*Pre-editor post (forgive any typos)
Wow, so much to unpack here. I’m not sure how to organize all this, but let’s let it rip…
The Browns came into this game three-point underdogs. It was one of my best bets of the week. I said it would be a Browns outright upset and that I would bet it kinda heavy along with the Ravens (so, it was a good Sunday from that perspective). The Bengals are low-key (no longer low-key) one of the worst teams in football, and our computer models were telling me that back when they were 4-1 (now 5-6).
As much as I celebrate the CLE and BAL weekly wager wins, I can’t have nice things because this was a pivotal game in my Cincinnati ‘over’ 6.5-win total bet from the preseason. I’ve got the Saints and Bears bets in the bank, hopefully you do too. The Bengals looked like a lock but now I’m worried. The Bengals have OAK coming Week 15…if that’s a win, then I need one more and I’m not sure there is one (DEN-@LAC-OAK-@CLE-@PIT for the ROS). Catching Denver off their emotional win over PIT coming to Cincy with the Bengals playing for their playoff lives is my best shot. In Jeff Driskel we trust.
Much of the pregame hoopla was surrounding Hue Jackson facing his old team and the news of Hue as a successor to Marvin Lewis. The media treats this like Hue escaped and now Cincy, with the Hue insight, will blow away the sad Browns. Surely, Cincy will blow them away with HUE’S inside knowledge.
You know there is a God and he is just because the Browns have been a laughingstock for three years under Hue…and barely able to win when they do win…and yet they head to Cincy without Hue as HC and completely and utterly destroy the Bengals. Hue Jackson, as I’ve said since day one of his hiring, is a clown. One of the worst coaches and con men in the game. As soon as he was dumped by Cleveland…whaaddya know, the Browns win two games in a row against teams with better records/playoff aspirations.
The Browns would have won the AFC North this year if not for Hue Jackson (and starting Baker minute #1)…that’s how bad he is at his job.
So, it only stands to reason…the Bengals want him and his complete failure resume’ to take over for the 16 years and no playoff wins Marvin Lewis. Lewis has been in Cincy as the head coach for 16 years and is 0-7 in the playoffs. He’s finished 3rd in the AFC North (thankfully CLE was there to finish 4th) for three straight seasons and is about to finish last this season. The only NFL franchise possibly more dysfunctional than Cleveland is Cincinnati. I’d say Ohio is under a football curse, but Michigan fans likely think differently (too soon?).
It’s not a curse…it’s bad management of the team and is typical of the NFL. There are three NFL teams that have a lot of incestuous coaching through the Marvin Lewis tree…Cincy, Cleveland, the Raiders. What do they all have in common? Maybe the three worst teams in football (and Arizona).
No wonder Bruce Arians is lobbying for the Browns job…it’s a 10+ win team with an elite franchise QB…a QB that the NFL scouts like Sam Darnold better than. You know…because of all their tape studies they all 99.2% came to the same conclusions. The tape studies they do.
So, Hue Jackson gets embarrassed by his old team. And when he goes to hug Baker Mayfield post game, Baker shakes his hand and quickly pulls away with no words from him as Hue is trying ‘hold court’ and laughing it up after the game. Then Baker does this… https://youtu.be/NeqSwHteRzo
NFL people are up in arms. How could Baker be so immature? Why can’t Hue go elsewhere…Baker left Texas Tech and went to Oklahoma? The bigger point was missed. He didn’t say Hue couldn’t leave/go elsewhere…he was talking as a representative of the Browns facing an opponent. Hue joined the enemy…why laugh it up with him afterwards? Baker said he didn’t want to talk to him after. Why should he? Hue’s job this week was to defeat the Browns. Hue told Baker he wasn’t good enough to start over Tyrod Taylor. Hue’s been and was this week, an enemy of Baker Mayfield. Hue has been an enemy of good coaching and team management. Cleveland has a locker room full of players whose lives have been wasted and football-humiliated by Hue Jackson. I’d venture to say 80%+ of the Browns’ locker room hated Hue Jackson (and a lot of people in the NFL and at the Senior Bowl, I know, hate Hue Jackson…he’s an awful person). Baker basically called Hue out on it – as no one has been willing to do in the ‘head’s up the coach’s asses’ mainstream football media. No one could, not like Baker could…from the perch Baker has.
What wasn’t in that YouTube clip, what people missed because of the other controversy the clip you saw had – Mayfield also said something to the effect of…now we have people who call the right plays. ZING! And he’s right.
