After re-watching Brian Hoyer‘s starts against the Minnesota Vikings and the Cincinnati Bengals, I can safely say that, barring any injuries, Johnny Manziel will not be the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns at the beginning of the 2014 NFL season.
The average fantasy football player didn’t have much reason to pay attention to Hoyer, as he only got a chance to play when fantasy irrelevant Brandon Weeden was sidelined from a thumb injury. Tight end Jordan Cameron paid off nicely in the first games of the season for those who did their homework before their draft, but he was widely unknown. Josh Gordon endured a two-game suspension at the start of the season that scared away far too many fantasy players from drafting him, and fantasy owners were left with little reason to pay attention to what was happening in Cleveland. You might have missed out on the two games Hoyer started before he tore his ACL, but there is no excuse not to familiarize yourself with him heading into your 2014 draft.
Hoyer’s performance of 321 passing yards may not seem impressive against a Viking’s defense that ranked 31st against the pass at the end of the 2013 season, but he proved that he could take charge of a team. He looked shaky at the beginning of the game, and Hoyer seemed determined to pass to a certain receiver after each snap no matter how the play unfolded. The 28-year-old quarterback also had two terrible interceptions because he stared down his receivers, and he had a third that was caused by a tip. After facing two straight loses, however, Hoyer was able to march the Browns down the field at the end of the fourth quarter and give Cleveland its first win of the season.
Gordon obviously helped to make Hoyer look good with his 146 receiving yards, but Tom Brady‘s former backup was impressive in his own right. He had some beautiful touchdown passes to Cameron and was able to place the ball only where his tight end could come down with it. If Hoyer didn’t connect with his receivers, the ball was normally overthrown rather than underthrown for a defender to pick off. Hoyer put up 18 fantasy points in standard scoring leagues, and he built on his performance in Week 4.
Hoyer had his work cut out for him against the Bengals, but he was able to lead his team to victory against the defense that ranked fifth against the pass in 2013. The Browns’ rushing attack only finished the game with a combined 89 total rushing yards, but Hoyer was able to handle the pressure with 269 passing yards and two passing touchdowns. He looked much more poised, and he took the time to look for the most open receiver to get the ball to. His quick release was hard for defenses to keep up with on third down, and his second-straight game of 18 fantasy points made him look like a promising fantasy option after leading the Browns to a shocking victory over the Bengals.
Without Gordon, Hoyer’s value does take a hit. Gordon’s ability to extend plays and haul in anything thrown near him will be missed, but the Browns have tried to add some new weapons on the offense. Wide receivers Miles Austin and Earl Bennett are experienced players that will bring consistency to the passing attack, and running backs Ben Tate and Terrance West should be able to help improve the offense that ranked 27th in rushing yards last season. Once Hoyer settles in, he will be on the path to finish as a top 10 quarterback in fantasy football for 2014.
Let everyone else in your league drool over Manziel. Hoyer is the true star to own.