The Kitchens Effect
Freddie Kitchens comes to the Browns with little coordinator experience and zero head coaching experience. He does have a long history of coaching in the NFL. To illustrate, he has coached under the likes of Bill Parcells (2006), Ken Whisenhunt (2007-2012) and Bruce Arians (2013-2017). This article covers the success he had taking over the Browns offense in week 9. We will also explore the potential fantasy impact at each major position.
The Kitchens Effect
After Hue Jackson and Todd Haley were fired, Kitchens took the reins off Baker Mayfield. Mayfield was almost dead last if FPPG under Hue. Granted he didn’t start the first couple of games, but this is a Point Per Game (PPG) chart.
Take a stab at who averaged the most yards per play weeks 9 through 17 in the NFL. Was it the Rams? Chiefs? Saints? Nope. It was the Cleveland Browns. Talk about an immediate impact. After Hue Jackson and Todd Haley were fired, Kitchens took the reins off Baker Mayfield.
The result was a thriving, efficient offense that also happened to finish 3rd in yards gained per drive during that same time period. Baker was a top 10 QB the 2nd half of the season.
An argument could be made that they had an easier strength of schedule. Regardless of how easy or hard you think the strength of schedule was, 6.86 yards per play is impressive. In weeks 1 through 8, they faced the 18th hardest schedule in terms of defensive efficiency. That number was 7th easiest in weeks 9 through 17.
The Addition of Monken
Kitchens has hired Todd Monken as his OC. This is a smart hire given Monken’s offensive success in the Tampa offense the past few years. Monken brings 30 years of coaching experience to Cleveland. He also brings with him experience in the Air Raid offense.
Monken was the OC at Oklahoma State in 2010 and 2011. Monken had great success there and propelled it into the head coaching gig at Southern Miss. This is a big boon for Baker Mayfield. He is already familiar with the air raid offense. One would assume this will be a part of the Cleveland offense in 2019. The chart below shows the numbers for Brandon Weeden at OSU while he was OC.
Let’s look position by position.
Baker Mayfield (QB1)
The charts above show Baker Mayfield’s potential under a competent coordinator. Let’s extrapolate his second-half numbers over a full 16 game season. That puts him at 385.4 points (QB6), ahead of perennial studs Brees, Brady, Rodgers, and Russell Wilson. That’s also two points more than Jared Goff and just 12 points behind Deshaun Watson.
I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect a similar outcome from Baker in 2019. Keep in mind he was a rookie and still learning to play QB in the league.
In addition, his rushing upside makes him an intriguing option also. Rushing yards are “hidden” points at the QB position. He only had 139 yards on 31 carries (3.36 YPC) but we know he can keep plays alive and that often results in positive plays. His sophomore year at Oklahoma, he did rush for 405 yards and 7 TD.
Nick Chubb (RB1)
Nick Chubb saw a similar 2nd half as Mayfield. In fact, finished weeks 9-17 as the 6th RB in fantasy points. He finished with 141.7 over those eight games. This was good for 17.71 PPG. He showed the ability to catch the ball as well. In four years at Georgia, he only caught 31 balls. In the final eight weeks, he caught 18 balls on 23 targets, including two TD.
For comparison, under Haley and Hue, he was RB56. This was only 52.8 fantasy points over that span (6.60PPG). I again want to project out a 16-game season based on his usage under Kitchens the second half of the season. This would give him 283.4 Fpts. That would put him at RB6 in 2018. Backs on the list below that number include James Conner, MGIII, David Johnson, Joe Mixon, and Phillip Lindsay.
I think Chubb will flirt with RB1 value next year in redraft leagues and it will be interesting to see what his ADP is when the data starts to come out.
Jarvis Landry (WR1)
Jarvis Landry was an enigma last year. He had a career low in receptions in 2018. He also had his lowest yardage total since his rookie year in 2014. Those 81 catches came on a whopping 149 targets (54.4% catch rate). The only data I could find on drops credited him with six. Only 55 of the 149 targets came when Kitchens was calling the plays.