You think Baker is being mouthy? You want him to be more Senatorial? You want him to diffuse the situation? You know why this was genius – Baker Mayfield is becoming the leader of the Browns, and he is becoming the voice of the voiceless for a Blue-Collar town and fanbase. It’s like Donald Trump, whether you love him or hate him – he energized people enough to improbably win an election, all while all the ‘smart’ media people said he was a joke and that he could never win. The ‘smart people’ didn’t understand – that’s what is key. It’s not a pro or anti Trump commentary…it’s a ‘how did everyone who does this (analysis and polling) for a living miss this?’ 50% of the country hates Trump…maybe more. But that leaves 50% or so who love him in all his blustery ways…and that’s what Baker Mayfield brings to an embarrassing franchise that ‘smart people’ haven’t been able to fix for years/decades.
I just watched Colin Cowherd react to Baker’s comments about Hue. Typical media reaction. Sour face. Didn't like it. He’ll take Wilson-Luck-Brees over Baker blah-blah. The problem is he would have taken Sam Darnold over Baker, and still would have. Lest we forget, Baker also went onto Colin’s show to confront Cowherd's constant criticisms -- and Baker punted Colin across the room, verbally.
The football problem is that the Cleveland Browns cannot attract players, naturally, because of their geography (versus most of the other 31 other options). You need a Mayfield to rally a pack of underdogs…to be a lightning rod leader to attract some players to want to join up with him. Spiking the ball in Hue’s face, in a sense, just pushed Baker’s approval rating in Cleveland to 101%...but dropped it to 7% with the media. Which do you think Baker cares about more? Example…no NFL player cares what Sam Darnold or Marcus Mariota thinks or does, but most players have a love-hate mindset with Baker…one or the other. He’ll take 50% of the hate for the 50% of the love that will help him rebuild the Browns.
The media has an agenda to kiss the ass of coaches because they don’t know anything without the day before meeting with the coaches to get info. ‘They really like this kid’ is what TV analysts say about every player, but they do not have their own opinion. Most of the media has to defend the coaches because the only way they have a job is cozying up to the coaches. Plus, they like being near the coaches…it makes them feel important.
In this game, Baker had a play where he dropped back, pressure engulfed, he ducked out of it somehow (as he does), scrambled, re-positioned himself, never-not looking downfield (from about 20+ yards away) and threw a BB through a tight window in the back of the end zone for a TD. One of the most subtly brilliant displays of quarterbacking in Week 13 or any week this season. What did the TV analyst say when it happened? “OH MAN did Freddie Kitchens dial up a great play there!” What the hell are you talking about? The whole play and protection fell apart and it was Baker’s genius that not only escaped trouble but turned it into pure gold.
You get all your football info, outside of me, the national news/shows (ESPN, etc.) from mostly people that suck off the teet of the NFL and its coaches. Everything they know and report is filtered through an establishment that is mostly terrible at their jobs because they don’t put in the time or have a proven eye for it and are terrible at identifying talent in almost every case. Baker Mayfield is going to step on a lot of toes and tell you reality…and his teammates will mostly love it and the media will mostly hate it, and hate him for it…because they need to protect the ‘coaching class’ to help protect their own cush jobs.
Instead of being outraged at Baker, they should be outraged at the real problem: https://youtu.be/IDsM9a9aYpI
Steven A. Smith will get a pass/ignored, for speaking the truth, because he can be dismissed as a ‘talking-head showman’. Baker is a player speaking out…an insider, a rookie -- and that cannot stand. The media is going to push him down his entire career.
Prosper from this war against Baker (a war he is bringing on…a war he wants), prosper for fantasy/dynasty…as I’ve been saying all year.
The fact that the Bengals are going to consider hiring Hue to replace Marvin Lewis, who will be kicked up into administration – who would speak out against it? The Bengals players would be trapped in that hell. Kudos to Baker for being mad as hell and not taking it anymore.
This game was 28-0 Browns in the blink of an eye. 35-7 at one point. Mayfield could’ve dropped 70+ on them if Gregg Williams didn’t call off the dogs so as not to embarrass Hue (Gregg needs a job next year too; he has teets to suckle).
The Bengals are now 5-6 on their way to 6-10/7-9…please, God…it’s me, R.C. – let it be 7-9.
