Cleveland Browns: Previewing the 2017 wide receiving corps

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Rashard Higgins

Rashard Higgins predicted himself to have seven touchdowns in his rookie season and, well, that didn’t become a truth. Actually, Higgins was held to only six receptions for 77 yards and zero touchdowns.

However, playing time was tough to find and seven touchdowns is a hefty number to predict for a late-round draft pick. Higgins has potential, though, and similar to Louis should have plenty of opportunities to make a name for himself in 2017.

He is one of the most productive college wide receivers in recent memory and has qualities to be a serviceable receiver in the NFL. Higgins made ESPN’s top-25 breakout prospects for 2017, as did quarterback Cody Kessler.

He is a smart receiver that can really do everything asked of the position but doesn’t stand out at any area in particular. The ability to make miraculous plays was obvious at his time with Colorado State. Although, the NFL is a different league and Higgins needs to adapt properly if he wants to get quality playing time.

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It appears Louis is the favorite to play behind Britt and Coleman, then Higgins will fight for the next spot with a handful of others. That includes Jordan Payton, Rannell Hall and Jordan Leslie – all of whom are fighting for a roster spot. Expect the former Colorado State star to make the roster and garner playing time but he has match his time with production if he wants to stay on the field.

Duke Johnson Jr.

The Duke is among the most exciting players to watch on the Cleveland Browns roster and 2017 will only add on to that. As Isaiah Crowell continued to impress at running back the Browns found themselves in a pinch with finding Johnson playing time.

Now, it seems likely that he will replace Andrew Hawkins as the team’s slot receiver. Johnson is a phenomenal playmaker (possibly the Browns’ best) and getting the football in his hands is a main focus in Cleveland.

His ability to break tackles and make defenders miss is impressive and his versatility can be a focal point for the offense. Whether running the ball or receiving out of the backfield in 2016, Duke proved he can be electric with the football when given the opportunity. Now, it appears they’re adding another dimension by including him as the slot receiver.

Asking a player to prepare for several different positions is tough but Johnson has taken the opportunity with pride. Whether it’s Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler or DeShone Kizer starting at quarterback, Duke Johnson will be among their favorite weapons in 2017.

He is a massive problem in the open field and isn’t afraid to deliver punishing hits to defenders at his own risk. The switch to the slot isn’t due to poor running by any means either. In 2016, he averaged 4.9 yards per carry. However, Crowell simply took away carries from Johnson – hence the move to receiver to get him more involved.

This isn’t to say Duke won’t run the ball at all. He was included quite a bit as the third-down back last season and that will likely remain in 2017. Though, one thing is certain about the Browns outlook on Duke Johnson entering the new season. He is going to get his hands on the ball more frequently and he is going to hopefully be a nightmare to defend.