by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Generally rookie tight ends need time to adjust to the NFL game. Sure we get the exceptions to the rule (like Evan Engram in ’18), but more often than not no matter how much hype is bestowed upon him a rookie tight end will disappoint. That was the case for the Browns’ David Njoku, who was selected 29th overall in the 2017 draft. Of course that wasn’t all due to his own lack of development.
The Browns quarterback carousel was among the worst in the NFL last season, with Deshone Kizer, Kevin Hogan and Cody Kessler combining to complete 54.4% of their passes with 15 TD vs. 28 INT. The additions of Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield should rectify that situation, and in turn will help the offense as a whole.
There also is a lot of talent surrounding Njoku, which could allow him to be overlooked by opposing defenses. Just look at the group of skill players suddenly assembled:
- Wide Receivers – Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry
- Running Backs – Duke Johnson, Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb
It would make sense to discount Njoku, after he managed 32 receptions for 386 yards and 4 TD last season. He is a big target, at 6’4” and 246 lbs., and considering the top of the wide receiver chart he could be the best weapon in the red zone (especially if Corey Coleman is ultimately traded).
You also don’t want to forget this scouting report, courtesy of NFL.com prior to the ’17 draft:
“Ascending pass catching talent with elite athleticism and enough fight in his run blocking to believe that he can be lined up anywhere on the field at any time. Njoku should annihilate the combine with monster numbers in speed and explosion, but his play on the field shows he’s more than a combine warrior. He is still growing into his body and has to add to his play strength, but his playmaking potential and elite traits should make him a first-round pick and a future Pro Bowler.”
At that time they compared him to Greg Olsen, who we all know has become one of the elite tight ends in the league. That’s not to say that Njoku will get all the way there in ’18, but he has the potential to develop into a TE1 by year’s end. While we wouldn’t recommend drafting him for that role, targeting him as a TE2 in the later rounds (especially if you miss one of the elite) and see if you can cash in makes a lot of sense.
Sources – ESPN, NFL.com