Does Browns tight end David Njoku have the tools to take the next step?
The Cleveland Browns have seen some major changes in the tight end room so far this off-season. As many expected, Austin Hooper was released after two disappointing years in the brown and orange. With the franchise tag being placed on David Njoku, there is no better time for him to fully break out and earn a selection to the Pro Bowl in 2022.
Njoku has had a roller-coaster of a career. He hauled in 32 receptions for 386 yards during his 2017 rookie year, and then saw a nice jump up in his sophomore season with 56 receptions for 639 yards.
2019 and 2020 were overall down years due to injuries and the signing of Austin Hooper, and then in 2021, he had a slightly more expanded role.
This coaching staff has learned quickly just how much of an athletic freak Njoku is, and this is partially why he could very well earn his first Pro Bowl selection. His size, speed, jumping ability, and improved route running make him a great weapon, especially in the red zone.
In addition to that, his blocking has improved dramatically since Kevin Stefanski took over in 2020, and he has improved his catching ability. Dropping passes was one of his biggest weaknesses coming out of college, so the refinement speaks volumes to his willingness to put the work in at the pro level. That work ethic will be put on full display now that the coaching staff views him as the first-string tight end.
Browns quarterback change should benefit Njoku
Another substantial reason that Njoku could earn a Pro Bowl selection in 2022 is the upgrade at quarterback. Deshaun Watson is an elite quarterback and even with an impending suspension, he’ll most likely be the main guy throwing Njoku the ball.
This upgrade over Baker Mayfield will only improve Njoku’s stats, which will help him make his case for a Pro Bowl selection. Taking that next step will be a combination of the work he puts in, how many targets Stefanski gives him, and who is throwing him the ball.
One last thing to remember is that Njoku is only 25 years old. He was drafted at a very young age and has been developing each year.
He was always going to be a big project coming out of college, but he’s finally at a point where his true potential can be unleashed.
Don’t be surprised if Njoku catches anywhere from 60-80 passes in 2022 and gets selected to his first Pro Bowl. This is a big year for him to earn a long-term contract and cement himself as one of the best tight ends in the league.