The 2022 Cleveland Browns are weak at one key position group. Which one is it, and what options exist?
For many fans of the NFL, the Cleveland Browns Front Office needs to add to their wide receiver room before the start of the 2022 season. The Browns Front Office has added wide receivers in the postseason, starting with Amari Cooper in free agency, then drafting David Bell and Michael Woods II before finally adding undrafted free agent Isaiah Weston. Amari Cooper is a significant upgrade, and David Bell is known to have been a big draft target of Head Coach Kevin Stefanski, who believes he is an exceptional talent. However, the Browns’ wide receiver two is currently Donovan Peoples-Jones, who hasn’t put up wide receiver two statistics to date. In 2021 he had three touchdowns, 597 total yards, 10.3 yards per target, and a catch percentage of 58.6%. The Browns need him to have a break-out season in 2022, but given these statistics, why haven’t they added another veteran wide receiver in free agency, and should they? Assuming they don’t add a veteran, this can only be for a few key reasons:
Njoku has signed a four-year contract extension worth $56.75 million with $28 million guaranteed, making him the fifth highest-paid tight end in the NFL. The Cleveland Browns intend to utilize him more than they have in the past. So far, he has recorded only 15 touchdowns and 1,754 yards since 2017, which isn’t spectacular. Amongst tight ends, he was only 24th in receptions last year. He does have the potential to be great, with yards per reception over 11+ for the previous three seasons and a terrific catch percentage of 67.9% last season. Given his lack of significant production, the Cleveland Browns must be planning to target Njoku a lot more in 2022 and expect a substantial improvement in his numbers. The scheme the Browns run indeed will suit Njoku, and with a 6.4′ frame, he will make an excellent Red Zone threat. Harrison Bryant will be their tight end two, and he should prove to be a reliable backup. Last season he gained 11.1 yards per target, 233 total yards, and had a catch percentage of 75%.
The Cleveland Browns have arguably the best running back room in the NFL with Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D’Ernest Johnson, Demetric Felton, John Kelly, and Jerome Ford. Chubb has run for 1000+ yards a season for the last three years, with 5.3 yards per run, 83 yards per game, and 36 total touchdowns. Kareem Hunt averaged 4.9 yards per carry last season with 28 career touchdowns. D’Ernest Johnson proved his rushing threat last season when Hunt was injured, notching up 5.3 yards per carry and 534 total yards. The Cleveland Browns are a significant running threat and need to utilize this weapon if they don’t invest further at wide receiver.
The Wide Receiver Room
The Cleveland Browns Front Office may believe they have sufficient depth at wide receiver. Amari Cooper is acknowledged as one of the best route runners in the NFL. In 2021 he totaled 865 yards, with 12.7 yards per reception and eight touchdowns. Still, he was underutilized with only 68 receptions so expect these numbers to be much higher next season as his receptions increase significantly. Donovan Peoples-Jones is expected to step up and has had an excellent training camp. If David Bell is as good as the Browns’ Front Office believes him to be, and if Anthony Schwartz can hold on to passes, the Browns could have sufficient depth at wide receiver. Don’t forget Anthony Schwartz ran a 4.27 40-yard dash, so he threatens to add speed around the edge and could be an accurate deep ball threat. Isaiah Weston has a lot of potential with impressive combine statistics. He is 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, ran a 4.42 40 at the combine with a 40-inch vertical, and has a relative athletic score of 9.62 out of 10. At Northern Iowa, he averaged 22.6 yards per catch. The Cleveland Browns have a very young and very cheap wide receiver room.
Free Agency Options
I would like to see the Cleveland Browns’ front Office add more experience at wide receiver, and the apparent target is Will Fuller, who played with Deshaun Watson in Houston. He is 28 years old, and In 2020, he totaled 879 yards on 53 receptions with eight touchdowns and had a catch percentage of 70.7%. As a free agent, the Browns will be able to negotiate his salary and should be able to pay less than the $10.566 million cap hit the Miami Dolphins swallowed. In 2021 Fuller only played three games before breaking his thumb and missed the rest of the season, but before then, he consistently played 15 games every year. He so could be a regular and reliable contributor.
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