While much has been made about the Cleveland Browns’ failure to adequately, in the minds of many, address the wide receiver position this offseason, banking on improvement from their four draft picks at the position from a year ago, it seems as though the fact that they drafted tight end David Njoku has been lost in the discussion.
Because let’s be honest, Njoku is going to be more of a wide receiver than he is going to be a blocker for the Browns, as he would be for anybody who would have drafted him. Even the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were slotted one pick away in the first round when the talented tight end went off the board.
No matter who is going to be at quarterback this year—and that is a whole other can of worms—having that receiving presence at the tight end position is going to be a boon for them, and one of those quarterbacks in particular has certainly taken notice.
DeShone Kizer, the fellow rookie out of Notre Dame, spent a good deal of his time during spring drills working with the Miami tight end. “He’s a freak”, was his conclusion, according to the team’s website.
“To be as big as he is over there with his crazy muscles and being 6-foot-5 and jumping and catching it one-handed, it definitely makes for an easy target to throw”, the rookie quarterback said of what will potentially be one of his top targets, should he win the competition for the starting job under center.
Even though the Browns had Njoku working mostly with the second- and third-team units during the spring, there is to be no debating what his role will be by the time the season comes around, and it is a plan that has been in place since the get-go when they traded up to get him.
Soon after the draft, Cleveland released their veteran tight end, Gary Barnidge, how was just a year removed from a breakout Pro Bowl season. If they didn’t intend for Njoku to start right away, then they wouldn’t have taken that action. Seth DeValve is not exactly a lateral move.
Still, the Browns understand that it will be a process to get the rookie up and running to NFL standards by the time the regular season comes. While he may primarily be a pass-catcher, he will not be able to get by only on his receiving skills as he did in college.
“They take a bit more of a pounding over the course of a season”, Njoku’s position coach said of the tight end position compared to college. “They’re involved in blocking down the field. They’re involved in pulling and trapping on linebackers and defensive ends. We have to block the defensive ends 1-on-1 who are normally anywhere from 20-30 pounds heavier than us, and similar athletes”.
All of those things are going to have to be drilled into Njoku so that he at least understands his role. Still, his impact will obviously come through the air.