What Will Jarvis Landry Bring to the Browns?

The Browns made a headline move by nabbing Landry last week. What can he add to their offense?

With more historic bungles than the average town deserves – Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, The Decision – the professional sports franchises on the sunny shores of Lake Erie have long been a national punchline. Even pro athletes loathe the place, according to legendary baseball player Ichiro Suzuki, “If I ever saw myself saying I’m excited going to Cleveland, I’d punch myself in the face, because I’m lying.”

Needless to say, the Cleveland Browns haven’t been a very desirable destination for NFL players.

Still, things seem to be turning around for the unluckiest team in the NFL, as they have begun to rapidly acquire young talent this offseason. Wide receiver Jarvis Landry, for whom the Browns swapped a few late-round picks to the Miami Dolphins, arrived in the first of many trades this week.

Will this move be a windfall for both the much-maligned Browns and slot receiver Landry, or will it end up feeling as good as a punch in the face?

The Trade

I’ll be honest, this trade was more of a slam dunk for the Browns than $110 million over six years guaranteed to take one’s talents to South Beach; too soon?

In this trade, Landry – originally selected with the 63rd pick of the 2014 NFL Draft – came to Cleveland for a fourth-round pick (123rd overall) in 2018 and a seventh-round selection in 2019.

This seems to be a wild discount for a capable player, especially when taking into consideration the math of the Jimmy Johnson draft value chart. This chart assigns a number value to each pick, from 0 to 3,000 points. Even assuming the Browns go 0-16 and earn the top selection in each round again in 2019, this deal seems incredibly lopsided.

Browns Receive Pick Value Dolphins Receive Pick Value
63rd Overall (Landry) 276 123rd Overall 49
219th Overall (2019 7th) 3.4
Total 276 Total 52.4

That’s a difference of 223.6 points – essentially a free early third-round pick – that the Browns make away with in this trade.

Still, looking at the deal this way is a bit flawed. Landry is no longer on his locked-in rookie contract, and he will cost the Browns $15.98 million in 2018 if they do not arrive at a long-term deal and he plays on the franchise tag. For comparison’s sake, the 63rd overall pick of the 2018 Draft will earn just about $4.4 million over the course of his four-year deal – just over one-quarter of Landry’s expected 2018 earnings alone.

With nearly $115 million in cap space prior to this trade (out of $177 million), the Browns could certainly afford to take Landry on. Still $3 million over the cap after this move, the Dolphins desperately needed to shed his contract. It makes sense that he would be available for a reasonable discount, and both teams get something they need: the Browns added talent to their team, and the Dolphins don't lose Landry for nothing (and don't have to pay him the franchise tag money this season).

The Player

Landry seems like the perfect player to join the Browns. Scorned by football analysts and fantasy players alike, Landry has been undervalued since entering the league in 2014.

Landry was two picks and one trade away from slipping into the third round of the NFL Draft that year. No doubt his slide was due to an abjectly terrible NFL Combine showing that saw him post marks in the 1st percentile of Combine receivers (or worse) in all of his events – and that’s without adjusting for his weight. Landry’s Speed Score of 93.2 with his much better Pro Day results still ranked just 294th among the 432 Combine receivers since 2000.

Being slow, short, and non-explosive hasn’t stopped Landry from becoming a trusted possession slot receiver, though. Landry has caught 400 passes in his career, more than any receiver in their first four years in the NFL. His 570 targets are fourth-most among these wideouts, and his 70.2 percent catch rate is fifth-highest.

Still, his usage in Miami has pigeonholed him into a short-area slot receiver role.

We can see this usage reflected in Landry’s production through our in-house Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. NEP is a metric that describes the contribution a play (or player) makes to their team’s chances of scoring. By adding down-and-distance value to the box score production, we can see just how much each play and each team as a whole influence the outcome of games. For more info on NEP, check out our glossary.

The table below shows how Landry stacks up among wide receivers with 100 targets or more in each year by Reception NEP per target, Reception Success Rate (the percent of catches resulting in positive NEP), and catch rate.

Jarvis Landry Targets Rec NEP/Targ Rec Success % Catch % Total WR
2014 112 33rd 37th 1st 40
2015 167 32nd 30th 8th 32
2016 131 30th 36th 4th 41
2017 161 27th 26th 4th 27

With Landry firmly in the bottom quarter (if not just the bottom) of both Reception Success Rate and Reception NEP per target among high-volume receivers every year, we can see he doesn’t consistently earn positive value and when he does, it’s not high value on average.

That said, there’s a decent chance Landry was misused and not properly schemed for by Miami.

Pro Football Focus confirms that Landry racked up the seventh-most average yards after the catch among 29 receivers to see at least 75 percent of their team snaps in 2017, and of the 11 catchable targets of 20 yards or more Landry has seen in his career, he’s caught all 11 of them for 339 yards (30.8 yards per target average).

In fact, by NFL’s Next Gen Stats Landry tied for the fourth-most average yards of separation (distance from his defender at the catch) among the 33 qualifying receivers with at least 100 targets this year. This is all despite Landry seeing the third-lowest average targeted air yards (depth downfield) among those receivers.

With strong and sure hands and deceptive separation ability, there’s some untapped upside in Landry’s profile that Miami might have missed.

The Future

Cleveland is clearly beginning to push some of its draft chips into the middle of the competing table. Just hours after finalizing the deal for Landry, the Browns put the finishing touches on a trade for quarterback Tyrod Taylor as well.

Taylor has a reputation for being a deep thrower, and it is true that he has tossed an average 84 attempts downfield per season as a starter. Still, Taylor has attempted an average 221 short passes per year, as well, and his 0.22 Passing NEP per drop back on those throws is significantly better than Ryan Tannehill (0.14), Jay Cutler (0.07), or Matt Moore (0.01). In addition, Taylor has produced a more consistent 51.62 percent Passing Success Rate, beating out the Miami boys combined by more than 2.5 percentage points.

Landry is now part of an up-and-coming offense, has a true number-one receiver in Josh Gordon to take the defensive focus off of him, another field-stretcher in the speedy Corey Coleman, a more consistent quarterback, and the fact that he’s been reunited with his college receivers coach certainly doesn’t hurt either.

Landry may not be a superstar in the traditional sense, but he is a consistent contributor and could be surprisingly valuable if utilized creatively. No matter what, the Browns can rest assured that adding him is a lot better than a punch in the nose.