I hope everyone had a good 4th of July Weekend! Now, it’s time to pick back up our training camp previews. We looked at the Browns’ top or most experienced players in Part 1 of our wide receiver preview. In Part 2 of 3, we take a look at Donovan Peoples-Jones, Taywan Taylor, JoJo Natson, and KhaDarel Hodge.
5. Donovan Peoples-Jones - Rookie WR
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 212 lbs | Age: 21
Experience: Rookie | College: Michigan
The Browns’ final pick of this year’s draft was Donovan Peoples-Jones, a wide receiver out of Michigan, in the sixth round. Both Dane Brugler and Pro Football Focus had common assessments for Peoples-Jones: he has great size, ball skills, and straight-line speed, but lacks the short-area quickness to gain consistent separation against defenders.
Peoples-Jones suffered at Michigan from having a lot of uncatchable balls thrown his way, due to poor quarterback play and offensive scheme changes. He is known to be a willing blocker, and although route running at the NFL level was a scouted weakness, the rest of his athleticism made him a worthwhile flier for a sixth-round pick. In several film cut-ups by DBN’s Mike Krupka, Peoples-Jones makes nice catches along the boundary, something the team could have in mind for him in red-zone packages:
Head coach Kevin Stefanski liked his experience in playing outside and inside receiving roles, but also jumped right to talking about his physical skillset to be a special teamer, which tells you that the expectations aren’t anything out of the ordinary for him. If Peoples-Jones has a good camp, I think he’ll make the roster, but if he is only average, the practice squad is more likely.
Final Roster Odds: 40%
6. Taywan Taylor - Backup WR
Height: 5-11 | Weight: 205 lbs | Age: 25
Experience: 4 years | College: Western Kentucky
Cleveland acquired Taywan Taylor for a seventh-round pick from the Tennessee Titans just before the two teams squared off in Week 1 last year. The Browns were looking for the added receiver depth after Antonio Callaway had been suspended for the first several games of the season. From a receiving standpoint, Taylor’s contributions to the team were nil. He finished the season being active for 3 games and didn’t log a single reception. He stayed on the roster despite being inactive for most of the year.
Taylor was a 3rd round pick by the Titans in 2017. He caught 37 passes for 466 yards and 1 touchdown in 2018, but Titans head coach Mike Vrabel didn’t have a spot for him on the 2019 Titans, a team that went to the AFC Championship. I haven’t seen too much of Taylor, but from what I gathered during the Titans’ 2019 training camp and preseason, drops and a lack of aggression began to pile up, and then Taylor was a harsh critic on himself for it. A lot of time has passed since then, but with almost a year of inactivity and a new coaching staff, it’s hard to envision Taylor sticking on the roster this year.
Final Roster Odds: 10%
7. JoJo Natson - Backup WR
Height: 5-7 | Weight: 153 lbs | Age: 26
Experience: 4 years | College: Akron
JoJo Natson began his NFL career in 2017 as an undrafted free agent with the Indianapolis Colts, but his break came in 2018, when the Los Angeles Rams scooped him up to be their punt returner for the past two seasons. The first thing that stands out about Natson is definitely his size: at 5-7, 153 lbs, he didn’t catch any passes in his two years with the Rams.
In 2018, Natson returned 26 punts for 280 yards (10.8 yards per return). In 2019, he returned 19 punts for 149 yards (7.8 yards per return). He also returned kickoffs last year, averaging 22.2 yards per return. Last year, prior to the Browns facing Natson in regular season, Browns special teams coach Mike Priefer praised Natson’s return ability.
“He is terrifying,” Priefer said. “He is really quick. He is the fastest guy on the field. He is fearless for a little guy. ... He poses a big-time threat because you can’t be out of control at the point of attack or you are going to miss him. I told our guys in a meeting that he can make you miss in a phone booth. He is that quick.”
Priefer has a great reputation as a special teams coach, but last year in Cleveland, he had to deal with a lot of shuffling at the return positions. Unless there ends up being a better candidate in camp, I think Priefer will make his appeal to Andrew Berry that he wants Natson as his dedicated return man; but don’t expect him to play a role as a receiver.
Final Roster Odds: 60%
8. KhaDarel Hodge - Backup WR
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 205 lbs | Age: 25
Experience: 3 years | College: Prairie View A&M
The Browns’ wide receiver situation after the top two was so weird last season. I feel like KhaDarel Hodge received quite a bit of receiving snaps in the second half of the year over Rashard Higgins, yet when I look at the stats, I’m reminded that Hodge finished the season with just 4 catches for 76 yards.
Like Natson, the area where Hodge makes his money has been as a special teams player. Hodge led the Browns last season with 10 special teams tackles and 2 assists. Funny enough, Hodge used to be teammates with Natson on the Rams. I don’t envision Hodge being used as a regular rotational receiver again, but it was a no-brainer to tender him for $660,000 this offseason with special teams coordinator Mike Priefer returning. Hodge is the leading candidate to be a gunner again, but we’ll see if any other hungry players are up to the task of unseating him.
Final Roster Odds: 60%
Who do you expect to be the Browns’ No. 3 receiver this year?
This poll is closed
Between Donovan Peoples-Jones, JoJo Natson, and KhaDarel Hodge, which of these players will make the Browns’ 53-man roster?
This poll is closed
Peoples-Jones, Natson, and Hodge
Peoples-Jones & Natson only
Peoples-Jones & Hodge only
Natson & Hodge only
None of them