Evaluating Cleveland’s Trades

Updated: March 15th 2018

Cleveland made a few high-profile trades this past weekend using some of their enormous draft capital.  I take a closer look at what the Tyrod Taylor and Jarvis Landry moves mean, both in real life and for fantasy purposes.

Tyrod Taylor from Buffalo to Cleveland for 208 3rd (65th Overall)

Let’s start with one of the more divisive players based on evaluator’s opinions.  The Bills move a player clearly not in the team’s future and receives significant compensation in the process, Cleveland’s top of the third round pick.  The trade gives Cleveland a short-term placeholder for the likely top-4 pick quarterback taken in this year’s draft.  For the most part, you know what you are getting from Taylor at this point.  He provides a low-volume passer who prefers running the ball than throwing into tight windows when questionable passing situations arrive.  What does he do well?  His supreme athleticism sets Tyrod as one of the top rushers at the quarterback position and gives him the ability to extend plays and escape free rushers.  This gives his team free first downs to extend drives from time to time when other quarterbacks would simply throw the ball away and punt.  He also has a risk-averse personality which limits the number of turnover-worthy plays resulting in one of the lowest interception rates in the league.

On the other side of the spectrum, Taylor struggles with most aspects of the passing game.  His lack of fundamental footwork, mechanics, and pocket awareness routinely results in inaccurate throws.  He does not possess the arm-strength to drive the ball which severely limits the number of intermediate-deep routes, particularly boundary throws. Taylor also struggles mightily in diagnosing defenses and choosing open receiving targets resulting in far too many missed opportunities.  Taylor is a player who can keep you in competitive games with his legs and avoid turnovers but his limitations as a passer hurts drive to drive consistency and severely hinders a team playing from behind needing to pass the ball.

Figure 1.  Selected Tyrod Taylor Statistics

What does the trade mean for fantasy?  Tyrod remains in the low-end QB1/high-end QB2 conversation thanks largely to his rushing ability.  He averaged over 500 rushing yards and almost 5 rushing TDs in his three seasons for Buffalo.  His surrounding players are likely at least as good, and probably better than those in Buffalo.  At the same time, the Bills quarterback never exceeded 436 attempts or 3,035 yards in any of his three seasons with Buffalo.  Taylor’s low-volume passing attack is unlikely to significantly change in Cleveland.

Looking at the other direction, what does this do for the fantasy prospects of Cleveland receivers?  Unfortunately, this is one of the worst-case scenarios for Browns pass catchers.  Gordon, Coleman, and Njoku all looked like potential values heading into the year.  The arrival of Taylor probably puts that on hold for a season.  Almost any other conceivable available option at quarterback provided far more potential volume and scoring opportunities to the receiving corp.  During Taylor’s three starting seasons, Buffalo ranked no better than 28th in passing yards, 20th in passing touchdowns, and 30th in completions.  Put another way, Buffalo averaged 6 fewer passing touchdowns, 63 less completions, and over 700 less yards than the average NFL team each season under Taylor.  Taylor produced very little in the passing department despite playing with wide receivers which have been more productive on other teams including Kevin Hogan, Kelvin Benjamin, Jordan Matthews, Robert Woods, and Marquise Goodwin.  The Browns likely limited passing volume means one of Cleveland’s receivers would need a huge target share to make a substantial fantasy impact.  The arrival of Jarvis Landry makes that event even less likely to occur.

Figure 2.  Buffalo Passing vs NFL Passing, 2015-2017

Grade: C-, Taylor is a fine short-term option at quarterback but the 65th pick is a hefty price to pay for a probable middling stopgap.  He immediately improves the quarterback spot over what the Browns received from Kizer last season, however you could say the same thing for virtually anyone they would have brought in.  The deal looks worse in a deep free agency quarterback class with multiple options who possess production potential similar to Taylor’s and far higher upside available for no draft compensation.

Jarvis Landry from Miami to Cleveland for 2018 4th (123rd Overall) and 2019 7th

Miami’s abysmal salary cap situation made moving Landry a virtual must-do to get out of his contract.  The Browns obtain a quality NFL receiver, albeit one with a very specific skill-set, at a relatively cheap price in terms of draft pick compensation.  Landry provides a safety net for Taylor (see above) and whoever Cleveland takes at quarterback in the draft for the future.  The offense will need to incorporate many designed screens and other short routes to take advantage of his strengths.  He is not a player you will run a typical route tree with and expect to be successful.

Landry’s fantasy value becomes very problematic to pinpoint in Cleveland but is almost certainly a significant downgrade next season.  His value while in Miami was tied to a unique scheme in which the large majority of receptions and yardage came from the short passing game.  He averaged 100 catches a season with the Dolphins but only 10.1 yards per reception while gobbling up almost 142 targets per year.  It is difficult imagining a scenario with Taylor at quarterback where Landry sees anywhere close to that kind of usage.

Grade: B, The bottom of the fourth round is where teams start expecting role players, backups, and special teamers.  That is a very reasonable price to pay for a good NFL starter.  The true value of the trade depends on what role the Browns have in store for Landry and how they incorporate him into the offense.  This deal becomes better if Cleveland signs Landry to a reasonable long-term contract. They definitely have the cap space to do so.


Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

 

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