The Browns are 4-6-1…and let me say this – if they go beat Houston at Houston next week – they might win out and make the playoffs. That’s how good Baker Mayfield is…that’s how good this team is. That’s how good Gregg Williams has been at coach so far, my apologies to the lovable psychopath. Likely, the Browns are not ready for such a run, but I could see them finishing 8-7-1 in a shocking development that should damn Hue’s career, but it won’t. He’ll try and take credit for it.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- Just a little more Baker Mayfield (19-26 for 258 yards, 4 TDs/0 INTs) talk…
His performance here was terrific. Again. Some of the throws he’s making are elite, Hall of Fame level throws. He will be an all-time great, IF the Browns hire a progressive coach and not a defensive-minded retread in 2019. If you don’t find the right coach for Mayfield, there’s going to be a Kirk Cousins-esque contract fight coming down the road…ending like it did with Cousins, or the Browns trading him ahead of it bypassing a Le’Veon Bell situation happening. Baker will run from the Cleveland if they try to disrespect him.
Baker Mayfield is better at quarterbacking than Mahomes-Goff-Trubisky. I said it. The fantasy (slight) problem is…coaching, organization, weather, surrounding talent. Also, Mahomes and Trubisky are bigger, better athletes. As far as ‘QB mind’ goes, processing info and making plays – Mayfield may be the greatest in the history of football. He may not be better than Trubisky for fantasy long-term, and maybe not Goff-Mahomes either. But inherent QB play…I’ve never seen anyone better than Mayfield. If Drew Brees grew up in the spread passing game era, you have Baker Mayfield.
-- OK, Jeff Driskel (17-29 for 155 yards, 1 TD/0 INTs, 3-9-1/6). You were impressed with him, if you watched this game/comeback attempt…right?
Keep in mind…he pushed a mild comeback down 35-7. It’s not like the Browns were running their tight defenses against them up 28, they had more a containment plan.
I remember being impressed with some of his throws too. I felt positive about him Sunday, to a degree, but on the re-watch, I was reminded of who he is – good athlete, can zip it sometimes, but throws right into coverage and has a poor sensibility as a passer. He pulled a Nick Mullens, or better yet a Ryan Fitzpatrick…sometimes you stare down receivers and fire into danger and it hits. Sometimes you do that, and it goes right to a defender, who drops it more times than not…but then sometimes the defender makes the plays and meltdowns occur. Driskel had the ‘they hit’ mostly but also a few ‘defender drops’ (or penalty erases).
Driskel has bounced around the league for a reason. Good athlete. Looks good in t-shirt/shorts football. When it comes down to real play…he just doesn’t have ‘it’. However, for fantasy this might work in the short-term/in a pinch…because he’s 6’4”/234 and runs a 4.56 40-time (with 7.19 three-cone). He can scamper. He’s like C.J. Beathard…only more of an up-tempo passer background, but with awful NFL coaching (Marvin and Hue). He might have some 250 yards passing, 1 TD pass…40+ yard rushing with a rush TD games ahead, especially as Cincy is getting blown out.
Week 15 v. Oakland isn’t a bad matchup, but Week 13 vs. Denver is a nightmare of sorts.
At the end of this piece, I will attach my 2016 NFL Draft scouting report of him for more info.
-- Who is Baker Mayfield’s go to guy?
I have no idea.
You’d think Jarvis Landry (3-30-0/5) but that hasn’t been true at all since Mayfield took over.
Callaway-Higgins-Perriman all chasing the wind from one week to the next.
I thought it was Duke Johnson (1-23-0/2), but then this dud.
David Njoku (5-63-1/5) was nothing the first two games under the new staff. If his teammates don’t carry him into the end zone on that weird play where he tried to Evil Knievel his way from like the 10-yard line to the end zone…you don’t care about Njoku after this either.
The reality is – Mayfield doesn’t have a very good O-Line, so I think Mayfield plays the defense and works out of pressure and just goes for what is open. He doesn’t have ‘his guy’ here. His guy is anyone he wants, see, and is open. He’s playing the defense as a master craftsman…not throwing predetermined passes per the play call.
That’s why we’re watching pure genius at work here with Baker…terrible O-Line, no weapons/maybe the worst WRs in the NFL, and Mayfield is making it work.
-- Who will Jeff Driskel’s go-to guy be?
Driskel is the opposite of Mayfield. He’s going to throw to the play call/predetermined spots. He’ll throw blindly to receivers hoping for an outcome…which means A.J. Green #1, Tyler Boyd #2…and maybe more Boyd because AJG warrants such coverage.
Driskel seemed to like C.J. Uzomah (6-39-0/13) some, but that may be because it’s the Browns pass cover weakness on TEs.
The Bengals offense under Driskel will be the same as with Dalton, only less TD passes and more turnovers, and more Driskel running.
John Ross (3-31-1/7) is going to lose his TD streak unless Driskel predetermines a bomb to him and lands it.
