David Njoku is the second best tight end in Cleveland Browns history? Not yet he’s not

Jan 9, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku (85) blows a kiss to fans following the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku (85) blows a kiss to fans following the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports /

Legendary head coach Bill Belichick gave Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku huge praise and it should alarm fans.

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick really told the media that Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku is the best tight end in team history; not named Ozzie Newsome. At first, I was incredulous. “What? Shut up, Bill. No, he’s not.” But then, I did some thinking, and thought, “Yeah, Belichick might be right.”

But is he?

This isn’t a shot at Njoku by the way. Overpaid? Yes. Bad player? No. He’s been fine this year and while his career has largely been inconsistent, he’s been a solid player for the Browns. The problem comes with how he would have ascended to the status of the No. 2 best tight end of all time in franchise history if he is.

By sticking around.

I would contend that Njoku isn’t a Top 10 tight end in the league currently and may not even be a Top 15 guy. He’s fine. He’s athletic but he’s inconsistent, disappears for huge stretches, isn’t the blocker many want him to be, and isn’t as consistent catching as he needs to be. He’s fine. If he made a Pro Bowl I would genuinely be shocked.

All of that to say, if he is the second-best tight end in team history, he’s only the second-best by default. He hasn’t dominated a stretch of games, hasn’t been the team’s best pass-catcher at any point, and isn’t someone defenses really worry about.

That all being said, there is actually someone else who has a claim to that title.

David Njoku isn’t the second-best tight end in team history

It’s fair to say David Njoku may be the most consistent player the Browns have had at tight end since 1999. Maybe even the best since 1999. Just with the new era Browns only, we’ve had three Pro Bowl tight ends; Kellen Winslow Jr., Gary Barnidge, and Jordan Cameron.

Of those, Cameron is by far the most talented all-around player but concussions ruined his career. Barndige was the top guy in Cleveland in 2015, and had over 1,000 yards while leading the teams in receptions, as well as targets, and receiving touchdowns.

Winslow had one Pro Bowl year and had the potential to have more, but injuries and being an evil hellspawn derailed his career. Winslow, had it not been for his devilish behavior, may have had a say in the conversation, as he led the Browns twice in receptions in 2006 and 2007. But we don’t recognize scum here.

For Njoku, he’s currently 4th all-time in receiving yards by a tight end in Cleveland Browns’ history. He’s currently behind Winslow, who’s third, Milt Morin, who’s second, and Ozzie Newsome who is the team’s all-time leader in multiple receptions categories regardless of position.

Yet, when we talk about the next in line behind Newsome at tight end, Morin is, arguably, the only guy who has a real claim to it. Njoku has never led the team in receptions, touchdowns, yards, or made any Pro Bowls.

Morin, on the other hand, had twice led the Browns in yards, while also going to two Pro Bowls. He may have even led the team in targets, but that stat isn’t officially kept, so we don’t know for sure.

Morin only played eight full years (10 in total). Njoku is in year six, but only has had (and is working on) five full years. He’s on pace to be near Morin’s mark of 4,208 yards (currently Njoku is at 2,043) but even if he were to pass it, Njoku is averaging fewer yards per game for his career (32.6 vs. 29.2). Made more damning is the fact tight ends and passing as a whole weren’t as optimized in Milon’s era. Yet he still passes Njoku.

Njoku is a solid player but he’s not a Top 3 guy right now. There’s Newsome, Milon, and [REDACTED] all ahead of him. Until Njoku can take over a season as a primary target like any of the other men on this list, I’m not going to crown him. Just being around long enough to amass stats isn’t the same thing as being the guy on a squad.

Which is something Njoku has never been in Cleveland.

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