clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Cleveland Browns Training Camp 2020: TE Preview (Part 1)

New, comments

What will Austin Hooper, David Njoku, and Harrison Bryant bring to the tight end position in 2020?

Atlanta Falcons v Cleveland Browns

With our wide receiver previews complete, it is time to turn our attention to the tight end position. This will be broken down into two parts, starting with Austin Hooper, David Njoku, and Harrison Bryant.


Atlanta Falcons v Cleveland Browns Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

1. Austin Hooper - Starting TE

Height: 6-4 | Weight: 254 lbs | Age: 25
Experience: 5 years | College: Stanford

This offseason, the Browns made a surprising splash at the tight end position by signing TE Austin Hooper to a 4-year, $42 million deal with $18.5 million fully guaranteed. With TE David Njoku still on the team, it seemed pretty clear that Kevin Stefanski felt he needed a more reliable tight end like Hooper to boost Cleveland’s offense.

Hooper was a 3rd round pick by the Falcons in 2016. In his four years with Atlanta, he caught 214 passes for 2,244 yards and 16 touchdowns and was a Pro Bowler the past two seasons. His productivity over the past two years was solid, averaging 73 catches, 723 yards, and 5 touchdowns.

As a receiver, Hooper has reliable hands, sees a lot of red zone targets, and is good at forcing missed tackles. Pro Football Focus does note that he is below average in creating separation against man coverage — his strengths are all against zone coverage, relying on a good offensive scheme (but on the same note, he also scored well in catching contested passes). If you’re expecting him to be a terrific run blocking tight end, don’t. He gives good effort on his blocks and blocks fairly well in pass protection, but not so well in run blocking.

Final Roster Odds: 100%


Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

2. David Njoku - Requested a Trade

Height: 6-4 | Weight: 246 lbs | Age: 24
Experience: 4 years | College: Miami

We thought David Njoku was poised for big things last year. In 2018, he caught 56 passes for 639 yards and 4 touchdowns. Last year, he suffered a wrist injury and then fell into the same boat as Rashard Higgins in terms of being marginalized in the offense. He finished the season with 5 catches for 41 yards and 1 touchdown.

It has been frustrating with Njoku. I love his athletic potential, but he is about to enter his fourth season, and I still don’t feel like he has come anywhere close to realizing that potential on gameday. One of the big issues is that too many times, a dropped pass leads to something catastrophic; heck, on his first target returning from injury last year, the pass ended up being intercepted/fumbled. Blocking hasn’t been Njoku’s strength either.

Upon hiring Drew Rosenhaus a few weeks ago, Njoku immediately requested a trade prior to the start of training camp. Jeremy Fowler of ESPN has said that the team has known that Njoku was unhappy, and the estimated compensation another team would be willing to give up is a 4th or 5th round pick.

Josina Anderson believes the Browns still have plans for the fourth-year tight end, and they also picked up the fifth year on his rookie deal back in April. I really don’t have a good pulse as to whether or not he’ll remain with the club in 2020. I think the team should keep him as an extra weapon, especially since Kevin Stefanski likes deploying two tight-end sets.

Final Roster Odds: 100% (if he is not traded)


Middle Tennessee v Florida Atlantic Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

3. Harrison Bryant - Rookie TE

Height: 6-5 | Weight: 243 lbs | Age: 22
Experience: Rookie | College: Florida Atlantic

The Browns selected Harrison Bryant with a 4th round pick in this year’s draft. He was the third-highest ranked tight end on Dane Brugler’s board, who had this to say about him:

Bryant lined up at “F” tight end in head coach Lane Kiffin’s spread offense, occasionally seeing snaps inline, but mostly detached. ... He is an athletic receiver with the agility and ball skills to be productive in the quick game (slants, hooks, etc.) or down the seam. He is an efficient, try-hard competitor as a move blocker, but doesn’t have the power to face off against NFL defensive linemen on the edge. Overall, Bryant doesn’t have ideal bulk or power for the position, but he is a versatile pass-catcher with the savvy routes and adjustment skills to handle “F” tight end duties in an NFL offense.

Pro Football Focus says that he enters the NFL in no-mans land unless he transforms his body because he’s not athletic enough to be a wide receiver, but not strong enough to be a traditional tight end. Still, his 92.9 receiving grade is eye-popping. If you have any doubt about his receiving abilities, look no further than this:

Browns Assistant Director of Scouting Glenn Cook said that Bryant “is an athletic, natural sure-handed guy, really tough and competitive after the catch,” but added that “it got to the point where we were staring at the board and you kind of couldn’t ignore the fact that he was still up there.” In other words, the team liked his abilities, but view him as a bit of a project — when he slipped far enough, they were willing to gamble on him. I like the gamble, but unless the team ditches Njoku, I don’t see him seeing a lot of action this season.

Final Roster Odds: 95%


Poll

How many catches will Austin Hooper have in 2020?

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    70 or more
    (157 votes)
  • 55%
    Less than 70
    (196 votes)
353 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Will David Njoku remain with the Browns for all of 2020, or will he be traded?

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    He’ll stay with the Browns
    (197 votes)
  • 43%
    He’ll be traded
    (152 votes)
349 votes total Vote Now