Stock Up, Stock Down for Key Cleveland Browns Heading into Camp
Stock prices may appear to be based on objective criteria, such as productivity or return-on-investment, but in reality the market is one large auction where everything is only worth what someone will pay for it.
That means that Wall Street isn’t based on anything real—it’s based on perception. Explains a lot, doesn’t it?
And that explains why we only talk about player “stock” in times of hypotheses during the draft or the offseason.
Once games begin, reality takes over and it becomes glaringly apparent who has it—and who doesn’t.
However, in the dog days of summer, we indulge in a brand of shameless speculation on player worth that would make a land developer blush.
In the week before camp, what else is a football lover to do?
Trent Richardson: Fantasy Jackpot Mania—Stock Remains a Strong Buy
It’s no secret that the Browns' offensive scheme will revolve around Richardson right, left, up the middle and receiving out of the backfield. He will be a throwback, every down, ball-catching, run-‘til-his-tongue-hangs-out rusher.
Richardson is poised for either greatness or helium-esque catastrophe.
Excited Cleveland fans are letting their hopes rise, and fantasy pundits are projecting exceptional things for this rookie rusher.
Fantasy players are sharpening their draft pencils in basements and man-caves across America. With fantasy point totals projected at 1,200-1,400 all-purpose yards and anything from seven-12 TDs, it's hard to blame them.
Favorite Richardson stats:
1. Gets stronger as the game progresses with 59.3 percent of his rushing yards coming after the half.
2. Averages 6.0 yards per carry and scores a touchdown every 12.6 touches.
For a breakdown of Mr. Richardson's many outstanding qualities, see 7 Reasons Richardson Will Fulfill His HOF Potential.
Cleveland Browns fans sleep through the summer nights with visions of touchdowns dancing in their heads.
Josh Gordon: New Kid in Town—Stock Up
Mr. Gordon makes this list by virtue of the “nowhere to go but up” philosophy.
In case you are just tuning in to the Browns' offseason, Cleveland took this wide receiver in the supplemental draft. Training camp will be his first time not only in Berea, but also his first step onto a football field in two years. Yikes.
For those who do not follow disgraced college receivers (which is hopefully everyone), Gordon had a promising year when Robert Griffin III was just learning the offense at Baylor.
He hauled in 42 balls for over 700 yards (with a 17-yards-per-catch average) and seven scores.
Then Josh and a buddy were arrested for marijuana possession. And here’s the good part: They got caught because they fell asleep in a fast-food drive-through.
You cannot make this stuff up, although I’m sure the SNL crew wishes they’d written that one!
In an interview with The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot, Gordon said all the right things:
I was in a rehabilitation program with group counseling, and I saw a psychiatrist, like, three times a week…I can tell people until I'm blue in the face, and there will always be naysayers…But I know that I have no intentions or any ambition to try to go back and regress to what I was doing before…I've definitely learned from this. It's been a long road, but I'm seeing light at the end tunnel after today. Looking back, it was something that had to happen in order for this to even take place. I promise the Browns won't regret this.
At 6’3” and 225 lbs, Gordon’s size, speed and raw talent undoubtedly tipped the scales for a Browns offense desperately in need of playmakers in the ball-catching ranks.
Jason La Canfora, reporting for cbssports.com, grabbed this quote from the would-be comeback kid's Pro Day:
I definitely didn't perform as good as I would have liked...Looking back on it, maybe I should have stretched a little more, but I was glad I got through the receiving drills and I worked as hard as I could.
Let's review: you got kicked out of college for pot and your family is so in need of funds that you decided to declare for this supplemental draft—and you didn’t think stretching was important before your Pro Day drills? Hmmmm.
NFL politics and payback trivia:
La Canfora also noted that RGIII made it clear to Daniel Snyder that he would like to be reunited with his former receiver. Perhaps we can chalk this one up to Mike Holmgren’s revenge.
Mitchell Schwartz: The Bear at RT—Stock Up
The Cal rookie is generally acknowledged to have nailed down the starting position. That he was dominant enough from the gun to relegate Oniel Cousins to (mostly) reserve status is a tremendous validation of his draft ranking.
Schwartz may be in a “no-win” situation with fans who thought that the team should have picked a WR instead and opted for a tackle further down in the draft.
However, unless he has a meltdown when the games count, it looks as if the Browns finally have a solid O-line.
If Schwartz struggles, there is always the veteran that Trent Richardson named one of the two most intimidating men in camp. Richardson was speaking to ESPN 850 WKNR, as detailed by Chris Pokorny of dawgsbynature.com:
The second one was a little surprising. Richardson was referencing both players by saying other players would state, ‘I'm not messing with this guy today,’ or ‘I'd hate to be the defensive lineman going against him.’
