In Part 2 of our wide receiver preview for the Cleveland Browns, we look at KhaDarel Hodge, Anthony Schwartz, JoJo Natson, and Ja’Marcus Bradley.
5. KhaDarel Hodge - Backup WR
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 205 lbs | Age: 26
Experience: 4 years | College: Prairie View A&M
Once pigeon-holed as just a key special teams contributor, KhaDarel Hodge grew his role as a wide receiver in 2020. Hodge began the year as the team’s third receiver and proved to be reliable when called upon. I can recall a few instances where he hauled in tough catches in do-or-die moments to help move the chains. Speaking of moving the chains, he was the only receiver in the NFL to do so on every single one of his catches:
It’s hard to believe that Hodge only had 11 catches for 180 yards on the season — it seemed like he was involved a bit more than that. Part of the reason he was in there is that the team liked his blocking ability; although over time, the other receivers showed good effort in that department as well. Hodge’s playing time was derailed a bit by injuries, and by the time he came back, the momentum gained by players like Higgins and Peoples-Jones prevented him from reclaiming his role.
Hodge isn’t a lock to make the roster this year after the drafting of rookie Anthony Schwartz. I would still vote to retain Hodge, both as depth and his role on special teams.
Final Roster Odds: 75%
6. Anthony Schwartz - Rookie WR
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 185 lbs | Age: 20
Experience: Rookie | College: Auburn
Anthony Schwartz was a 3rd-round pick by the Browns and regarded as the fastest receiver in the draft — and possibly one of the fastest in the entire NFL now. When the Browns drafted Schwartz, it seemed clear to me that the pick wasn’t about the team replacing anyone, but rather adding another dynamic to the Browns’ offense. Schwartz can be utilized on go routes, end-arounds, and screens. With Cleveland becoming close to a complete football team, they can afford niche picks, and the clip below demonstrates exactly the type of play I see Schwartz being utilized on:
Browns just got the fastest player in the NFL Draft, Anthony Schwartz— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 1, 2021
I’ll be curious to see how much of those plays the Browns run during training camp that is open to the fans, as opposed to keeping them under wraps. I think the fans will see the speed of Schwartz on display as he tries to run downfield routes, while all of the tricks are saved for gameday.
Final Roster Odds: 98%
7. JoJo Natson - Backup WR
Height: 5-7 | Weight: 153 lbs | Age: 27
Experience: 5 years | College: Akron
He’s back! Natson had 1 carry for 3 yards, 3 punt returns for 25 yards, and 1 kickoff return for 31 yards in the 3 games that he played last year. A torn ACL in the third game ended his season. Prior to the injury, Natson was schemed into the offense for some plays where he would come in motion as a diversion to the defense. I think that role now goes to Schwartz, and that Natson will be trying to win a roster spot exclusively as a kick/punt returner.
Natson seems to be recovered from his torn ACL, as seen by this clip from early June:
Last year, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer really seemed enamored with how tough Natson can be to tackle. With D’Ernest Johnson and Donovan Peoples-Jones taking over the return duties after Natson’s injury, I didn’t think Natson would even be re-signed this offseason. But bringing him back changed my perception — I’m penciling him in to make the roster again as a return man, which could put the team at seven receivers deep. Is that too many?
Final Roster Odds: 40%
8. Ja’Marcus Bradley - Backup WR
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 198 lbs | Age: 24
Experience: 1 year | College: Louisiana-Lafayette
Ja’Marcus Bradley signed with the Browns last April as an undrafted free agent and was on the practice squad most of the season. Then, when all of the Browns’ main receivers were out due to COVID-19 in Week 16, he was the “leader of the bunch” as far as wide receivers go. Against the Jets, Bradley had 5 catches for 60 yards. He showed some potential, but we’re all the way down at eighth on the depth chart now. At best, all I can see Bradley making with the Browns is the practice squad. He’ll hope to have a good camp to draw eyes from other teams in need of a young receiver.
Here is the scouting report that Dane Brugler had on Bradley in college:
Lining up as the “X” receiver, his production steadily increased each season, including 10 receiving touchdowns each of the last two seasons. Bradley has strong hands to turn erratic throws into completions and he won’t flinch working the middle of the field. While he runs efficient routes and surprises with some shake after the catch, he won’t accelerate past defenders, lacking burst in his releases or out of his breaks. Overall, Bradley has only average size, speed and strength and might have trouble uncovering vs. NFL-level cornerbacks, but his dependable ball skills and concentration give him a legitimate chance to make a pro roster.
Final Roster Odds: <5%
Beckham, Landry, Higgins, and Peoples-Jones all make the roster. If Cleveland can only keep two more receivers, who should they keep?
This poll is closed
KhaDarel Hodge, Anthony Schwartz
KhaDarel Hodge, JoJo Natson
KhaDarel Hodge, Ja’Marcus Bradley
Anthony Schwartz, JoJo Natson
Anthony Schwartz, Ja’Marcus Bradley
JoJo Natson, Ja’Marcus Bradley