Johnny Manziel vs. Brian Hoyer: Fantasy Reaction for Browns QBs vs. Lions

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2014

Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) throws as Brian Hoyer, right, watches before a preseason NFL football game at Ford Field in Detroit, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

Johnny Manziel's first official NFL game is in the books, and he doesn't look to be that much closer to overtaking Brian Hoyer for the Cleveland Browns' starting quarterback job.

At the time of writing, the Browns were up, 12-6, on the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Saturday night.

Manziel was removed from the game in the fourth quarter. NFL: Around the League posted his final numbers:

ESPN Stats and Info provided a side-by-side comparison between him and Hoyer, who started the game and left in the second quarter:

Hoyer was arguably the better pure thrower, while Manziel provided more excitement with his feet, which was about what you expected to see. In terms of how this affects their QB battle, the results are likely a wash.

Browns head coach Mike Pettine has viewed Hoyer as the No. 1 guy throughout the offseason and preseason, and the 28-year-old has done little to show he's not the No. 1 guy.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen believed that the stats only told part of the story on Saturday night for Hoyer:

"That was his job," said Pettine before the game, per The Associated Press, via USA Today. "He was the one coming into it. We did want to mix the groups up coming into it, as we did, but he's done nothing to have that taken away from him, so he'll be out there with the starters."

Manziel never took snaps with the first team, but that was part of the plan rather than an about-face from the coaching staff because it was disappointed with Manziel's efforts in practice, per's Tony Grossi:

It's hard to figure out how one preseason game could lead to a radical change in Pettine's thinking. Manziel would've had to throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns to all of a sudden jump ahead of his veteran counterpart in the depth chart.

The smart move for the Browns is to be patient and wait, but the longer they do, the more they'll continue to aggravate fantasy football owners. The earlier Pettine decides, the easier it will be to gauge whether either of the two QBs is worth drafting.

The early edge in the duel goes to Hoyer, but it's still way too early to determine which guy will be starting in Week 1. Hoyer's always appeared to be the guy. Why would that change over a few preseason games? Then again, how many teams are not going to start their first-round draft picks in the first game of the regular season?

That unpredictability in part limits the fantasy value for each player at this stage in the preseason. Until Pettine declares one of them the starting quarterback, you can't take the risk that the guy you drafted is going to sit on the bench in Week 1.

You wouldn't want to be stuck with a QB2 who's not seeing the field, even if he boasts the upside of Manziel.

What also makes this situation tricky is Josh Gordon's ongoing battle with the NFL. Take him out of the offense, and the Browns don't have a lot left in the passing game. How do Nate Burleson, Travis Benjamin and Miles Austin sound to you? Any quarterback would struggle to put up fantasy numbers with targets like that. 

Cleveland receivers were dropping too many passes on Saturday night, which in turn made Hoyer and Manziel look worse than they really were. That's not a good sign for the offense's chances in 2014.

Sure it's only preseason, but the Browns aren't going to uncover a cadre of Pro Bowl wideouts anytime soon. Jordan Cameron can only do so much, especially if opposing defenses don't have to worry about Gordon.

As things stand, neither Hoyer nor Manziel looks like a viable fantasy pick unless you're in a very deep league with 15-20 teams. Manziel would be a very attractive option in a keeper league, though.

Ideally, your draft isn't for another few weeks, after which the Browns quarterback situation will be much clearer. By then, one of the two passers might have made a compelling fantasy case.