Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: Grab this Cleveland Brown

Editor's note: This article originally appeared on

Akili Smith says Browns QB Johnny Manziel needs to quit partying so much before he turns into Akili Smith. ESPN's Chris Mortensen says the Browns told Manziel to "tone it down" on social media. Joe Namath says everyone needs to chillax.

We say, as long as Manziel plays like Manziel once training camp opens, we don't much care what he does off the field.

Manziel's partying might need to be addressed in the long-term, but his superior talent should be the focal point for 2014 -- as in, superior to Brian Hoyer.

The Browns say their 1st-round pick will have to beat out some dude who bounced through 3 teams before finally getting a shot (behind Brandon Weeden) in Cleveland last year. Hoyer looked pretty good for 2 weeks but then suffered an ACL tear. That's particularly bad news when your natural ability failed to push you past Ryan Lindley and John Skelton in Arizona in 2012, at least until the end of the year.

Hoyer's a fine player. Manziel's an exciting one.

Don't take our word for it, though, check with OC Kyle Shanahan, who has already compared him with Robert Griffin III. Lil' Shanny should know after running RG3's offense for the Washington QB's 1st 2 pro seasons.

Shanahan helped craft that pistol offense with read-option elements that delivered Griffin to the top 5 in fantasy-scoring average among QBs back in 2012. Griffin ran for 815 yards and 7 TDs on 120 carries that season, while Washington attempted the league's 3rd-fewest passes. That's worth noting, because this year's Browns seem built for a similar offensive focus.

Cleveland will miss WR Josh Gordon for some amount of time, which could still be all year. That leaves TE Jordan Cameron as the top target, joining a pedestrian WR corps that could feature slot WR Andrew Hawkins and rely too heavily on WRs such as Miles Austin, Nate Burleson and/or Charles Johnson.

Griffin produced highly efficient passing in 2012 with Josh Morgan, Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson and a gimpy Pierre Garcon as his targets. Manziel's not as good a thrower as Griffin, but his scrambling could help the lackluster receiving group get open.

More importantly, though, the rookie's legs will carry his fantasy value. Just 4 QBs have rushed for 400 yards or more in their rookie seasons since 1969. All 4 of those players -- Griffin, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson and Vince Young -- ranked among the top 12 fantasy QBs in their respective years.

Three of those guys went among the top 3 picks in their drafts, so it's fair to say they're all more gifted than Manziel physically. And Wilson could go down as 1 of the biggest draft steals of the early 2000s. But you can't deny the rushing prowess that Manziel displayed in college.

He exploded for 1,410 yards and 21 TDs rushing as a freshman on a team playing its 1st season in the SEC. Manziel rounded out his Heisman-winning profile by completing 68% of his passes for 3,706 yards (8.5 per attempt) and 26 TDs with just 9 INTs. Only 6 FBS QBs have run for more yards in a season since 2000, and none of those players came within 500 yards of Manziel's passing total.

His rushing numbers dipped last year, but Manziel beefed up his passing line, topping 4,000 yards and tossing 37 TDs. And his 144-759-9 rushing line would have looked terrific on just about any other QB.

We're not saying Manziel will debut like Griffin, Newton or even Wilson. But Young finished his rookie season 12th among fantasy QBs despite starting just 13 games and throwing only 12 TD passes. He did so because of 553 yards and 7 TDs rushing, posting perhaps the quintessential example for paying attention to QB rushing numbers.

Draft Sharks Bottom Line:

Manziel looks to us like a better passer than Young. He looks like a better player than Brian Hoyer in every aspect. And he'll play under a creative OC who has already proved he can design an offense around a talented rookie QB.

He's not the biggest value on the QB board, according to's ADP. (That's Cardinals QB Carson Palmer as of this writing.) But Manziel's quite capable of rushing past his current QB17 price tag.

DS Insiders can click here for our full Manziel profile.

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