Listening to the interview, I started wondering, ‘man, who is this O'Neal guy we have in camp?’ The host then surprisingly asked, ‘really? Oniel Cousins?’…Richardson said he can't wait to run behind someone like that on game day…if Cousins is extremely motivated and looks like a monster all of a sudden, maybe we'll end up having a little competition on our hands to kick off the year.
FS Eric Hagg: Welcome to the First Team, Dude—Stock Up
This seventh-round sophomore has proven to be a terrific value pick who is now producing as a starter.
Veteran Usama Young has technically “lost” his gig to Hagg. So, one could think that his stock is falling, but he’s really just become a “value” commodity.
Young will continue to push Hagg while providing not only depth, but also a legitimate third safety or DB whenever needed. He hasn’t so much fallen as changed investment classifications.
D’Qwell Jackson: Stock Stays at All-Time High
The only healthy year of Jackson's career during which he recorded fewer than 100 tackles was as a rookie. We can probably cut him some slack there.
In his three other injury-free seasons, the reigning Comeback Player of the Year made 101, 154 and 158 tackles, respectively.
If your fantasy league uses individual defenders, it’s hard to find a better choice in 2012.
It’s safe to say that as long as he stays out of the infirmary, Mr. Jackson’s stock will remain solidly green.
Brandon Weeden: Contract Unsigned—Stock Down
To a fanbase thirsty for a winning QB, Brandon Weeden’s unsigned status isn’t sitting particularly well.
This is despite a general consensus that he has impressed in OTAs:
"The rookie first-round pick has the look of a franchise quarterback." (ESPN's Jamison Hensley)
To be fair, what is a 28-year-old rookie to do?
The final deal will be in the four-year, $8.1 million range. The new CBA assures that low first-rounders like Weeden, Riley Reiff (Lions), David DeCastro (Steelers) and Dont'a Hightower (Patriots) will all end up with deals along these lines.
According to cleveland.com, the continued conversation for Weeden’s reps and the Browns front office is over the amount of guaranteed money. Weeden’s camp wants four full guaranteed years.
This may be a shock to fans—but the NFL doesn’t like any kind of guaranteed anything when it comes to their player contracts. Not shocked? Then, you know your football.
The league is trying to set a precedent whereby they only guarantee the first three years of rookie deals for players drafted at this level.
The Browns will probably try to get their new QB to agree to a combination of roster bonus and guaranteed base pay similar to Phil Taylor’s 2011 deal.
In a league where only the players are truly bound by the ink, it’s hard to blame a man who know that if anything goes wrong, this was his last chance at a professional payday.
But anything short of an immediate and ostentatiously jubilant signing doesn’t impress Cleveland fans eager to lock up their (potential) franchise QB.
In typical chip-on-the-shoulder fashion, some Dawg Pounders are taking the prolonged negotiations personally.
Relax, Cleveland, it will get ironed out and Weeden won’t miss a snap.
In fact, he's one of the Browns Ready to Shock the World in 2012.
Wide Receiver Stocks: All over the Big Board
Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert must be assuming that having a stronger-armed quarterback will improve the receiving stats. We’ll file that under “Remains to be Seen.”
Travis Benjamin and Josh Gordon may have talent, but one doesn’t expect them to light up the end zone as the two starting wideouts. Yet.
1. Greg Little—Stock Up. He came into camp 11 lbs lighter, according to The News-Herald. That’s it. It’s not as if he suddenly looks like the second coming of Jerry Rice or even of Steve Largent. But any improvement counts as “up.”
2. Mohamed Massaquoi—Well, it depends who you ask. Witnesses say that there are still drops. However, Mike Holmgren swears this will be the year for Massaquoi. It had better be, or the Eric Mangini draft choice will be out of a job.
3. Joshua Cribbs will probably see fewer offensive snaps. That may seem like a drop in stock price, but it will probably translate into a rise in his special teams’ stock value.
4. Foxsportsohio.com's Fred Greetham wrote that Jordan Norwood appears to be leading the pack for the starting slot position based on his OTA appearances in that role. That’s sort of a stock flat line, since that's what he was supposed to be doing all along.
5. Norwood's final stock rating going into September will be determined by the performance of Brandon Weeden's BFF Josh Cooper, who will be Norwood's primary competition.
Cooper's stock began higher than that of any other undrafted free agent WR on the Browns, since he has a strong college connection with QB Brandon Weeden. However, Cooper is taking no chances.
The duo's chemistry is already showing in OTAs, but the rookie has also taken snaps as the emergency holder as well as with the special teams.
Cooper told Branson Wright of The Plain Dealer, "I'll do whatever they ask me to do. Yes, I'll even play on the line."
Mr. Cooper tips the scales at 195 lbs, so this is quite the offer. Stock remains high.
