Cleveland Browns position not needed in draft No. 5: Slot Receiver
First of all, there is no slot receiver in Kevin Stefanski’s baseline two-tight-end formation. Hence this is not really a full-time job in Cleveland — unless they totally revamp the Stefanski offense. Slot receiver was actually Jarvis Landry’s best position, and he had to play on the outside most of the time in the Stefanski offense. He’s probably going to find a better fit with a team that actually plays three wide receivers most of the time.
Here’s where Alex Van Pelt needs to earn his money. Are the Browns going to realize that they have two potential slot receivers in Demetric Felton and Kareem Hunt? Or perhaps they are going to be fixated on their collection of Topps bubble gum cards, which states that both Felton and Hunt are running backs.
But if they are willing to borrow from the Steelers playbook, those two players are perfectly capable of lining up in the slot, just like Najee Harris does now and Le’Veon Bell did a few years ago. If you want to go back further, Eric Metcalf was a player who the Browns could only view as a situational running back and return man.
The fans in the Dawg Pound were always advocating that coach Belichick should put the ball in his hands more often, but he wouldn’t listen. Then Metcalf went to Atlanta as a free agent in 1995, where he wound up in the slot and posted 1,322 yards from scrimmage. Read that again —1,322 yards from scrimmage.
Yes, Belichick is a genius, especially on defense, but sometimes the Dawg Pound knows what it’s talking about. So maybe it is not such a stupid idea to put a pass-catching running back in the slot.
Anyway, both Hunt and Felton were used in the slot occasionally in 2021, but the Browns’ offensive brain trust was always straining to find ways to get snaps for Jarvis Landry in the slot, which is understandable since that is his natural position.
With Landry gone, the door is now open for Hunt and Felton to get more playing time operating out of the slot. They may get more touches in the form of pass receptions rather than rushing attempts. That’s why total yards from scrimmage (TYFS) might be a better stat to measure a running back’s production rather than just rushing yards.
Who cares whether the yards come via the pass or via hand-offs? Yards are yards!
Another alternative to the slot receiver is a second tight end. Hello David Njoku, Harrison Bryant, and blocking tight end Stephen Carlson — who is attempting to come back from a significant knee injury. Fullback Johnny Stanton is yet another alternative. They will also try wide receivers Jakeem Grant and Ja’Marcus Bradley in the slot. Anthony Schwartz ran a few plays there as well, including a few running plays.
There is no shortage of talented players who are ready, willing, and able to either play slot receiver or be the alternative.
A dedicated slot receiver would be nice to have, but there’s too much-untapped potential from Hunt and Felton. Production from the number five position player is not going down in the absence of Jarvis Landry. It is going up — way up.