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Browns OL named team’s ‘most underappreciated’ player

Ethan Pocic was re-signed this year but still is overlooked

New York Jets v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Lists, rankings and putting players into perspective are what the offseason is all about once the major moves are made. They are meaningless, unless a player/team uses it as motivation (but that player/team probably shouldn’t have needed it), but can be interesting and drive conversations during the lulls in offseason action.

The Cleveland Browns offseason has gotten mostly positive attention so far. A couple of important trades to bring in WR Elijah Moore and DE Za’Darius Smith, a load of new free agents brought in and a few key selections in the NFL draft could lead to a much different team to start 2023.

Underdiscussed, mostly because of the Browns struggles last year, is the re-signing of a variety of players from the 2022 team. A majority of those signings were at the linebacker position but the return of center Ethan Pocic to the offensive line is important. Pocic was just labeled by the NFL Network as Cleveland’s “most underappreciated player” this season:

But it was not because of any underperformance by Pocic, whose offensive grade (78.9) was the third-best among centers, per PFF. Computer vision shows his lateral movement after the snap — that is, the speed with which he moved to his left or right after snapping the ball — was third-best among centers last season. When I was working with offensive line coaches to define the optimal metrics for measuring centers, that is one that correlated strongly to better passing and rushing conditions for the offense.

At the start of the article, it is explained that the players for each team are selected based on their analytics profile from last year and their salary. A great player with a huge salary is hardly “underappreciated.”

Pocic is an interesting story for the Browns. A second-round pick that flamed out with the Seattle Seahawks, Pocic was a late addition to Cleveland’s offseason last year. Thrown into the starting role when Nick Harris went down during the first preseason game, Pocic played well under the tutelage of Bill Callahan.

Few thought GM Andrew Berry would be willing or able to bring Pocic back this year as he was considered one of, if not the, top center in free agency. Instead, Berry kept his offensive line together with a three-year, $18 million deal this offseason.

Outside of players on rookie contracts (Donovan Peoples-Jones and Martin Emerson jump out), it might be hard to find many players who performed well for the Browns last season and weren’t highly paid.