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With the signing of Josh McCown to a 3 year, 14 million dollar contract (With a lot of it frontloaded), it seems pretty safe to assume that the Browns don’t really intend on bringing back Brian Hoyer for the 2015 season.

Now, it’s very possible that the Browns think that Josh McCown is going to be able to start at a high level for them. They’re wrong. However, he’s a pretty good backup in the NFL and a consummate professional. Considering he was able to act as a stabilizing force for Jay Cutler, it seems reasonable that he could do the same for Johnny Manziel. Is a backup worth the contract that McCown got? Not really, but you’ll have to remember that the Browns don’t have a ton of cap space invested at the position. For what it’s worth, even if the Browns traded up to #1 overall to draft a QB, their three quarterbacks will have a combined cap hit of roughly 12 million dollars, which is less than what 13 teams spend for their starter alone*. In that context, the Browns have a bit more to work with in terms of cap space, making their payment for McCown less egregious.

With that being said, if McCown can’t be a good player, what can we expect out of Johnny Manziel? His performance in 2014 was abysmal. A 42.0 QB rating is only marginally better than a quarterback who throws incomplete on every pass (39.6). Manziel’s 5.1 QBR places him 79th amongst all players who threw a pass last season, behind individuals such as Brandon Bolden, Ryan Nassib, Bilal Powell, Russell Shepard, Ryan Lindley, Case Keenum, and Darren McFadden. None of those players are even remotely franchise quarterbacks, and many of the players I mentioned are not in fact, quarterbacks by trade. Is there hope? Maybe. I suppose. I won’t pretend to have secret information on that. The odds however, are long and he’s starting from a truly awful point in his sophomore campaign. Rehabilitation is NOT helping his cause, although it’s very needed for him as a human, the fact is that he’s not getting the same resources in a rehab clinic to improve his football skills and ability to read defenses, which were amateurish in 2014.

In terms of further upgrades, it’s not clear what’s in store for the Browns this year. They COULD package their 1st rounders to move up for Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston (More likely the former), but then their time table to compete gets pushed back a year, and neither of these prospects are a slam dunk. They could wait and take a slightly lesser prospect like Brett Hundley, Bryce Petty, or Garrett Grayson, but all three are fairly raw prospects who’ll need development time. However, all three will likely be available with a second or third round draft choice, allowing the Browns to capitalize elsewhere on the field. I will predict that the Browns will stay the course, considering they’re giving Manziel 1st rounder cash and had somewhat limited time last year. However, with little to show for last year (Could not beat out a pedestrian Brian Hoyer for the starting job, was awful when the job was handed to him, etc.), and with few receiving weapons surrounding him, the Browns seem like a prime candidate to regress this season, even with a modest 7-9 record in 2014. The Browns might be in a position in 2016 to look at adding a franchise QB then, with Rust Belt/Midwest players Cardale Jones, Christian Hackenberg, and Connor Cook all projecting to be 1st round caliber quarterbacks.

* – Using an estimated cap hit of 5.1 million for the #1 overall pick, 4.67 for Josh McCown, and 2.25 for Johnny Manziel

Recent proposals are strongly considering a return to freshman ineligibility rules that were changed in 1972, giving a mandatory “Year of Readiness” for all athletes in Football and Men’s Basketball programs. Ostensibly, this is done to prepare student athletes to manage their responsibilities for a full year so their graduation rates can improve as well.

It should be obvious that the NCAA pitch line can be trusted as far as it can be thrown, but that does raise the question as to what the motivation would be for such a program in place.

If the purpose of a mandatory redshirt year is to allow a student athlete to acclimate to being a student… then why is this only being done for Men’s Basketball and Football? Little surprise that these are the two revenue generating sports, but athletes in other programs dedicate just as much time to those sports as football and basketball players do. Is there something unique about these sports that requires another full calendar year before they can play in live games? Not particularly.

Are the stresses of trying to manage a practice schedule and/or travel so stressful that a student needs a full year to adjust? I don’t see this as being a particularly viable answer. Plenty of students hold part time or full time jobs while being full time students. I will acknowledge that practice and game time is strenuous, but the stress is not dramatically greater than a student who is independent with a litany of bills to manage along with their course load.

Does a mandatory redshirt year improve revenue for Men’s Basketball and Football? I don’t see how. Simply put, would it matter if Jahlil Okafor lit up college basketball in 2015 or 2016? If Derrick Rose had to sit out a full season’s worth of games, would that have made him play at Memphis for more than one season? The answer to both questions is pretty clearly no. Mandatory redshirt years would also be pretty clearly harmful for college football programs. As of right now, the NFL requires players to be three years removed from high school before they can be eligible for the NFL. If one of those years is erased by a mandatory redshirt, you’ll possibly be losing out on a full year of electric play from a large number of athletes. Todd Gurley’s most impressive statistical season was his Freshman season. It seems hard to think that having a potential star on the bench is going to help bring in more dollars for college sports.

On a related note to this, while Freshmen seem to occupy a lot of headlines (Especially in basketball), they often need time to break out. Especially in football, redshirt freshmen and true freshmen playing as starters is fairly uncommon. Usually players who crack the starting lineup as freshmen are… pretty damn good. Coaches are only going to put their best on the field. If that means the freshmen are on the bench, then so be it. And if the freshmen don’t see the field or the court, how is that different than a mandatory redshirt? While recruiting may need some serious reforms, true freshmen don’t often see the football field, regardless of how highly touted they were as prospects. That isn’t to say that they DON’T, but it isn’t common. Most of the ones who do often times do so because they are legitimately the best option that the team has.

