As the regular season approaches for the Cleveland Browns, it is time to post our annual interview with Football Outsiders! This year, our interview was conducted with Vincent Verhei, and will be broken down into three parts.
Be sure to check out the 2017 Football Outsiders Almanac. The Almanac is only $20 in PDF format, and consists of 500 pages of unique analytical research for every team in the league, as well as many players. If you're looking to bone up on your knowledge about all 32 teams in the NFL before the season starts, this is certainly worth the purchase to buy, print out, and then read up on one team per day.
In Part 1 of our preview, we asked about rookie QB DeShone Kizer and how WR Kenny Britt will fare. Part 2 will key in on the upgraded offensive line, and Part 3 will look at Gregg Williams and the revamped defense.
DBN: “Much ink was spilled in the preview about the Browns' top draft picks, but not much about DeShone Kizer. What are your thoughts on the rookie and his skills?”
Vince: “You're right, we barely discussed Kizer in the Browns chapter itself, but Kizer, Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler, and Kevin Hogan each had his own comment in the Quarterbacks section in the end of the book. (So did Josh McCown, for that matter.)
Short term, we are pessimistic about Kizer's chances. Among the top quarterback prospects in this year's draft, he was the only one to complete less than 60 percent of his passes in 2016, and he did that against a relatively weak slate of opposing defenses. Now, there's obviously a lot of upside there too -- Kizer was in the top ten of FBS quarterbacks in total touchdowns (passing plus rushing) the last two seasons. And he's a year younger than Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, and two years younger than Mitchell Trubisky, so he has time to develop. So yes, we think Kizer is a bit of a longshot. But in Cleveland's situation, with the 52nd pick in the draft, it's a gamble that makes sense.”
DBN: “Kenny Britt had his best statistical season as a pro in 2016 before signing a free agent deal with Cleveland. Are there any interesting nuggets you can give us about Britt's uptick in productivity a year ago, and can it be sustained?”
Vince: “I'm a big believer in Kenny Britt and have been for years. Not many wideouts can say they have beaten Richard Sherman for long touchdowns, but Britt can.
Through Week 10 last year, we actually had Britt in our top five wide receivers in football. Then the Rams benched Case Keenum for Jared Goff and ruined whatever was left of their season. And this is the story of Britt's whole career: a very good wide receiver who has never benefited from playing with a good quarterback. We ran a whole table of Britt's quarterbacks in the book, but for now let's just say that the best quarterback he ever played with was Vince Young in 2009, which was Britt's first NFL season and Young's last. Britt is still just 29 and should have a few productive years left in him, assuming the Browns can find someone to get him the ball.”