Cleveland Browns Week 17 Stock Report
This is it—the Cleveland Browns' final chance to get a fourth win on the season and improve their 2015 record to 4-12. The only problem? They have to face the Pittsburgh Steelers, who need one more win to put themselves in position for an AFC playoff berth.
But the Browns can play their longtime rivals tough, especially considering they were just four points from defeating the red-hot Kansas City Chiefs, in Arrowhead Stadium, in Week 16.
Whose stocks are rising and falling for the Browns as Week 17's contest approaches? Here is Cleveland's final stock report of the season.
Stock Up: WR Darius Jennings
Just days before the Browns were set to face the Chiefs, receiver Darius Jennings wasn't even on the roster. The undrafted rookie spent most of the year on the practice squad, though he was on the team's active roster for two other games in December.
Waived after those appearances, he returned a week later to lead all Browns receivers in snaps played in Week 16, according to Pro Football Focus—62 out of a possible 69. He was the team's second-leading receiver in terms of yardage, with three catches on four targets for 37 yards.
It's been hard for Jennings to crack the game-day roster, simply because he's yet another receiver on the smaller side (5'10", 169 lbs) on a roster full of them. But his reliable hands and obvious work ethic in concert with mounting injuries at the position have afforded him this opportunity. And it's clear the Browns think he's worthy not just of playing time but lots of it.
Stock Down: QB Johnny Manziel
Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel was unleashed as a running quarterback against the Chiefs, posting 108 yards on his 11 runs. But that was the only positive to come from his performance in Week 16.
Manziel appeared to regress as a passer, with Kansas City's pressure forcing him to struggle with his footwork and mechanics. Though the Chiefs did not sack him once, their approach paid off: Manziel completed only 13 of his 32 pass attempts for 136 yards, zero touchdowns and an interception.
Then came another unflattering video of Manziel posted on social media. Though it's less concerning to head coach Mike Pettine than the one that surfaced during the team's bye week, which led to a brief benching, Pettine said he will still meet with Manziel this week about it. He did add, though, that "this is not similar to the circumstances that involved [the bye week video and response]. Going back to there, that was more trust and accountability than it was necessarily the act."
But Manziel's final chance to prove worthy of remaining the Browns' starter in 2016 and beyond could have been in Week 16. He self-reported concussion symptoms to the team on Wednesday and, as such, could be inactive against the Pittsburgh Steelers, with Austin Davis serving as the starter.
Manziel has appeared in 10 games this year with six starts. Hopefully, that's enough of a body of work to determine what his future in Cleveland may be. Because he may not get that seventh start Sunday.
Stock Up: WR Terrelle Pryor
Browns receiver Terrelle Pryor did not have a single target or catch in Week 16, but his newly minted talents as a wideout aren't why his stock is on the rise in Week 17. No, it's because of his lifelong experience playing quarterback that has him trending upward.
Browns head coach Mike Pettine said Wednesday that if starter Johnny Manziel (concussion symptoms) cannot play, the team is entertaining the thought of making Pryor the backup to Austin Davis against the Steelers.
Though Pettine did say that the Browns will determine as the week unfolds whether another quarterback needs to be signed or if Pryor will get the No. 2 nod, he did confirm that Pryor will take quarterback snaps in practice, at least on Wednesday.
Pryor may be trying to switch his position, but this week, quarterback could be his base of operations. And there's nothing wrong with him showing off his versatility to the team that so desperately wants to make something of him.
Stock Down: WR Dwayne Bowe
Browns receiver Dwayne Bowe saw the most playing time of the year against the Chiefs, as he was on the field for 32 of Cleveland's offensive plays, according to Pro Football Focus. Yet, it made little difference on his statistical output for the year.
Bowe had just one target in the game and no catches. That brings his 2015 total to 13 targets, five receptions, 53 yards and no touchdowns. The high-priced free agent hasn't done nearly enough to warrant his payday and has become Exhibit A when arguing for the ouster of general manager Ray Farmer.
He should see the field to some degree against the Steelers, given the health issues at the position. But there's little pointing to him redeeming himself in the final game of the season and proving why he was signed in the first place. It's been a lost year for Bowe and a lot of lost cap space for little in return for the Browns.
Stock Up: CB Depth
Cornerback Tramon Williams was another Browns player who self-reported concussion symptoms Wednesday, putting his playing status against the Steelers in doubt. Fellow starter Joe Haden is already on injured reserve due to his numerous concussions suffered this year, which means there will be a dearth of experience on the field to take on Pittsburgh's myriad receiving threats.
Still, this can be a good thing for Cleveland's cornerback depth. The Browns have a number of young cornerbacks who are trying to lock down starting roles in the future, and all could potentially see playing time Sunday, according to head coach Mike Pettine.
Pettine listed "[Justin] Gilbert, [Pierre] Desir, [Charles] Gaines, (DB) K'Waun [Williams] and [Johnson] Bademosi" as in line to start or play "if Tramon more than likely can't go." Of the four, three are first- or second-year players who will receive valuable experience against such a high-powered offense.
It's not an ideal scenario for the Browns' immediate bottom line—winning—but it does help them further evaluate where they stand at the position and which of these young players may be able to step up in the longer term.