As a side note…rookie Auden Tate (2-15-0/7) came in and got a lot of work, as Driskel would know him from backup work. If AJG is out…Tate is an interesting deep sleeper. He’s a freak show of size/reach…really good hands, but not very athletic/difficulty getting open. Tate starting, possibly, to help Driskel…that would have my deep sleeper interest – a big, bailout target for Driskel to lean on and the relationship they’d have to have from 2nd-team work.
-- Fantasy Playoff Notes from these two teams…
CAR-@DEN-CIN for Cleveland in Weeks 14-16. Not great, until Cincy again Week 16. However, Mayfield is so good you can’t really fear a Carolina…but Denver at Denver is going to be a stretch/not great. The Browns-DST comes into play…Weeks 15-16, Keenum-Driskel.
@LAR-OAK-@CLE for Cincy. I think all you can do is hope for garbage time, and then the Oakland game should be nice.
*Driskel report below...
Snap Counts of Interest…
72 = Boyd
68 = Ross
32 = Tate
31 = Core
07 = Erickson
39 = Landry
38 = Callaway
35 = Perriman
20 = Higgins
02 = Ratley
NFL Draft 2016 Scouting Report: QB Jeff Driskel, La. Tech
*Our QB grades can and will change as more information comes in from Pro Day workouts, leaked Wonderlic test results, etc. We will update ratings as new info becomes available.
You probably saw the same report I did the other day (at the time of this writing/publishing)—where a respected NFL Draft reporter noted that he is hearing Jeff Driskel getting second-round grades on a few NFL teams’ draft boards. I was shocked when I saw that, because I’m not sure I’ve seen Driskel rated any higher than as a seventh-round pick at best by any reporting agency. When I saw our early computer model analysis and projections on Driskel, I was not revved up either way. However, the rumor that Driskel was moving up draft boards had me jump up our time frame on doing a full scouting report on him.
After re-looking at his numbers, and watching a few of his 2015 games on tape (I decided to only watch a few snippets of his Florida activity because his years there, and his output, were so poor), I still don’t see what all the fuss could be about.
I get it. Driskel is a legitimate, NFL-worthy prospect…in the traditional sense. He’s not someone you would instantly laugh at for trying to give the NFL a shot, but I don’t see how anyone studying him could leap to the conclusion that he could be a big-time starter or any type of impact player in the NFL. He has an NFL size (6’3”+/230+), and can move around a little, but anyone looking at his tape cannot be overly impressed.
When I watched Driskel’s tape at Louisiana Tech last season, I saw a solid/good college quarterback, but I noted several troubling flaws as a passer translating to the next level. I could see he has the body, and enough of an arm him to make him a prospect for NFL teams to work with, but by no means a quarterback prospect any team would chase highly.
Watching Driskel on tape in 2015, I was unimpressed with his rather elongated windup and release of the ball. There is no clean dart that fires out of his hand quickly. He really gears up to throw any depth of passes (short or bombs), almost like a baseball pitcher. More damning for him at the next level is the fact that time and time again, I witnessed Driskel dropping back in the pocket, and locking in on one receiver and then firing the pass to that receiver. I rarely saw, if ever, Driskel dropping back in the pocket against his better opponents and assessing several options, and just surgically tearing apart a defense. Driskel was more of a one-read/no-read thrower. He’s talented enough, with enough arm, to get the ball where it is supposed to go…for college. If he picked the right receiver, he could get the ball to him. Against better defensive units, Driskel started to run into some trouble because he was tipping his passes with his eyes/head, and the fact that he has a longer windup to make his throw…it gave defenders too much time to react. In college, Driskel could get by against teams like Rice or Southern, but start bumping him up in class and you see issues.
Driskel’s NFL prospectus just comes down to the fact that he has a lot of physical tools, but when push comes to shove he’s just not that natural or instinctual a pocket passer. It’s the fate of a lot of quarterbacks formerly thought to be future stars.
The game that comes to mind the most for me as a scout watching Driskel was his 2015 matchup with Mississippi State. Louisiana Tech jumped out to a quick 14–0 lead, with Driskel throwing two TD passes. It looked like a shocking upset was about to take place…and a Driskel ‘coming out party’. As the game went on, you could see Mississippi State adjusting in-game, and starting to give Driskel fits—he never threw another touchdown in the game, and he did throw one interception, and nearly a few more. For the first 10 minutes, Driskel looked like a solid+ college quarterback vs. Miss State. Over the final 15 minutes, he looked like an average college quarterback. If Mississippi State could figure out how to follow Driskel’s eyes in the passing game, and virtually shut him down for 3+ quarters after a nice start, I’m sure the NFL will rip him apart.