The disappointing year (especially based on the pre-2018 hype) and the lack of usage under Kitchens raises some serious red flags. He should be drafted well below his ADP of 38 last year (FantasyPros). My hunch is there will be a lot better WR choices in the area that Landry goes in 2019. People will look at targets and the name. That is a huge mistake.
From some early ADP I gathered, Landry is going around 50th. There are plenty of WR I like more that are going after he is. They include Cooper Kupp, Corey Davis, Tyler Lockett, and Kenny Golladay.
Antonio Callaway (WR2)
With the Arians influence potentially impacting Kitchens, I expect there to be a large target share for the WR2 in this offense. If we look back at the WR2 chart from Arians, we see a position that certainly holds some value.
Callaway also saw a marked improvement under Kitchens. Jackson tried just throwing deep to him and asked him to make a play. He also clearly had some rust after sitting out his senior year at Florida due to suspension. He flashed big-play ability in his freshman year averaging 19.4 YPC. His second half numbers were solid at 22-350-3. He could be a late-round value if he can make the jump in year two under Kitchen and Monken.
Rashad Higgins/Breshad Perriman (WR3)
The WR3 is a big question mark for 2019. Rashad Higgins is a restricted free agent. Breshad Perriman is a free agent as well and probably won’t be resigned. This is likely a position they will address in the draft. They have a young QB/RB/TE combo that could be lethal. They need to hit on this position in the draft to potentially become a top 10 overall offense in the league.
The draft isn’t as rich at WR as it was last year. Depending on how high they prioritize the position, there are some potential good fits out there. Like the Packers, they could go with a lesser known Andy Isabella (UMASS). N’Keal Harry (Arizona State) is probably at the top of Baker Mayfield’s list. He has ideal size at 6’4” and 220 pounds. Likely the 1st WR off the board, he may be too rich for Cleveland.
Marquise Brown (Oklahoma) would be a logical fit as the 2 were teammates at Oklahoma in 2017. “Hollywood” averaged 19.2 yards per catch and hauled in seven TD’s with Baker in Norman. Brown may also be one of the best all around receivers in the draft. He’s got all the tools. In addition to, that he is fast, runs good routes and has solid hands. He is a little small at 168 pounds. Keep an eye on Nashville in April to see what they do here.
David Njoku (TE1)
This is a spot that is primed to produce. A large portion of Kitchens coaching career stems from being TE coach in Arizona from 2006 to 2012. He has an absolute beast to work with in Njoku. The potential has always been there with David. I think the right coach will vault him into the top tier of a very thin position. That coach very well could be Freddie Kitchens.
Also, his numbers were almost identical under both regimes in Cleveland. He was way more efficient under Kitchens though. The numbers under Hue and Haley were: 31 catches on 52 targets, 297 yards and two TD. The numbers under Kitchens were: 25 catches on 37 targets, 342 yards and two TD.
As you can see, he had 45 more yards on 6 less catches and 15 less targets under Kitchens than he did under Jackson. The FPPG was about the same. They come in at 9.09 FPPG weeks 1 through 8 and 8.90 FPPG weeks 9 through 17. The Browns also ran 13 personnel (one RB, three TE) more than anyone else in the league under Kitchens. They were ultra-efficient and averaged 12 yards per play from the formation.
Don’t let the TE1 targets from Kitchens time in the desert scare you. He was dealing with the likes of Leonard Pope, Ben Patrick, and old Todd Heap and Darren Fells/Jermaine Gresham. He has never had a TE to work with that has athleticism and balls skills such as Njoku. I think he will surprise in 2019 after disappointing in both 2017 and 2018. Look for him as an ADP value.
We don’t have a very large sample size to predict what Freddie Kitchens will do as the head guy in Cleveland. Fortunately, we do have at least eight weeks of data to pull from to try and forecast what may be in store. I think it will be an exciting, young offense that will be prone to mistakes. The upside cannot be questioned. Especially if they hit in the draft.
They have a very good offensive line in place and only gave up nine hits on Mayfield from weeks 9 to 17 with Freddie in charge. They obviously want to protect him.
I think there is a lot of value to be had here and you can draft Mayfield, Chubb and Njoku with confidence next year.