5 Cleveland Browns who are truly worthy but under-appreciated

Cleveland Browns, Jacoby Brissett. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland Browns, Jacoby Brissett. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports /
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Several Cleveland Browns players are under-appreciated but actually much better contributors than many observers realize. 

Some players have a special rapport with the fan base and sportswriters, and others — not so much. In the recent past, Cleveland Browns fans fell in love with players like Christian Kirksey, Joe Schobert, Jarvis Landry, and Rashard Higgins and were upset when Andrew Berry let them go.

Conversely, there are other players on the current roster who for whatever reason don’t seem to have that kind of support from the fans and media, but might actually be better players. This article seeks to draw attention to five of those players.

“Underappreciated” is subjectively estimated based on the players who seem to draw the most criticism in social media and even the hallowed comment pages of Dawg Pound Daily. Plus, just from sitting in the stands for preseason practices and games, one gets a sense of who the fans like and don’t like. Your list may be a bit different and if so, please comment below.

Number five on the list is a player who electrified the fans with a game winning catch versus the Bengals as a rookie in 2020 with 11 seconds left, but Baker Mayfield never really wanted to throw to him, and perhaps the fans sensed it. However, things are looking up in the post-Baker era.

5 Browns who are under-appreciated

Browns, Donovan Peoples-Jones. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images) /

5. Donovan Peoples-Jones

Donovan Peoples-Jones? Baker Mayfield couldn’t wait to throw passes to Odell Beckham, Jr. and Jarvis Landry, but he had no use for Peoples-Jones. For all the talk about the Browns’ supposed need for speedy wide receivers, here is a guy who ran a legit 4.48 seconds at the 2020 Combine.

As a rookie, he came up with a terrific catch versus the Bengals to steal a victory. He had 21.7 yards per reception and he caught 70 percent of the balls that were thrown at him. Those are ridiculous numbers.

Yet as 2021 began, Mayfield practically ghosted him. DPJ played in all four of the first four games with only four targets (one per game) and caught all four balls. Landry played in only one game due to injuries but was targeted six times per game. OBJ missed two of four but was targeted 16 times (eight times per game). Even Anthony Schwartz was targeted eight times (twice as often as DPJ) but caught only three.

DPJ did the most damage but was rarely targeted. Welcome to the wacky world of Browns’ politics. Apologists for Mayfield want to say that it was DPJ’s fault for never getting open. So why were defenses 0 percent effective at defending against him? No, this was just Mayfield — aided and abetted by the coaching staff — wanting to make friends in the early going by feeding OBJ and Landry.

The brief fling with Schwartz has no logical explanation and no justification. Why in the world would any team even put a kid on the field who was as green as Schwartz? Just barely 21 (his birthday is September 5, just in time for the start of the season), he was only 50 percent devoted to football at Auburn because he also ran track. Don’t blame Schwartz, but do blame the coaching staff and quarterback. DPJ was miles ahead of Schwartz.

DPJ is an alum from the Wolverines of The School Up North, as we alums of The Ohio State University like to refer to them. Coach Jim Harbaugh did not like DPJ that much, using him mainly as a punt returner. That figures. Ask Tom Brady about getting playing time at Michigan.

Nevertheless, that probably got him off on the wrong foot with the Dawg Pound fan base, since many of us tend to be Buckeye fans. However, once they are in the pros, the college loyalties are over. Does anyone think that the Bosa brothers are going to be nice to us because they attended Ohio State?

In 2021, Mayfield and Peoples-Jones hooked up on a 57-yard Hail Mary touchdown bomb that was the longest complete pass recorded by NextGen stats. Then, versus Tennessee, they connected on a 75-yard touchdown bomb.

For the Browns this season, Amari Cooper has been all that for the Browns, getting the double coverages and drawing the top cornerback. But DPJ has done just fine as the second banana, hauling in 30 of 42 balls for 417 yards. Brissett has hit him for a 42-yard touchdown bomb this season. Plus he has been heating up recently. In the past three games, he has 14 catches in 15 targets (93.3 catch percentage) for 226 yards.

At some point, you start to get the idea that Peoples-Jones might be a deep threat. The Dawg Pound should welcome Peoples-Jones to Cleveland and not worry about Big 10 rivalries. They are in the past. At the risk of sounding a little like Freddie Kitchens, if DPJ is wearing Brown and Orange, that is all that really matters.