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Johnny Manziel should be the Cleveland Browns’ starting quarterback

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Johnny Manziel is moving up the Cleveland Browns’ depth chart. At least in the eyes of the opposition.

I’m expecting Manziel to be the starter,” Steelers defensive coordinator LeBeau said Monday. “That’s what I’m expecting. What he did in college is not an accident. He did it often enough against good teams.”

In his Heisman Trophy-winning season of 2012, Manziel completed 68 percent of his passes for 3,706 yards with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions (155.3 passer rating), also rushing for 1,410 yards and 21 rushing touchdowns. The following year, he threw for 4,114 yards and 37 touchdowns along with 13 interceptions, but five of those bounced out of his receiver’s hands, so he was perhaps a little better than his 172.9 passer rating illustrates.

But that was against college competition. Typically, there is a huge drop-off in performance during a quarterback’s transition to the NFL, especially in his rookie year.

Here is a list of SEC quarterbacks taken in the first round since 2000 and their rookie NFL performances. As you can see, only Cam Newton found any sort of success.

(Source: Pro Football Reference)

Looked at another way, here is the average performance of the above quarterbacks during their college careers and their rookie NFL seasons.


For context, Oakland’s Matt McGloin completed 118 of 211 passes and threw for 1,547 yards, eight touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2013, registering a 76.1 passer rating. That’s what you can expect on average from an SEC quarterback’s first year.

But is that better than what Brian Hoyer could give the Browns? Probably.

Hoyer has tallied just 1,231 passing yards in five NFL seasons and is projected to throw 151 times for 1,022 yards in 2014. Certainly Manziel can provide that type of production while gaining valuable experience as a starting QB in the NFL.

“Like I said all along, playing for this team was my dream as a child, but being from here doesn’t make me the best quarterback for this team,” Hoyer said. “I want to earn it on the field, and it’s great to have an opportunity.”

But the Browns are better off giving that opportunity to Manziel.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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