The Cleveland Browns injected speed into their receiver corps when they added Anthony Schwartz to the room. What kind of impact did the rookie have?
The Cleveland Browns looked to remedy a serious lack of speed in their wide receiver room when they selected Anthony Schwartz in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Schwartz, who was also a track and field superstar while at Auburn, posted a 4.27 second 40-yard dash time at his pro day.
Cleveland created some questions when they selected Schwartz with the 91st overall pick. Would Schwartz’ very specific skillset be the key to unlocking the Browns passing game in 2021? Could he develop and be more than a fast gadget guy in the NFL? With the 2021 season in the books, let’s chronicle the speedster’s rookie year and grade him out.
Schwartz’ rookie campaign got off to a rocky start when he injured his hamstring during the OTA’s. The rookie spent most of his first training camp on a bike in Berea. Schwartz returned to practice and played in the Browns final preseason game. He only recorded one reception for six yards with the second-team offense.
With the regular season looming, Schwartz’ role in the offense was a mystery to pretty much everyone outside of the organization. Head coach Kevin Stefanski used that mystery to his advantage in the season opener against the Chiefs. The rookie hauled in three catches for 69 yards and executed a 17-yard end-around in his NFL debut. Not a bad coming-out party.
However, Schwartz’ debut would prove to be an outlier in his rookie season. The next week his lone target resulted in an interception that changed the course of the Browns season. It appeared that Schwartz did not complete his route, and by doing so, Baker Mayfield was intercepted and was subsequently injured making the tackle.
When Odell Beckham jr. returned to the lineup, Schwartz’ playing time and role diminished greatly. The Browns began giving Schwartz opportunities as a kick returner in Week 4. For the next several games, that is where Schwartz was able to help the team the most. Unfortunately, Schwartz suffered a brutal collision on a kick return against the Patriots and was diagnosed with a concussion that caused him to miss three games.
Schwartz was able to return for the final four games of the season. His best game down the stretch came in the Christmas contest against the Packers. He caught a five-yard reception for his lone touchdown of the year and recorded two carries for a total of 24 yards. The rookie did see a slight increase in playing time to end his first season in the pros.
When it was all said and done, Schwartz was targeted 23 times but only hauled in 10 receptions for 135 yards. However, six of his catches resulted in a first down. He did show brief flashes as a kick returner and provided some value in his ability to execute the end around. But for where he was drafted, Schwartz’ return value in his rookie season was underwhelming.
Rookie grade: C-
With the Browns receiver room in flux going into 2022, Schwartz will have the opportunity to carve himself a sizeable role if he is able to take a leap in his sophomore campaign. If Schwartz is able to hone the nuances and intricacies of playing receiver in the NFL, it will allow his world-class speed to shine. Until that happens, he will remain a gadget guy.