1. Austin Hooper - Starting TE
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 254 lbs | Age: 26
Experience: 6 years | College: Stanford
Last offseason, the Browns signed Austin Hooper and made him the highest-paid tight end in the league at the time. Based on past data, we figured Hooper’s receiving stats would drop off a little bit in Kevin Stefanski’s offense, and they did. Hooper caught 46 passes for 435 yards and 4 touchdowns.
My expectations were that Hooper would be a bit more dynamic as a receiver, so I hope Stefanski can scheme more ways to get him open. If not, Hooper remains a high-quality starting tight end for his run blocking ability. He doesn’t drop passes and is known for holding on to tightly-contested throws, even if he isn’t known for beating man coverage. I do recall a couple of late-season passes that he couldn’t haul in, which left me a little disappointed.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
2. David Njoku - Backup TE
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 246 lbs | Age: 25
Experience: 5 years | College: Miami
Something could still happen (a trade), but David Njoku appears to be staying put with the Browns again in 2021, and that’s a damn good thing. Njoku had 19 catches for 213 yards and 2 touchdowns last year, to go along with 5 catches for 66 yards in the postseason.
The statistics don’t jump off the page for Njoku last year, but this is a case where the eye test really makes a big difference. I’ve complained for several years about how Njoku, for as athletic as he was supposed to be, always seemed to find a way to have a pass that was going his way lead to a drop or turnover. He didn’t have that extra “oomph” of physicality or confidence or...something to be a player the team could count on in a key spot. That changed last year. Njoku’s stat line may have been lower, but he was efficient, to the point where I was regularly wanting him to be utilized more. It was especially frustrating that he was not a key focal point in the Week 16 game without the wide receivers being available to play.
Njoku also became a difference maker as a blocker, which is something no one saw coming. I loved that Njoku took on the challenge of it — when a player is willing to put in the effort of being a silent hero, that to me is when the switch has flipped for them. Look back to 2019, when former Browns GM John Dorsey said this:
#Browns GM John Dorsey on TE David Njoku: "I know one thing that I'd like to see. Improve your run blocking. David has got all the elements to be a really nice pass-catching TE who can run after the catch. So I challenge him here today, you know what, improve your run blocking."— Keith Britton (@KeithBritton86) February 28, 2019
It may have taken over a year, but last year’s coaching staff got results out of him:
#Browns David Njoku’s growth in his 4th year (especially from a blocking perspective) should not be ignored.— Cody Suek (@CodySuek) March 3, 2021
Per @SportsInfo_SIS, he had the 6th-lowest blown block percentage in the run game and was one of 14 qualifying TEs that did not have a blown block in the passing game
All three tight ends should receive a fair amount of playing time, but I feel like Njoku should be ahead of Harrison Bryant on the depth chart.
Final Roster Odds: 99%
3. Harrison Bryant - Rookie TE
Height: 6-5 | Weight: 243 lbs | Age: 23
Experience: 2 years | College: Florida Atlantic
As a rookie last year, Harrison Bryant caught 24 passes for 238 yards and 3 touchdowns. My expectations peaked in Week 7 against the Bengals, when he caught 4 passes for 56 yards and 2 touchdowns, demonstrating a physical presence too. The following week, though, he lost a fumble. After not logging any stats the next two weeks, he fumbled again in Week 12. Bryant didn’t seem confident catching the ball for the remainder of the season, and he didn’t log a catch in the postseason.
Harrison has a lot to work on in his second season from a ball security and confidence standpoint. The knock on him coming out of college was that he was a bit of a tweener, and that about sums up what I saw from him the second half of the season. Certain players can earn forgiveness for lapses in play, but Bryant hasn’t earned that yet. Even if he improves that part of his game, I see him having a similar season as a year ago at best.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
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