After what feels like an endless wait, we finally have some clarity on where Robert Griffin III will be plying his quarterbacking trade next fall: Cleveland. …
Welcome to the #DawgPound, Robert Griffin III!
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) March 24, 2016
Now that we know Griffin will don the orange and brown, fantasy owners have a decision to make. Should they invest fantasy capital in the former Baylor stud?
The Hue Jackson Effect
One of the best reasons to acquire Griffin is the presence of Hue Jackson in Cleveland. Jackson’s aggressive downfield passing scheme, backed up with a power run game, has been making quarterbacks better since… Joey Harrington?
Harrington played under Jackson in 2007, while he was the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons. Using the RotoViz Career Graphs app, we see that the former first round bust actually played fairly well under the tutelage of Jackson. Harrington did not throw for a ton of touchdowns, but completed by far his highest percentage of passes, tied his lowest interception rate, and had his second best adjusted yards per attempt (what I generally consider the best indicator of quarterback performance). Especially considering that this was Harrington’s final year in the league, it looks as though Jackson did an outstanding job with him.
Jackson then moved on to Baltimore for a couple of years as a quarterbacks coach before becoming the Raiders’ offensive coordinator in 2010 and head coach in 2011. His first signal-caller during that regime was Jason Campbell.
Again, we can see that 2010 and 2011 represent two of Campbell’s best seasons. It is probably best to focus on 2010, since he played 13 games that year. In that season, Campbell posted a career high in AYA, and he did not throw many interceptions. His 2011 season was cut short because Oakland traded for Carson Palmer. Let’s see how he fared under Jackson:
I narrowed the scope a little for Palmer since he is the most productive quarterback mentioned so far, and because this five year window occurred between two different major knee injuries. Palmer threw a lot of picks under Jackson in Oakland, but recorded his highest AYA over this time frame while throwing to Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore. That is fairly remarkable in itself. Three years later, Jackson became the offensive coordinator for the Bengals and Andy Dalton, a position he held through the 2015 season. Here’s how Dalton did under Jackson:
Dalton was admittedly just okay in his inaugural season with Jackson, but fantasy owners should keep in mind that both Tyler Eifert and Marvin Jones missed the entire season (Eifert was injured in Week 1), and A.J. Green also missed three games. In 2015, with everyone (mostly) healthy, Dalton had BY FAR his best season as a pro in just about every statistical category. This materialized in an AYA about two yards higher than his previous career high. Since Jackson has been so good with his previous four quarterbacks, I would expect him to do the same with Griffin.
The Josh Gordon Effect
We don’t yet know if Josh Gordon will be re-instated for the 2016 season, but when he played 14 games in 2013, he elevated the play of the quarterbacks around him. That season, the trio of Campbell, Brandon Weeden, and Brian Hoyer combined to score 271.1 fantasy points, good for QB13 on the year. In fact, if we look at the RotoViz Game Splits app, we can see exactly what the presence of Gordon did for those three signal-callers.
Both Campbell and Weeden were markedly better fantasy passers with Gordon in the fold, and while Hoyer’s splits aren’t as impressive, if we remove the Thursday night game against Buffalo where he threw just four passes before being injured, Hoyer comes out ahead with Gordon. I would expect Gordon to also have a similar effect on Griffin if he ends up being reinstated.
The Competition Effect
I’ve spent plenty of time preaching this as a player, coach, and fantasy analyst: competition breeds excellence. If you want to see what someone is made of, you have to put his back against the wall and see how they handle it. We are about to see how Griffin handles true competition (I don’t think he received a fair shot in Washington) in Cleveland.
All current reports still have the Browns selecting a quarterback with the number two pick in the draft, and that means Griffin will probably have to compete with Carson Wentz or Jared Goff this summer. This could be his last shot to really impress NFL teams and become a full-time starter for another franchise once Cleveland passes the torch to one of the young guns. We should absolutely get Griffin’s best play, whatever that ends up being.
Personally, I think Griffin is absolutely worth investing in for fantasy owners. We can’t be sure which Griffin will show up in Cleveland, and the return of Gordon is far from guaranteed, but Hue Jackson has simply been outstanding for quarterbacks, even when the weapons have not been great. The presence of a highly drafted rookie will probably keep his draft cost low, making Griffin the ideal, cheap pickup in 2QB leagues. The best part about buying now is that if the first round quarterback narrative doesn’t play out, you just got a guaranteed starter at a cheap price.