5 Cleveland Browns WR prospects from out of nowhere

May 13, 2022; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Isaiah Weston (17) catches a pass during rookie minicamp at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
May 13, 2022; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Isaiah Weston (17) catches a pass during rookie minicamp at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /
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Cleveland Browns
Jan 9, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Demetric Felton (25) slaps hands with a fan during warmups before the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports /

Cleveland Browns WR prospect No. 1: Demetric Felton, slot receiver masquerading as running back

Quite a number of fans seem to be at least mildly unhappy with Demetric Felton, for reasons that are not entirely understood. He was just a rookie, and he caught 18 of 21 balls thrown at him last season. That’s good, isn’t it?

Perhaps the reason for the discomfort is that Felton was listed as a running back, and so the perception was that he was taking away snaps from Nick Chubb, who is our favorite metahuman. However, if you believe Pro Football Focus, most of Felton’s touches came on pass plays when he lined up in the slot. In that case, he was encroaching on the turf of Jarvis Landry, another fan favorite who recently headed to New Orleans.

Unless there is a trade, Demetric Felton is not making the Browns as a running back this year, not with Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D’Ernest Johnson, and fifth-round draft pick Jerome Ford from the University of Cincinnati ready to carry the ball. The slot presents itself as Felton’s best opportunity to make the club and force his way into a starring role.

Last season, splitting time between the two positions, he caught 18 of 21 balls thrown at him in 2021, a catch percentage of 85.7 percent. In terms of total yards from scrimmage per snap, Felton’s figure of merit was 1.58 TYFS/snap.

Running backs are supposed to catch the ball about 75 to 80 percent of the time, so Felton was very good but not an anomaly. Nevertheless, there’s no data out there suggesting he can’t catch.

What is there to not like about him?

Well, he ran a 4.58-second 40-yard dash. There is a section of the Dawg Pound that demands elite speed of all dawgs that inhabit the place, and moreover, when he plays running back, he is taking away snaps from Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and not everyone believes that this is a smart idea.

The fascination with elite speed is probably justified on defense, where cornerbacks really do need elite speed if they want to be shutdown corners like Denzel Ward and be rewarded with mega-contracts, or if your job is to chase down Lamar Jackson as a pass rusher. Slow corners and slow pass rushers can be role players but not stars.

But wide receivers are a different story. They named the best wide receiver award after Fred Biletnikoff, and the Hall of Fame quotes him as follows: “l run the 40 in 4.7 and that’s fast enough.”

Jerry Rice was another 4.7 guy. So was Steve Largent. Jarvis Landry made five Pro Bowls with a 4.77. Cooper Kupp isn’t much faster at 4.62. Cris Carter posted a 4.61. So, while agreeing with the need for speed in general and especially at select positions on defense, I’m barking back on the issue of speedy wide receivers. Speed is overrated.

Fans, if we could enter a time warp and field a team with Fred Biletnikoff, Jerry Rice, Steve Largent, Cris Carter, and Cooper Kupp in the wide receiver room, that should be good enough. Let’s just get guys who can catch footballs, and let the Olympics worry about speedsters, shall we? Anyway, the Browns already have a 4.2 guy in Anthony Schwartz. So someone can start a fan club for him and we can all be happy.

Pro Football Focus lists Felton as a wide receiver, and by their reckoning on passing downs, he took snaps in the slot or wide receiver positions 86.7 percent of the time last season. In many cases, he lined up initially as a running back and then shifted to a receiver position.

They don’t break down how many of his catches came on plays out of the backfield, but he had 205 yards from scrimmage in only 130 total offensive snaps. If you figure that one yard per offensive snap is sufficient for a position player to earn a living in the NFL, Felton definitely met expectations and then some.

Nobody is saying that he is the next Josh Cribbs, but he had 604 all-purpose-yards as a rookie. He also added four tackles on special teams. At any rate, every time they threw a football to Felton last season, it stuck to him. What the Browns need to find out is whether he can handle the high-speed madness in the slot on a consistent basis.

By the way, who made up the rule that running backs are not allowed to be used in the slot? It wasn’t Eric Metcalf. Nor was it Kareem Hunt, or our former arch-enemy and soon-to-be sports commentator Le’Veon Bell.

Next. 3 early season games that will set tone for 2022. dark

The Browns do not need Demetric Felton to be the fifth-string running back. However, don’t be surprised if he fools everyone in the Dawg Pound and winds up as the top dawg in the slot.