Cleveland Browns receiving corps creeps into top-15 in latest ranking

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (13) rides an exercise bike as his teammates run drills during an NFL football practice at the team's training facility, Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Berea, Ohio. [Jeff Lange / Akron Beacon Journal]Browns 5
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (13) rides an exercise bike as his teammates run drills during an NFL football practice at the team's training facility, Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Berea, Ohio. [Jeff Lange / Akron Beacon Journal]Browns 5 /

The Cleveland Browns have their share of playmakers, and their offense looks loaded once again.

Expectations are high for the Cleveland Browns as an overall group, and with one of the best rosters in the league, as DPD’s Zane Harris hit on, they look to be a true title contender.

The defense should be considerably improved with notable additions such as Troy Hill, John Johnson III, Greg Newsome II, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, and Jadeveon Clowney. We’re well aware of what the likes of Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward bring to the table too when they’re fully healthy, obviously, and in hopefully a significantly less COVID-19-affected season, that will aid the club also.

In relation to the overall squad, though, it’s apparent that while Cody Parkey does leave some to be desired, Jamie Gillan and the coverage units are solid, and Cleveland’s offense has the makings of a well-oiled machine once again.

We know what the offensive line and running back tandem of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt provide, and based on the performance of Baker Mayfield from realistically Week 7 on last season, the passing attack seems ready to roll. That’s coincided with 2021 set to be Year 2 with Kevin Stefanski as Cleveland’s head coach to counter that ground game/to further aid Mayfield in his progression.

To that point, Mayfield should have a plethora of quality targets to go to next season, and a few youngsters could make their presence felt, too.

So how does the receiving corps for the Browns stack up? Here, we’ll touch on Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus’ take on that.

"“Last season, Browns wide receivers tied for ninth in receiving grade, including the playoffs, and that’s with No. 1 option Odell Beckham Jr. playing in just seven games. He returns, but there are already question marks surrounding his play because the Browns offense did improve after his injury. Regardless, Beckham can win at every level of the field when healthy, and he has graded at 85.0 or better as a receiver four times in his career, though two of his worst grades have come in Cleveland over the last two years.Jarvis Landry remains as dependable as it gets, last year grading at 84.7 overall and picked up 52 of the Browns 218 first downs through the air.” Palazzolo, PFF"

Palazzolo also got into the ranking of Rashard Higgins which he said was a 72.8 grade and praised the speed of Anthony Schwartz and the big-play ability of Donovan Peoples-Jones. From there, he would then hit on how Austin Hooper, while not nearly blowing anyones’ socks off/not being a game breaker in regards to his contract, in particular, was solid. He also noted how Harrison Bryant showed some flashes in his rookie campaign too, although how he’s more of a depth piece for now, and how David Njoku is still around, despite prior trade rumors.

But in a general sense, it’s clear that if Odell Beckham Jr. can return to form, combined with the rapport Mayfield has with Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins, that the group should get it done and could seemingly take it up a notch.

We should expect big things from the Browns receiving corps in 2021.

At this juncture, one is reasonable to question if Beckham can be nearly what he once was; so far, we haven’t seen that in his roughly 1.5 seasons with the Browns.

That said, in Year 3 with Mayfield and passers, essentially Mayfield, having a 91.9 rating when targeting Beckham last season, one is right to feel optimistic about the two being ready to roll in 2021. And the pop plays should be there more meaningfully game-to-game from that duo.

From there, as Palazzolo mentioned, Landry, while not being the threat of Beckham down the field/outside the numbers, is reliable in his role, and Higgins/Peoples-Jones both have grown to have impressive connections with Mayfield. Peoples-Jones’ deep prowess and playmaking ability outside the numbers in contested scenarios could materialize more often in 2021 too, but we’ll have to see in relation to the chances for him in that realm.

The likes of Anthony Schwartz and Demetric Felton, to a lesser degree, could help open the field for others/the running game when the meaningful snaps do come for them; albeit it’s difficult to say what those will be at this point, but the speed of both is undisputed.

And lastly, while Cleveland’s tight ends are not elite, their depth shouldn’t be discounted, and Hooper is still a solid contributor that Mayfield can go to in between the numbers.

Plus, Njoku, though the numbers haven’t popped, when healthy and if given the chances, has shown that he can definitely be a mismatch/checkmate-type player against slot corners and safeties for the Browns/Mayfield. So perhaps he can further establish himself as one of Cleveland’s better weapons in 2021.

Albeit anyway, as Palazzolo expressed, the Browns receiving corps can hit different next season if Beckham can get at least closer to his former self with the New York Giants. One should again expect the pass-catching situation for Cleveland, generally, to be a good one next season, though, based on how Mayfield closed out the year for the most part.

Next. OBJ returning to the Browns, expect lightning in a bottle. dark

Fans shouldn’t be concerned, frankly, about the Mayfield-Beckham duo/effect on the passing game/outlook for others from here either, also factoring in how Stefanski’s system made such a huge difference in winning/turning things around last season, too.