Johnny Manziel is one of the more polarizing stars in the NFL, but everybody should agree that he has little value this year in standard fantasy football drafts.
Manziel and Brian Hoyer are locked in one of the more interesting quarterback battles this preseason. Do the Cleveland Browns start the first-round draft pick or the veteran who has only slightly more starting experience in the NFL?
With every practice comes a new development. Manziel threw with the second-team players. That means he's gonna be the backup, right? Wait, now he's throwing to the first-team guys. Is he gonna start in Week 1? Just give us an answer Mike Pettine. A nation waits with bated breath.
Manziel did in fact take all of the first-team reps in Monday's practice, but the Browns head coach moved quickly to quash any speculation that that was any sort of sign as to how he was leaning with his decision.
"Just part of the plan that we've had," said Pettine, per ESPN.com's Pat McManamon. "We'll go back and forth."
For those who don't care about the Browns, Pettine's choice carries quite a bit of importance for fantasy football.
At least for the time being, your choice should be rather easy.
Given that we aren't sure when Manziel will actually play, why take a risk on him? You don't want to waste your QB2 spot on somebody like that when better options are sitting right there.
In the event Manziel does see the field, you're taking a massive gamble that he'll put up fantasy numbers in line with your typical starting quarterback, which is far from a guarantee as well.
The Browns' recent track record with rookie quarterbacks is far from reassuring. The same goes for rookie QBs in general, at least in the fantasy realm.
Here's a look at the five highest-performing fantasy QBs in each of the last three years, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com's fantasy points and Value-Based Drafting, which judges someone by how he performed compared to the baseline player at his position. The higher the VBD, the more impressive the season.
|Rank||Player||Fantasy Pts.||VBD||QB Rank|
|1||Robert Griffin III||318||67||5|
Dalton had a Pro Bowl wide receiver in A.J. Green, Wilson had Marshawn Lynch in the backfield and the trio of Newton, Luck and RG3 were all arguably much further along in their development than Manziel. They were the Nos. 1, 1 and 2 overall picks in their respective draft years.
Let's tackle the biggest issue, which is Manziel's playing time.
The early signs point to Hoyer being the starter when Cleveland takes on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1. Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer posted a copy of the Browns' first depth chart, which shows Hoyer in the first team:
NFL Network's Paul Burmeister, however, downplayed the significance of that:
I understand why it's newsworthy, but Brian Hoyer being named CLE starter on 1st depth chart is neither a surprise or all that significant.— Paul Burmeister (@PaulWBurmeister) August 5, 2014
While Cabot's tweet is innocuous on its own, you have to view it in conjunction with everything else that's happened leading up to now. Pettine said when training camp began that Hoyer would start out as his No. 1 QB.
"Brian is securely ahead of him right now. But we will compete, and we'll decide," he said, per USA Today's Lindsay H. Jones.
Then came the report by Cabot in July about how the Browns were "alarmed" with some of Manziel's off-field habits. The team has largely moved on from that, but regardless, it wasn't something you wanted to read about one of your top draft picks.
Fox Sports Ohio's Zac Jackson believes that Pettine will opt for whoever helps the team the most right now. Jackson maintains that Hoyer remains in the lead:
I think Pettine will play the best guy, not the safest guy or the rookie just because of who he's perceived to be. The best guy.— Zac Jackson (@FSOhioZJackson) August 5, 2014
And that's why I say Manziel has closed the gap significantly but has a whole 'nother jump to actually be the best for the team/huddle/game— Zac Jackson (@FSOhioZJackson) August 5, 2014
As noted earlier, if you have no idea when Manziel might play, how's he going to help your fantasy team? The quintet of rookie QBs started for their respective teams in Week 1 of the regular season.
Where do you think Johnny Manziel ranks among this year's top fantasy QBs?
Another big difference between Manziel and the five draft-worthy rookie quarterbacks is that they had a few more weapons in the passing game.
Depending on what happens to Josh Gordon, Johnny Football could be stuck with Jordan Cameron—who's one of the best tight ends in the league—Miles Austin, Nate Burleson, Travis Benjamin and Andrew Hawkins. Ben Tate's a major wild card on the ground, too.
Even Peyton Manning might not be a top QB pick with a receiving corps like that. Cameron's talent is canceled out by everyone else's marginal production.
Two scenarios exist in which you should consider giving Manziel a look. The first is that you're in a 15-to-20-team league in which you're kinda stuck possibly taking a QB who might not give you anything. The other is that you're in a keeper league where you can hold onto Johnny Football for the future. He's gonna have value down the line.
If you're just in a league with 10-15 teams, though, don't give drafting Manziel much thought. Instead, look for a safer choice like Dalton, Wilson, Philip Rivers, Alex Smith, Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo or Matt Ryan.