By Wayne B. Jones for TonySoftli.com
It has been over fifty years since the Cleveland Browns won a NFL championship. Paul Brown was their coach and Jim Brown was their best player. But today this once proud franchise is trying to reinvent itself with its new Head Coach Hue Jackson and its Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta. Their objective is to build a Super Bowl caliber roster by using Moneyball (data-driven) decision-making concepts.
Most successful NFL franchises have built their rosters thru the Draft and supplemented it by signing free agents and the occasional trade. Sabermetrics, or Moneyball, is the practice of crunching copious amounts of data in an effort to build a stronger and smarter roster without needing to go after high price players; who may cost a team millions of dollars. This method holds that the skill of individual players aren’t what makes or breaks a team; in the long run, the goal is to make sure that each necessary skill is accounted for, whether by one player or four. The end result is simple; the team will function like a clock, with each cog serving its own purpose.
There are 32 teams in the NFL, but since the 1970’s a handful have dominated the Super Bowl title. What do they have in common ? The ability to evaluate, acquire, and develop talent. Evaluating talent is easy if you know what to look for; it is an art, not a science. Acquiring and developing talent is a bit more challenging. NFL player personnel departments are monolithic organizational and operational structures. The people that run them have a psychological resistance to change. They hold deeply held ideas and traditions in the area of scouting and prospect evaluation; that are outdated in this era of hard salary cap restrictions.
The majority of NFL teams use analytics in one form or another; for example: salary cap, trades, and clock management. But how many use it for scouting, drafting, team-building and performance models ? The Browns under DePodesta have changed their organizational structure on how it evaluates and acquires talent. The ability to synthesize data driven information with on-field knowledge and observation will be the key to their success.
How do you build a Super Bowl caliber roster ? You must find the talent, coach the talent and then hold the talent accountable. The key to winning in the National Football League is simple: Production, Performance, and Preparation.
The Browns analytical experiment in finding and fielding a team will be watched closely.
#15 Corey Coleman WR Baylor 5’10” 194 (explosive speed, return specialist)
#32 Emmanuel Ogbah DE Oklahoma State 6’4” 273 (solid at the point-of-attack, makes plays)
#65 Carl Nassib DE Penn State 6’6” 277 (high motor, consistent versus the pass and run)
#76 Shon Coleman OT Auburn 6’5” 307 (good feet, excellent size. Powerful run blocker)
#93 Cody Kessler QB USC 6’1” 220 (good touch and ball placement, a game manager)
#99 Joe Schobert LB Wisconsin 6’1” 244 (quick feet, sheds blocks well)
#114 Ricardo Louis WR Auburn 6’1” 215 (can play inside or out, excellent straight line speed)
#129 Derrick Kindred S TCU 5’10” 207 (tough heavy hitter, solid tackler)
#138 Seth Devalve TE Princeton 6’4” 245 (good size and route running)
#154 Jordan Payton WR UCLA 6’1” 207 (good size and hands, knows how to get open)
#168 Spencer Drango OT Baylor 6’5” 315 (good hands/punch. Mirrors well)
#172 Rashard Higgins WR Colorado State 6’1” 196 (solid hands, good run-after-the-catch ability)
#173 Trey Caldwell CB Louisiana-Monroe 5’9” 186 (aggressive tackler, quick feet, mirrors well)
#250 Phillip “Scooby” Wright III LB Arizona 5’11” 239 (high motor, strong tackler)