleman in the 2016 draft.

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The turnaround started when Dorsey took over. With that said, it’s a really nice tool to have for someone schooled in the traditional methods of football scouting, such as the current GM.