In 2010, Driskel was the top pro-style quarterback prospect coming out of high school, the Gatorade Player of the Year nationally. He went to Florida with huge expectations, but never lived up to any of them. Over parts of four seasons for Florida, Driskel amassed 23 TDs/20 INTs as a passer in 29 games played. In 2013, he broke his fibula and was lost for the season after three games. As a returning starter in 2014, he played so poorly he was benched later in the season. He decided to transfer to Louisiana Tech for his final college season in 2015, where he met his first real statistical success as a college quarterback.
As I look over all the details from the game logs of passing data, the wins and losses, the strength of opponents, and watching many of his throws on tape…I just don’t see a future NFL starter here.
I think some NFL people may love him because he was a former top high school prospect, and they see the size and mobility, and they’re trying to find a sleeper here. I think they’re stretching things a little too far. He was a flop at Florida. He was solid in Conference USA play. He has mobility, but runs kind of frail/kind of afraid, he doesn’t inspire excitement when I see him on the move. In my book, he was just an above-average Conference USA arm-mobility quarterback with some SEC experience/battle scars. I don’t see how anyone could look at him and see a top 50 draft pick here…or even a draft pick. There’s nothing I can see that warrants that kind of draft love.
Jeff Driskel, Through the Lens of Our QB Scouting Algorithm:
In 2015, in the regular season, Driskel went 1–4 against bowl teams he faced, beating the easiest of the five teams—Middle Tennessee State. He did go on to win his bowl game against the porous defense of Arkansas State—where he threw for three TDs and a career-high 458 yards.
In 2014, playing for Florida, Driskel faced a gauntlet of Alabama, LSU, Tennessee, and misery. He posted a 1–3 record, and threw for a horrific 2 TDs/9 INTs against this group.
Over his Florida career, against SEC Conference foes, Driskel produced 13 TDs/15 INTs as a passer.
Against lower competition in his career, FCS teams or cupcake matchups at Florida and La Tech, Driskel tallied 11 TDs/0 INTs in favorable matchups. Against teams of equal or better stature, Driskel produced 39 TDs/28 INTs for his career…not that great a ratio trying to translate him to the next level.
Driskel’s college career had various highs and lows, and was mostly solid in 2015 when he moved to Louisiana Tech, but there’s nothing that our computer model see that just jumps off the page foretelling of a future superstar.
The Historical QB Prospects to Whom Jeff Driskel Most Compares Within Our System:
I look at the list our computer models give, and think—“There’s a nice collection of solid college quarterbacks who will never matter in the NFL.” I fear that is Driskel’s fate as well.
*“Adj” = A view of adjusted college output in our system…adjusted for strength of opponent.
**A score of 8.5+ is where we see a stronger correlation of QBs going onto become NFL good-to-great. A scouting score of 9.5+ is rarefied air—higher potential for becoming great-to-elite.
QBs scoring 6.0–8.0 are finding more success in the new passing era of the NFL (2014–on). Depending upon system and surrounding weapons, a 6.0–8.0 rated QB can do fine in today’s NFL—with the right circumstances…but they are not ‘the next Tom Brady’ guys, just NFL-useful guys.
2016 NFL Draft Outlook:
I’m guessing the rumors of Driskel being a second-round prospect may have grains of truth to it, or it will do enough to move his NFL Draft prospectus a little higher. If Garrett Grayson and Sean Mannion can become top 100 picks, as they were last year, then I am sure Driskel can slither into the top 100 this year.
If I were an NFL GM, I would have Driskel as an undrafted free agent tryout prospect, but not one I would call with any urgency. There are too many other more interesting quarterbacks in this draft class who will probably go undrafted that I can take a look at. Brandon Allen is a far superior passer compared to Driskel. Vernon Adams is a better everything than Driskel. I could name five other (considered) top QB prospects in the 2016 class that have more talent or similar talent but with greater size and speed than Driskel. I just don’t see the reason for draft excitement here.
NFL Outlook: Driskel will probably get drafted on day three. He will then probably bounce on and off rosters and practice squads for a couple of years, and he may even get a chance from a desperate team due to injury. At best, Driskel will be mediocre in the NFL if given the chance, but the more likely outcome is that he is a failed prospect…a QB prospect that doesn’t generate any excitement in preseasons or regular seasons, and as more talented quarterbacks flood into the NFL, Driskel quietly fades away into a forgotten status. He’d be much better served heading to Canada at some point.