Punch Drunk Wonderland

How good is Brian Hoyer? As good as his offensive line.

The Cleveland Browns beat up on the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday Night Football to move to 6-3 on the season. There are many facets of the Browns’ game that looked great last night, but quarterback Brian Hoyer is a big piece that rises to the top when you think about the team’s success. Over the last two years as a starter Hoyer has a 9-3 record while all other Browns’ quarterbacks over that time frame are 1-12. Considering the other personnel hasn’t changed too drastically in Cleveland, that says a lot about Hoyer.

Hoyer’s 75% win percentage is only matched by Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Nick Foles over the same two year span. That’s a lofty crowd. So, what does this mean in terms of the Cleveland quarterback situation and Hoyer’s value both to the Browns and in fantasy football? Let’s look at his numbers as a starter for Cleveland.

G Att Comp Pct Yds Att/G Yds/G TD Int Rate
12 371 218 58.80% 2827.00% 30.9 235.9 15 7 88.4

Also, let’s take a look at how Hoyer has been graded out by Pro Football Focus in 2014. These ratings are typically good metrics to determine how well a player is doing. They are not definitive, but are at least good multi-faceted metrics.

Brian-Hoyer-Wk10-PFF-Grades

As you can see, Hoyer has been solid. Not sensational, but solid as far as starting quarterbacks go and solid enough to get his team wins. By comparison, he is ranked 19th in passer rating in 2014 among quarterbacks who have started at least 3 games. In terms of completion percentage there are only 3 quarterbacks that have started at least 3 games with a lower percentage than Hoyer, so that’s a definite low spot. His TD to Int ratio is 2.5 this season (10 TD, 4 Int) which is fairly middle of the road for starters.

What the numbers are saying is that Hoyer appears to be a moderately better than average quarterback functioning well on a team that has some bright spots to help him along. The biggest bright spot? The offensive line. The Cleveland O-Line has done well in both pass and run blocking. In fact, Cleveland’s offensive line is one of the best units in the NFL this season and probably plays largely into Hoyer’s success. For example, PFF has LT Joe Thomas rated as the top pass blocking and run blocking offensive tackle in the NFL by a VERY wide margin. His overall positional rating is 29.1 which is 9.1 points above the closest lineman behind him in the ratings. To be clear, the only player in the NFL at any position with a higher overall positional rating than Thomas is J.J. Watt. That’s saying something. Thomas’ pass blocking rating is 14.5 which is easily tops in the league and his run blocking rating is 13.2 which is 5.1 points above the next highest offensive tackle. Thomas is a large reason why the Cleveland running game has been so solid this season. But, it’s not just Thomas on the O-Line that is getting it done. Before being lost to injury, center Alex Mack was the #4 rated center of 2014 by PFF in terms of overall rating. Guards Joel Bitonio and John Greco are also both rated Top 8 in the league in terms of overall rating among offensive guards, and they both are Top 6 particularly in run blocking. So, what are we seeing materialize? Here are the PFF numbers for the Cleveland offensive line.

Pos. Rank Pos. Name Team Snaps Overall Pass Block Screen Block Run Block Penalty # of Pen QB Sk QB Ht QB Hu
1  LT (9), RT (0)  Joe Thomas CLV 622 29.1 14.5 1 13.2 0.4 3-1 1 1 3
3  LG (9), RG (0)  Joel Bitonio CLV 622 15.3 5.3 0 10.2 -0.2 4-1 0 1 8
4  C (9)  Alex Mack CLV 300 6.9 1.4 0 5.1 0.4 0-0 0 0 1
8  LG (0), RG (8)  John Greco CLV 545 8 0.5 0 6.9 0.6 1-0 2 2 4
25  LT (0), RT (9)  Mitchell Schwartz CLV 622 3.1 2 0 -0.3 1.4 2-0 3 3 13

 

What we’re seeing is that Brian Hoyer is very likely doing well because his offensive line is performing at an extremely high level. In fact, the biggest factor of success could be the addition of rookie Joel Bitonio alongside Joe Thomas. While Thomas, Mack, and Schwartz were together on the line last season, Bitonio’s addition seems to be the final piece to make this line elite. This is also a big factor into the success of Ben Tate, Terrance West, and Isaiah Crowell in the run game this season. The loss of Alex Mack has hurt a bit, and some have speculated that is why the run game has been less consistent in recent weeks due to the less steady play of Nick McDonald. However, the line as a whole has been strong for the majority of the season. To be fair, Hoyer has performed well and deserves a good deal of the credit. Certainly, the other Cleveland starting QBs that haven’t done as well had most of this same offensive line last season.

What does this mean for Hoyer’s status for the Browns?

Hoyer has gotten himself into a good situation in Cleveland. There’s certainly pressure from some directions to see what rookie Johnny Manziel can do, but Hoyer’s success has him firmly in the driver’s seat. There is little doubt that Cleveland should hang onto Hoyer and it certainly gives them options going forward. He’s probably worth signing for a new contract. Of course, he could also be valued highly on the trade market as well.  If I were in the front office in Cleveland, I would sign Hoyer to a new 3-year deal, find a way to trade Manziel away while there’s value, and then pick up a functional backup either via the 2015 draft or free agency.

Fantasy Focus

So, what does all of this mean for Brian Hoyer’s fantasy value going forward in 2014? Currently Hoyer is ranked #22 among QBs in terms of total fantasy points this season. He’s only averaging 12 fantasy points per game. Cleveland has seen success in the win column largely due to a combination of successes in the pass game, run game, and on defense at various points throughout the season. The win column success that gets Hoyer real life football cheers unfortunately don’t necessarily translate to much fantasy value at this point. The upside is that he will have some favorable matchups in his last seven games of the season as the Browns will face some teams in the lower portion of the league in terms of fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks.

K. Smelser About K. Smelser

Kelly Smelser is Owner/Senior Writer for Punch Drunk Wonderland and PDFantasy Sports. Architect of the PDW fantasy football world and general spinster of NFL and Fantasy Football news and analysis. Long walks on the beach, sunsets, and other such niceties are also fine…

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