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Johnny Manziel's Fantasy Outlook After Being Named Browns' Starting QB

Fantasy Football
September 18, 2015

After a brief taste of starting for the Cleveland Browns last season, Johnny Manziel will get his second crack at proving himself as an NFL quarterback and viable fantasy option in Week 2 against the Tennessee Titans.

Browns head coach Mike Pettine announced on Friday, per Andrew Gribble of the team’s official website, that Josh McCown has not been cleared after suffering a concussion last week, opening the door for Manziel to make his first start of 2015.

In the 17 months since Cleveland made Manziel a first-round draft pick, it’s been a roller coaster for both parties. He made two starts as a rookie, but he was injured late in the second quarter against the Carolina Panthers and didn’t play again.

Manziel enters this week against the Titans with one full game of NFL experience under his belt, though he did play three quarters last week. The one game he played all four quarters, against the Cincinnati Bengals, was a disaster.

After taking over for McCown against the New York Jets last week, Manziel did look better with his first career touchdown pass and 182 passing yards. He did throw an interception, but overall, it was a vast improvement over anything that happened in 2014.

It’s more impressive considering the Jets have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, even with Sheldon Richardson serving a suspension. Tennessee’s defensive line cannot match the talent of Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams and linebackers like Quinton Coples and David Harris.

Even though the Titans defense looked strong last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, intercepting two passes and returning one for a touchdown, that was against a rookie in Jameis Winston who plays behind one of the most unstable offensive lines in the league.

By comparison, Cleveland’s offensive line came into 2015 regarded as one of the NFL’s best, ranking third behind the Dallas Cowboys and the Baltimore Ravens, per Michael Renner of ProFootballFocus.com.

Brad Evans of Yahoo Sports sees Manziel having a very good week against the Titans defense:

The dual-threat is one of the cheapest QBs on the board. Similar to Tyrod Taylor last week he allows you to maximize affordability and stack other positions. Admittedly, he’s a bit of a wildcard but the TItans defense isn’t the ’85 Bears. Tally roughly 200 passing, 50 rushing with a TD and he’ll turn a friggin’ profit.

The Tyrod Taylor comparison doesn’t exactly hold up because Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan is going to run the ball 35-40 times every game, both to wear down opposing defenses and to protect his unproven quarterback.

Pettine let Manziel go in the second half, in no small part because the Jets put up 31 points and Cleveland had to play catch up. The best thing that could happen to the Browns this week is playing a low-scoring game with Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson running the ball effectively.

Plus, to whom is Manziel throwing the ball?

Travis Benjamin had one big play last week, catching a 54-yard touchdown from Manziel, but he’s never caught more than 18 passes in a season; Andrew Hawkins is undersized; and Brian Hartline is a possession receiver.

Manziel’s long-term fantasy outlook is bleak because Pettine said leading up to Week 2 that McCown would be the starting quarterback if he was cleared, per NFL Media’s Steve Wyche (via NFL.com’s Marc Sessler). The situation might change next week if Manziel goes off against Tennessee, but there’s been no evidence early in his career that will happen.

If your fantasy team needs a second starting quarterback who won’t embarrass himself in a matchup against a questionable defense, Manziel is an option. He shouldn’t be your first option, but at this late stage, it’s reasonable if no one else is available.

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