6. Carlton Mitchell? Long-time Browns reporter Tony Grossi has written that Mitchell looked great during OTAs. Wonderful.
However, this is the most optimistic thing that anyone has reported. And that is not a good sign for a young man supposedly poised for a breakout season. Stock teetering on the brink.
Jordan Cameron: A Rising Legend in the Mind of the Browns Fan
Cameron has done nothing in the real world to warrant his positive stock price. That doesn’t mean that he won’t produce, but his current rating is based on him being yet another former basketball star converted to TE.
Yes, both Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham had breakout seasons as sophomore pros after learning the NFL ropes for a year. Antonio Gates (two TDs to 13 TDs) and Jimmy Graham (five TDS to 11 TDs) certainly followed effectively in Tony Gonzalez’ footsteps. Great.
Once again, it's ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi who appears to believe in young Jordan’s potential:
The Browns envision Cameron as the heir to Ben Watson as the starting tight end. When that happens is up to Cameron’s development. Watson is in the final year of his contract. I see Cameron receiving a bigger role in the offense – until he proves he can’t handle it.
However, until he delivers on potential, Mr. Cameron remains just that—unrealized potential.
And vastly overpriced for current delivery. It must be the Southern California surfer-dude look.
Which is also overrated, by the way.
Defensive Line: Tackle, Tackle, Who's Got a Tackle?
1. John Hughes: Gambles Pay Off—Stock Up
Coming into the NFL dogged by character and work-ethic questions leaves Hughes plenty of room for a rise in stock.
While he will never be confused with Mario Williams in the pass-rushing department, Hughes has always been a run-stuffer.
John Hughes appears to have subdued critics—at least for the summer, though no one has truly gone on record raving about him.
However, with his baggage, quiet acknowledgement from ESPN Cleveland that he is still in contention for the starting DT spot and is at least a rotational player, is extremely good news.
Hughes and sixth-round pick Billy Winn both took rotational snaps behind veteran DT Scott Paxson.
While Paxson will probably be the titular starter, having Hughes ready in the rotation and on board as a pro is a huge (yes, pun intended) bonus for the Browns.
Hughes may never be an every-down DT—but these days, who is? Okay, maybe Casey Hampton. However, that’s a different system and he’s one season away from being a dinosaur.
2. Brian Schaefering: Stock Plunging Through Bad Timing
Schaefering wasn’t able to participate in OTAs as he continued to recover from his sports hernia surgery.
One wonders when the old saying that “you can’t lose your job to injury” is going to be dropped from the NFL lexicon, since it is patently false.
Brian has to come into camp healthy and up to speed, which is going to be difficult now that Hughes, Winn and Paxson are all ahead of him.
3. Billy Winn: Climbing the Charts
Winn’s stock dove during the draft, landing him in Cleveland in the sixth round. Since many ranked him as a third- or fourth-rounder, he was already on the way back up.
The Phil Taylor injury has thrust Winn into a legit battle for the starting LDT spot along with Hughes and Paxson.
Despite being the lower-drafted and therefore less-expensive option, Winn has a reputation as a more versatile all-around type of defensive lineman. That fact may thrust him ahead of pure run defender John Hughes.
Check out Winn's draft grade.
Brad Smelley: Mystery Stock
In May, Brad Smelley was looking like a starter over Owen Marecic.
As of June, Pat Shurmur was less enthusiastic, saying in a news conference that he was “fighting to make the roster.”
Ultimately, this comes down to a “stock poised on the edge of a cliff” situation. He’ll either crash or soar.
[What he has to] do is be a guy that would have to be somewhat multiple. He plays in the back field, he can play on a line of scrimmage and then really he’s got to make his mark on special teams. I think he has the ability to do those things.
Chris Pokorny of dawgsbynature.com made the excellent point that Smelley may end up being more of a threat to Alex Smith than to Owen Marecic.
Colt McCoy's Stock: Who?
Only the truly gullible believed that the Browns were actually conducting a QB competition this summer.
It now appears that what they were trying to conduct was an opportunity for Colt McCoy to audition.
Unfortunately for No. 12, there have yet to be any takers, which is ridiculous. The man is a better second option than many untested players currently holding clipboards around the league.
At this point, the Browns will be forced to cut their former signal-caller, and McCoy will be forced to wait for that employment call until another NFL QB is injured. What a horrible limbo that must be.
Many fans still hold out hope that the team will hang onto Colt. Seriously? See opening sentence referencing "the gullible."
McCoy’s situation is only a high-profile example of the many individual dramas being played out daily in the ruthless competition as teams try to distill a 53-man roster worthy of NFL wins.
If you’re visiting any team practices this August—be kind. A lot of hopes and dreams are on the line.
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