It seems that the most convincing argument in favor of a mandatory redshirt year is that it would cloister student athletes in the most visible sports, sheltering them from publicity. It isn’t the most ignoble concept… but it does little to help them in the real world. Most freshmen that would be under the harsh spotlight are disproportinately likely to also be under this same spotlight when they hit the NBA or NFL. And imagine how THOSE leagues would respond if their touted rookies weren’t allowed to play. While there’s a lot of things wrong with the NCAA as it stands, trying to hide their youngest athletes for a year doesn’t seem like it’s going to fix anything that ails them.

Tough week last week, 2-3 on the picks for the first losing week so far.

Spreads are listed for the team I’m betting on and they are also bolded for your convenience! Check out the Betting Compendium for a full list of trends to help make your picks.

Green Bay Packers (-4.5) @ Buffalo Bills
– Possibly a let down game, but Aaron Rodgers since his SB Win has a winning record ATS and the line seems fishy to me.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Atlanta Falcons (+2)
– Home underdog, the Falcons can’t look past the Steelers since they’re in the lead for the worst division race in history… no strong lean here otherwise.

San Francisco 49’ers @ Seattle Seahawks (-10)
– Seahawks are catching the 49’ers at the right time, and Pete Carroll/Russell Wilson simply own Kaepernick.

Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts (-6.5)
– Andrew Luck, at home. JJ Watt doesn’t play quarterback (yet).

No advice on fantasy sleepers at this juncture since it’s so late, but I do just want to remind viewers a few things.

1. If your games matter now, this is not the time to get cute. The Cardinals just put Andre Ellington on IR, but that doesn’t mean Stefan Taylor is automatically a must-start, since the Cardinals have had an awful rushing attack all season long.

2. If you’re in a keeper league, now’s the time to pounce on waiver wires that might pay dividends next year if you can. Guys like Manziel, Adrian Peterson, etc. may all be available and be much more useful next year than this year.

3. Do recall it’s just a game… unless you’ve put money down in your league. Then it’s war.

Remember, from the previous rules, there’s one representative from each conference, and no more than three total teams per conference. If you can’t crack the top 3 of your conference, you don’t deserve a shot at the championship. So who gets in?

Alabama (SEC Champ)
Oregon (Pac-12 Champ)
Florida State (ACC Champ)
Ohio State (Big Ten Champ)
Baylor (Big 12 Champ)
Memphis (AAC Champ)
Marshall (CUSA Champ)
Northern Illinois (MAC Champ)
Boise State (MWC Champ)
Georgia Southern (Sun Belt Champ)
TCU (At-Large Big 12)
Mississippi State (At-Large SEC)
Michigan State (At-Large Big Ten)
Ole Miss (At-large SEC)
Arizona (At-Large Pac-12)
Kansas State (At-Large Big-12)
First Four Out: Georgia Tech, UCLA, Arizona State, Clemson

Playoff Home Series
Georgia Southern (Sun Belt Champion) @ Alabama (SEC Champion)
Memphis (AAC Champ) @ Oregon (Pac-12 Champ)
Northern Illinois (MAC Champ) @ Florida State (ACC Champ)
Marshall (CUSA Champ) @ Ohio State (Big Ten Champ)
Boise State (MWC Champ) @ Baylor (Big 12 Champ)
Arizona (At-Large Pac-12) @ TCU (At-Large Big-12)
Kansas State (At-Large Big 12) @ Mississippi State (At-Large SEC)
Ole Miss (At-Large SEC) @ Michigan State (At-Large Big Ten)

In order to understand the draft a bit more deeply, we must first consider what is “normal” in the NFL draft process. Not every draft pick is a winner, and even with hundreds upon hundreds of college athletes who are draft eligible waiting to be selected, teams still manage to screw up and draft a guy who ultimately, doesn’t do much to help their team.

What this means is that we need to understand exactly how often draft picks fail, in order to get an idea for what our targeted improvements will be. It does take several years for a draft pick to be considered a success, so the 2014, 2013, and 2012 draft classes are safe from evaluation. Before that though, and we’re still going to wanna see. Read More »

Just as a little bit of a different take, I figured that I was the only football writer who hadn’t weighed in formally on Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson… so I probably should.

First and foremost, by no means do I think either of these men are good people for their actions. If I was a friend I would start to distance myself from him, and I’d only accept one of their jerseys as a gag gift. With this being said, the only reason they’re suspended today is because of the ineptitude of the NFL and the desire to martyr these two players to appease the public. That’s it. Read More »

As always, you can follow my picks on sportsplays.com under username Footballclod.
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Hypothesis: Divisional matchups should typically be closer than other games due to familiarity. As such, games with large spreads should favor the underdog in this scenario.

It makes sense, right? So let’s look at games with a spread of a touchdown or more… how well do teams do in this scenario?
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Jaron Brown, WR – 7 Catches, 75 Yards (9 Targets)
Week 13 Score: 7 Points (14 PPR)
Jaron Brown’s production came with Larry Fitzgerald inactive. Either way, he was a steady option by only averaged 10.7 YPC, which isn’t particularly great. Not a lot of reason to think that Jaron Brown keeps this up when Fitzgerald returns, and from all reports, that’ll be pretty soon.
Verdict: Not real!
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