I have seen a lot of media coverage recently about the Cleveland Browns and their draft strategy paired with their acquisition of Robert Griffin III. Most of it is a lot of media coverage without a lot of activity in the NFL world, but I have read a lot of articles that are fairly critical of their actions and what they have been saying. What I am going to do is try to understand why they would do the things that they have done. They may be making a mistake and I might be wrong about their strategy, but I want to try and defend their actions. It should also be noted that I am in no way a Browns fan. Lets dive into it.
They Got RG3:
This one is slightly difficult to defend mainly due to the price, but given the landscape of the NFL; RG3 didn’t have many places where he could use his skill sets. Under a certain system, RG3 has shown a very high upside. I think a lot of his success depends on a couple things:
- How willing they are to run a read-option type offense. I think the best way to get the most out of RG3 is to go back to his “comfort zone.” Hue Jackson has shown the ability to adapt to his situation and ran a lot of these concepts with the Bengals so I don’t foresee this being too much of an issue.
- How much defenses have caught up to the read-option. I don’t buy too much into this. Although there are teams that haven’t thrived recently with these offensive concepts (49ers), there are teams who have thrived with it (Panthers).
They said they were going to draft another quarterback:
This is really what I wanted to talk about. The Browns are getting a lot of grief for saying they will take the best prospect even if thats a quarterback. This is where I think the news is over-reported and reporters want to report on what is said rather than what it might mean. So now we get into some game theory. Basically it is a school of mathematical models that try to understand the interaction the value payoffs of interactions of rational decision-makers. So this is where I want to be critical about people getting upset with the Browns for saying they will take the “best prospect” even if that means taking a quarterback. This goes beyond the Browns when it comes to the draft, some of the media over-reporting, and general over-reaction; but they are the pet project for this post.
So lets assume the Browns tell the media or fans what they are going to do so that we all know and everyone can decide before the draft if its the right decision. You know who else hears what the Brown’s plans are? The other 31 teams in the NFL. So lets play the game of fans and the media getting what they want. The Browns have two choices in the draft: draft, trade. Why would they commit to taking a player if there are a bevy of other teams potentially looking at the same player?
If we play the scenario game of them wanting to trade back, this is where things make more sense. If they say they aren’t going to take one of the quarterbacks in the draft then why would any team trade with them? This website does a great job of breaking down the relative value of draft positions. The potential trade franchise can wait to deal with the San Diego Chargers at the three spot and potentially gain back a 7th rounder versus dealing with the Browns. If the team thinks the Chargers aren’t in the market yet (although Rivers is getting old), they can try to deal with the Cowboys at the four spot which is basically the equivalent of that team gaining a late 5th round pick by not dealing with the Browns. If the Browns say they aren’t going to take a quarterback after picking up RG3, a potential trade partner just gained a draft pick if they decide to deal with someone else. Since the NFL is a competitive league, why would the Browns basically give a team bargaining power? Its also important to note that they are being non-committal about the actual pick. They are just saying the “best player” which still keeps bargaining power if a team wants to trade up for another asset. Quarterbacks are also notoriously the most sought after asset in the NFL so saying you will potentially take one makes teams desperate to trade up.
Being transparent about your strategy
This one is a little less definitive and measurable, but its basically stating that any statement followed by some sort of action to that statement gives other players an idea of how you will react in scenarios. For some people learning poker for the first time, the idea of bluffing or varying betting strategies so their opponent can’t guess their hand is confusing. This line of thought is no different for this scenario. Whats important to note is that you can vary your betting strategy with positive outcome, but you can never show your hand and expect a positive outcome if there is still betting to be done.
Why does some of the media care so much?
I honestly do not understand why the media spends so much time covering things like “who are you going to draft?” and “how are you going to beat team X’s defense?” If I were one of the teams I would just constantly troll the media. As fans and outsiders looking in I hope teams are at least this smart about their actions. If I were them I would constantly try to confuse my opposition towards my actions. Or try to understand the payout structure of various options. Here’s to hoping the new brain trust at the Browns know what they are doing. Also, this article is more about understanding the actions of teams leading up to the draft. It would actually be interesting if there was a log of teams that tried to trade up and their trade offers. If this could be married up with the press releases of the team, it would make for an interesting dataset.