The Cleveland Browns have returned to their roots by taking an innovative approach to building a team through the NFL Draft.
The Cleveland Browns are giving a prominent role to analytics in player personnel decisions. This is evident by their philosophical approach to managing their salary cap. But have the Browns done anything to show that analytics is driving personnel decisions?
For all the ink that has been spilled over the Browns non-traditional approach, it should be remembered that the Browns have never been a traditional team. Paul Brown was the greatest innovator in NFL history, making changes from rules to equipment to racial integration. If anything, the Browns spirit of innovation is more traditional than the football traditionalists.
But the question at hand is how this new analytical approach is driving personnel decisions when it comes to the draft. Did the Browns use only analytics? Did they only use traditional scouting methods to make decisions?
The Browns uniquely combined both traditional scouting and analytics when it came to selecting players in the 2016 NFL Draft. There were key performance indicators at play when making draft choices.
At the same time, these analytical cues were filtered through the lenses of offensive and defensive schemes. The Browns selected players that are fits for Ray Horton’s defense and players that fit Hue Jackson’s offense.
In the end, the Browns employed analytics in the service of finding players to fit the schemes the coaches are implementing.
The idea that analytics would serve to find the best players for a given scheme does not fit the national narrative of Harvard computer geeks playing fantasy football with real players. Nevertheless, the Browns use of analytics has demonstrated how it will be used in the NFL, at least initially.
Here are three thoughts on what the Browns have done so far.
Next: Analytics is not about schematic preference