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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David Njoku, Browns. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images) /

 4. David Njoku

Many of us still have not forgiven David Njoku for poor blocking circa 2019, when general manager John Dorsey called him out. Coach Freddie Kitchens really did make him a healthy scratch at a time when the Browns had five tight ends on the 53-player roster, making him one of the few fifth-string tight ends in NFL history.

Then, for the past two seasons, Austin Hooper was the go-to tight end for Mayfield, even though the stats show that Njoku was unquestionably better than Hooper. For that matter, Harrison Bryant also posted distinctly better numbers with a smaller data sample.

Below are five sets of stats. One is Njoku’s 2021 stats, and one is his 2022 stats. Also included are the 2021 stats for Austin Hooper. Stats are derived from Pro Football Reference.

Player                Targets/60 snaps         Catch %   Yards/rec   Yards/target

Njoku 2021                   4.74                      67.9%           13.2            9.0

Hooper 2021                5.10                      62.3%             9.1             5.7

Njoku 2022                   6.09                      81.0%          12.3           10.0

A maddening feature of the 2021 Browns offense is that Hooper received more attention even though he did not produce results. Njoku achieved far superior yardage and caught the ball more reliably than Hooper. In fact, Harrison Bryant was also better than Hooper.

Njoku has benefitted this season from having Jacoby Brissett throw him the ball. In addition, Amari Cooper has drawn safety help at times, giving more opportunities for Njoku to be open.

This year, Hooper is playing in Nashville Tennessee (150 receiving yards through Nov 6) and Njoku is having his best season, with an 81.0 catch percentage and 10.0 yards per target. Hooper is actually playing better for Tennessee because he is not over-targeted like he was in Cleveland.

Some fans were upset that Njoku made $6 million last season, charged to the 2021 cap. Certainly, that’s more money than most fans make, so perhaps it is understandable if fans envy or even resent the high standard of living enjoyed by star athletes. But Hooper’s cap charge was $8.25 million last season.

In the next two years, the Browns cap will be charged $11.7 million for Njoku and $10.2 million for Hooper. That’s right. Hooper’s guaranteed dollars will haunt the Browns’ payroll for two more seasons, so it’s time to quit complaining about Njoku. We may debate the merits of Njoku, but Hooper will catch zero passes for the Cleveland Browns. In any case, let’s not blame the players for signing big contracts. They just sign what is offered by the general manager.

Njoku is from a family of nine children. He has a brother who is a brain surgeon and a sister who is an engineer, so there are brains in the family as well as athleticism. Incidentally, the Chief really is a Chief now. He was given that title by his family’s tribe in Nigeria, in recognition of years of humanitarian work, including paying for a borehole to provide clean water for the village. He’s a good man who comes from a good family that includes medical professionals and engineers in addition to athletes.