Cody Pagels
Should You Draft Him?: AFC North QBs and RBs

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I would like to weigh in on a topic that gets almost no media coverage in this day and age: Johnny Manziel. Ladies and germs, I love me some Manziel. In a sports world filled with personality-devoid automatons spewing platitudes at reporters, here is a quarterback with something completely unheard of for the position: a personality. It absolutely kills me that higher ups in Cleveland have complained about him going to Las Vegas and hanging out with celebrity friends. I’m sorry, but have they even briefly glanced at a TV playing ESPN at any point in the last two years? If you don’t want a quarterback who has fun and hangs out with famous people in his spare time, don’t trade up for a guy who has spent the last two years doing exactly that.

Furthermore, exactly what harm is being done by Manziel being in the vicinity of other famous people? Why is Manziel a distraction destined to fail as a professional football player for the horrible crime of appearing in selfies with Justin Bieber, while a video of Peyton Manning and Kenny Chesney singing karaoke together is endearing and lovable?

Why is Manziel derided for leveraging his celebrity into hanging out with Floyd Mayweather, while Tom Brady leveraging his celebrity into relationships with incredibly gorgeous fellow celebrities is none of our business? I don’t know, but I do know that the horribly unfocused Manziel followed up his 2012 Heisman-winning season by improving his passing statistics across the board and increasing his passer rating by more than 17 points. Clearly, he put no effort into developing pro-style passing skills. His personal life gets a disproportionately massive amount of coverage, but anyone who actually watches the tape knows what he’s really about.

Tony Holm is giving me a death stare right now. I think he wants me to get off Manziel and actually talk about fantasy football. Got it. Every single one of the quarterbacks and running backs of the AFC North are highly questionable. What makes things all the more interesting is that each and every starter is questionable in their own unique way. Andy Dalton has talent concerns. Ben Roethlisberger has stat volume concerns. Johnny Manziel (allegedly) has effort concerns. Joe Flacco has upside concerns. Giovani Bernard has workload concerns. Le’Veon Bell has LeGarrette Blount concerns. Ben Tate has injury concerns. Ray Rice has nothing but concerns.

Here’s the good news: when a player has doubt, his draft position drops. When a highly capable player has doubt, he has the potential to vastly outperform his draft position. I’ll try to figure out where the doubt is justified, and where the doubt can benefit you. Maybe then, I can answer the one burning question: Should you draft him?

(ADP, or average draft position is based on current data from 12-team standard league drafts).

Cincinnati Bengals

Andy Dalton (ADP: Round 11): Last year, he was the fifth-highest scoring fantasy quarterback, and his outstanding stable of young talent has A.J. Green , Marvin Jones , Mohamed Sanu, Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard . The year before last, he managed to crack the top 12 in fantasy scoring among quarterbacks. Despite all this, he’s going as late as the 17th quarterback off the board. I think our collective doubts of Dalton as a real-life quarterback are causing us to undervalue him as a fantasy player. His 1-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio in three consecutive terrible one-and-done playoff appearances sting. His high interception rate brings down his gaudy touchdown and yardage totals and gives him mediocre passing efficiency. I’m every bit as underwhelmed by real-life performance as you, but the fantasy numbers are quite good. He will be available in late rounds, and I know for a fact that he can crack the top 5 in fantasy points at the position because he did it last year. Watching the actual game won’t be pretty, but how do you not use a 10th- or 11th-rounder on him?

Should You Draft Him: Yes.

Giovani Bernard (ADP: 19th Overall): How do you solve a conundrum like Giovani Bernard? He reminds me of Matt Forte in a sense that while he doesn’t have one overwhelmingly incredible physical talent, he’s above average at everything, which comes together to equal a heck of a player. The problem is this: In a typical season for Forte, he gets roughly 100 more carries than Bernard did in his rookie year. Can Bernard get the kind of work that justifies his being a second-round pick and the 11th running back off the board? I’m thinking the answer is yes. Last year, Bernard averaged eight carries in his first nine contests, and he averaged 12.7 carries a game in the final seven. A rushing workload increase of more than half in the second half of the season shows that the Bengals quickly understood what they have in Bernard and how little they have in BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Due to his size, it would be a stretch to expect 250 carries, but 13-15 totes a week and strong reception totals should be enough to get him near 300 total touches. As a player who maximizes his touches (His .74 fantasy points per touch actually narrowly edged LeSean McCoy last year), that should be enough work for top 10 running back production.

Should You Draft Him: Yes.

Jeremy Hill (ADP: Mid-Round 9): If you’re going to draft a backup Bengals running back, Hill is definitely the one to own. At this point, I’m not even sure if Green-Ellis will make the final roster. A ninth-round pick is a bit of a premium price for a fantasy handcuff, but Hill is backing up a starting back who gave scouts injury concerns dating back to his college days. Also, Hill has a chance to be a moderately productive low-end starter even while Bernard is healthy, since he is the more ideal inside rusher and goal-line back. He comes at a point in the draft in which I would rather grab a backup quarterback or a high-upside wide receiver, but he’s not a bad pick as a fourth running back with some upside.

Should You Draft Him: Yes.


Cleveland Browns

Johnny Manziel (ADP: Round 12): I’ll try to keep this one actually focused on fantasy football. This funny thing keeps happening where super-athletic rookie quarterbacks join offenses that look terrible upon first glance, but then he proceeds to just absolutely destroy the fantasy world. I scoffed at people who rushed to the waiver wire to get Cam Newton after his outstanding pro debut. I laughed at people who drafted Robert Griffin III in his rookie season, as I thought there was no way the rookie running quarterback lightning would get caught in a bottle twice. I’m not getting burned a third time. I’m not saying he’ll immediately set the fantasy world on fire, especially with fellow quarterback Brian Hoyer still competing for the starting job. However, he at least has the talented Jordan Cameron and competent veteran Miles Austin to throw to, and Cleveland’s offensive line is actually pretty good. I believe that Griffin’s rookie season represents Manziel’s ceiling. I’ll throw out a 12th-rounder for the possibility.

Should You Draft Him: Yes.

Ben Tate (ADP: Mid-Round 5): The Browns finally got the running back that they have coveted for years. He generally played well in his first three seasons as Arian Foster's backup, but he struggled to stay healthy with a minor workload. He has good size and he’s extremely tough, but with his injury history, I’m very skeptical of his ability to hold up under 15-20 carries a week. Then you have the matter of rookie Terrance West, who thus far has presented a legitimate threat to Tate’s job. As of right now, a full-blown committee is very much conceivable. In Tate we have a talented player, but he’s injury-prone, he has a chance of falling into a committee or even losing his job, and his team struggled to run the ball last year. I will spend my fifth-round pick elsewhere, good sir!

Should You Draft Him: No.

Terrance West (ADP: Early Round 8): I like this value much more. Aside from suspect pass catching skills, West is a beast in pretty much every other way. He’ll have to beat out the more experienced and better paid Ben Tate, but I feel like both players have pretty much the same value. In the event of a committee, you probably won’t want to start either with any regularity, and if one gets hurt or beats out the other for more work, you’ve got a pretty solid RB2 who you can start with confidence. Based on reports, I view the two players as close to even in the starting job sweepstakes. The only real difference that I see so far is the fact that Tate is going in Round 5 while West can be had in Round 8. Equal potential and lower price makes West the Browns back to own.

Should You Draft Him: Yes.


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