The Cleveland Browns will enter the season with rookie David Njoku and second-year Seth DeValve as their top two tight ends.
Though inexperienced, both Njoku and DeValve seem poised to play big roles in a revamped Cleveland Browns offense.
With WR Terrelle Pryor and TE Gary Barnidge no longer on the roster, many targets are up for grabs. Incoming veteran receiver Kenny Britt is likely to take a fair share of those targets. However, the rest of the receiving corps is very inexperienced.
Ricardo Lewis and Rashard Higgins, two draft picks from last year, totaled just 24 receptions combined last year per pro-football-reference.com. Corey Coleman, who could not stay on the field last year, has missed even more time during mini-camp and OTAs.
These three second-year players round out the top four wide receivers.
Recently, receivers coach Al Saunders voiced his frustration about Coleman to cleveland.com.
"“I’m disappointed for him that he can’t continue to grow in the fundamentals and skills at his position,” Al Saunders said. “He missed a significant amount of time last training camp [with a hamstring injury]. … He was having a terrific OTA session and then he got hurt."
With so many unknowns in the wide receiving corps, that leaves high-upside players like Njoku and DeValve to take advantage.
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Njoku, who the Browns spent a first-round pick on in April’s draft, is an athletic freak. He measured in at 6’4″, 246 pounds at the 2017 NFL combine, while running a 4.64 40-yard dash.
Njoku posted a 43-698-8 receiving line last year at Miami (FL) per sports-reference.com, with many highlight-reel plays factored in.
In rookie mini-camp, quarterback DeShone Kizer called Njoku “a freak,” and the two worked with each other after mini-camp practices earlier this month. His early impressions, along with his physical stature, bode well for chances of success this year.
This year, DeValve (6’4″, 245 pounds) will be Njoku’s counterpart at tight end and has been even more impressive than the rookie so far this offseason.
Tight ends coach Greg Seamon noted earlier this month that DeValve put on some weight over the offseason. The weight gain has led to him becoming “noticeably stronger…faster and…healthier”.
Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal went as far as to say that “it’s not far-fetched to believe (DeValve) could be the team’s most improved player.” He went on to say that the Browns see both DeValve and Njoku playing “vital roles” in coach Hue Jackson’s offense.
Replacing Barnidge would be an extremely difficult task for many teams. According to Jon Ledyard of Fan Rag Sports, Barnidge is just one of 11 players with over 1,000 yards receiving at the tight end position since 2000.
However, the Browns are lucky to have two solid options in Njoku and DeValve. This is not to say that either will become the 12 tight end with 1,000 receiving yards, though. However, they should easily eclipse that total combined.
Both tight ends possess fantastic measurables and have worked extremely hard during this offseason. Outside of Britt, there are too many unknowns amongst pass catchers, meaning Njoku and DeValve will provide great contributions out of the tight end position.