I’m not saying Johnny Manziel is going to win championships for fantasy footballers in the next few weeks, but I’m also not not saying that Manziel is going to win championships for fantasy footballers over the next few weeks.
The polarizing Browns rookie finally got his (inevitable) chance to quarterback the team on Sunday in Buffalo after yet another disastrous outing from Brian Hoyer, and promptly posted 76 total yards and a rushing score before the Cleveland offense faltered down the stretch.
I don’t claim to know if JFF — as he’s affectionately known — has what it takes to make the Browns a perennial contender, nor do I really care. I know this much: Manziel, unless the Browns inexplicably go back to Hoyer, is now at the helm of an offense with plenty of talent, including a top-5 fantasy receiver and a rookie runner in Isaiah Crowell who could very easily become a top option in time.
And as I wrote last spring, Manziel — if he’s anything remotely close to other mobile signal callers — has a decidedly high fantasy floor. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that Manziel could post the magical .54 fantasy points per drop back that other successful running quarterbacks have notched in recent seasons, meaning that in a game that sees JFF drop back 35 times, he would push the 19-point mark. That in and of itself is not championship-winning production, but it shows that Manziel, who sports similar measurables to Russell Wilson, has a floor that should grab the attention of anyone and everyone who doesn’t have an elite signal caller on their roster.
Those who snatch Manziel from their local waiver wire will get to fire up the rookie in a game that will force the Browns to score points — a strategy to which they don’t always seem committed. They take on a Colts’ offense averaging 35 points in road games, highest in the league. Indy rates as a top-10 matchup for opposing quarterbacks, per the Rotoviz Buy Low Machine, as the Colts allow 313.1 passing yards per game when they’re on the road. Indy’s home-road defensive splits are quite alarming, in fact, and bode well for Manziel if he in fact gets the call in Week 14.
To those who charge that Gordon’s fantasy value will be dinged with JFF at the helm, I submit to you that Gordon’s 2013 quarterbacks couldn’t have been worse, and he finished as fantasy’s No. 1 wide receiver in a suspension-shortened season. I think Manziel’s improvisation and willingness to chuck it down-field could be the spark that leads to Gordon lighting the league on fire over the next month.
Here are some more takeaways from Week 13…
- Colt McCoy, in two games as Washington’s starter, is averaging 346 yards with a 75 percent completion rate. He still has no pocket presence — as he showed several times against the Colts — but he’s functional in Jay Gruden’s offense, something we weren’t able to say about Robert Griffin III. With Washington’s defense in flames, I expect McCoy to continue to throw plenty down the stretch as he maintains a legitimately high ceiling. His Week 14 matchup against St. Louis stinks, but he then gets the Giants and Eagles. Washington beat writers said in August that McCoy was much better than RGIII and Kirk Cousins as the head of Gruden’s offense, and after his first two starts, it’s easy to see why. Quarterback streamers should roster McCoy for the stretch run.
- C.J. Anderson is a clear-cut top-5 fantasy back for the remainder of the season. The Peyton sponge effect is back in all its fake football glory with Anderson, who has Manning’s trust as a dominant blitz-blocking runner with pass game chops. He’s everything Denver could want in a running back. If you face a start-sit decision in the coming weeks, the answer is always to start Anderson.
- Marion Grice is the pickup for those who lost Andre Ellington to a hip pointer this week. The extraordinarily inefficient Ellington is expected back in Week 15 at the latest, but Grimes makes for a decent Week 14 fill-in against a Kansas City defense giving up the third-most rushing yards per game after 13 weeks. Only the Giants and Titans allow more rushing yardage. Grice played 33 snaps after Ellington went down against the Falcons, totaling 40 yards on eight touches. I’d be wary of Grice as anything more than a desperation play, however, as the Cardinals offense has degenerated into a fantasy wasteland after the season-ending injury to Carson Palmer. If you’re rolling with Grice, you’re hoping he becomes a check-down target for the terribly inaccurate Drew Stanton and maybe falls into the end zone for a short score. Anything more would be icing on your degenerate cake.