The Draft is Thursday: While We’re Waiting…

NFL Draft Cleveland Browns
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Today is Thursday. The draft is Thursday (#neverforget). Yes, it’s the NFL draft season, not the NBA draft like that infamous post. But it’s practically a religious holiday in Cleveland. Let’s all enjoy this one.

As a recap for where we stand: The Cleveland Browns have the No. 8 pick (via Philadelphia) in the first round of tonight’s NFL Draft along with the first pick in the second round on Day 2 (pick No. 32 because of Deflategate) . Very few people expect the Browns to actually pick in both of those spots without making further moves to compile additional future draft selections. The Browns also own four other picks in the top-100 of the draft (No. 65, No. 77, No. 99, No. 100).

Let’s face it: The Browns were bad in 2015 and they undoubtedly have a worse roster as we stand four-ish months away from the 2016 season. Personally, yes, of course I dreamed of finally drafting a franchise quarterback and maybe Jared Goff/Carson Wentz can be that for Los Angeles (still feels weird to say that) and Philadelphia. Who knows. It’s a guessing game for everyone. There is risk associated with any draft pick at any spot.

But risk can be minimized, in the world of the NFL and 53-man rosters, by trading down and strengthening the entire roster. Yes, it’s an analytical move. Yes, it can still blow up in the Browns’ face as it did with the infamous Julio Jones/Atlanta Falcons trade down in 2011. If the Browns don’t hit on a few very good starters with Philadelphia’s picks, then that trade could look horrendous, too. But it’s a game of risk diversification in a much less star-heavy sport than the NBA. It’s a sound strategy.

Tonight should be fun. It’s about the future. It’s yet another clean slate with a new front office. From my perspective, as a long-time analytics enthusiast, I’m unsurprisingly ecstatic about the potential for this latest approach. Sure, there are risks of the Browns (these Browns) being the innovators in football analytics. If it doesn’t work out and flames out in epic Cleveland fashion, it could be yet another setback in the football analytics revolution (check out my January Q&A with data scientist Trey Causey). But it gives me a ton of pride to see *my team* taking the lead in the wave of the future.

If you haven’t yet, I’d highly recommend reading Jordan Zirm’s Medium post about the way we talk about football analytics and the Browns. Most mainstream narratives have been pure lazy at best, downright deceitful at worst. Analytics is not some voodoo religion that seeks to ruin all that is holy from the game of football. Analytics is not a strategy, even. Analytics is just a slightly different way of looking at the world and of incorporating all available technology into the common decision-making process. It can be very enlightening.

Of course, football is a terribly challenging sport to analyze. With 11 players on the field for each team at a time, countless strategies and formations, and player-tracking technology that hasn’t seemed to quite make a dent yet, progress has seemed to stall somewhat. But I’m hopeful. It’s draft day in Cleveland. The draft is Thursday. And no matter what, we’ll always have today. So let’s enjoy it and have some fun.

Here are some other things that are on my mind today:

  • If you didn’t see the word on social media, I’ve accepted a job as a Success Analyst with a company called KORE Software out in New York City. I’ll be starting on June 1. KORE Software is a sports business data company that helps with CRM-based data visualizations for a client list of about 80-100 professional sports teams. It’ll be a really exciting professional opportunity and I’m stoked for my first full-time sports job. I get sentimental and uber-dramatic often, but I definitely do want to give a huge shoutout to the WFNY founders and you, the loyal WFNY readers. I’ve been writing at this here website since I was a college freshman back in spring 2009. It’s crazy how time flies. Thanks to you all for your long, incredible support. I wouldn’t be making my way to a sports business job in the Big Apple if it weren’t for all of you.
  • Joshua Topolosky, one of the co-founders of Vox Media, had a fascinating Medium post earlier this week on the journalism industry. The headline, “Your Media Business Will Not Be Saved,” promises pemmissim and an eventual doomsday. The content actually delivers even more than you might expect from just that headline alone. I’m inherently a skeptical person by default, so this resonated very well with me. There are precious sustainable Internet content models that seem to be working quite well in today’s age of spring 2016. One that is incredibly fascinating to me: The Athletic, which just launched its second hyper-local smart-sports site this week. Kudos to my Internet friends Adam Hansmann and Danny Leroux on that big news.
  • Let’s talk some Cleveland Cavaliers basketball briefly, shall we? Now that the first-round sweep is over and the Cavs are awaiting a Monday date with Boston or Atlanta … let’s play a quick guessing game. How many losses will the Cavs have before the NBA Finals? Just one? Maybe two? Last year, if you recall, the Cavs went an impressive 12-2 before their June date with the Golden State Warriors. In so doing, they became just the third team in the last 13 years to lose two games or fewer in the first three rounds. All three of those teams eventually lost in the NBA Finals. Is it a curse? Is it just a fluke stat? It’s sort of interesting and on my mind nowadays as we wait, so I figured I’d share the research with all of you.


Continuing the sports news roundup:

  • Idaho is dropping out of the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2018. It is believed to be the first program to do so and fall back to the FCS, via CBS Sports. The University of Akron, a school that has a very strong basketball program, but a very weak and money-draining football stadium/program, would be wise to learn up on these financial details. UA has struggled severely as an institution over the past two-plus years. The school loses a ton of money on football in trying to compete with the roster sizes at the FBS level. Maybe running away from the Mid-American Conference entirely is too presumptive. But Idaho (!) could be a major trendsetter for mid-majors facing the harsh financial realities of today’s college sports environment. This certainly won’t be the last story of its kind.
  • Our most recent Warsaw Sports Marketing Center industry guest was Andy Dolich, a former sports business executive with the 49ers, Raiders, et al. Dolich recently wrote an article for Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area about a future of “virtual season tickets” in the sports world. While I’m personally a skeptic (again with the skepticism) of virtual reality’s mass-market potential in this context, it’s certainly a bold and ambitious idea. As I start my sports business career, I’ll keep my eye on what teams are doing to create new revenue streams in this ever-changing digitally-connected environment. It’s becoming more and more unreasonable for an average American family of four to rationalize the cost of night out at a major professional sports event. So, how can teams continue to develop their fans of the future? What interactive ways can they create to get fans wanting to buy their tickets and their gear?

Other very random links that I’ve enjoyed recently: