Cleveland Browns 2016 season position review: Wide Receiver

The Browns wide receiver group is one of the youngest units on the team. With the young age, the position was as volative as would be expected during the 2016 season. The Browns starting receivers for most of the season were Terrelle Pryor and Corey Coleman with Andrew Hawkins and Ricardo Louis serving as injury fill-ins. Rashard Higgins was the only other receiver to get more than a handful of snaps this season. Let’s take a look at what the wide receiver position did in the 2016 NFL season and what needs to happen before the 2017 season.

2016 Browns Position Reviews: Quarterback, Running Back

Wide Receivers on the roster: Terrelle Pryor, Corey Coleman, Josh Gordon, Andrew Hawkins, Rashard Higgins, Ricardo Louis, Jordan Payton, Rannell Hall, Josh Boyce, Dennis Parks, Mario Alford and Jordan Leslie

Notable Stats

Terrelle Pryor: Caught 77 passes for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns, while also adding eight rushes for 21 yards and a touchdown.

Corey Coleman: Caught 33 passes for 413 yards and three touchdowns.

Andrew Hawkins: Caught 33 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns.

Ricardo Louis: Caught 18 passes for 205 yards.

Rashard Higgins: Caught six passes for 77 yards.


Terrelle Pryor had his coming out party as a wide receiver in the NFL. In his second full season as a receiver, Pryor really showed off some impressive receiving skills. His route-running and footwork really developed nicely in second year, showing technique that many receivers who have been working on it for years still do not have. With these improved techniques, Pryor was able to put that together with his freakish athleticism. He stands at 6-foot-4, but he can run faster than most defensive backs. He still has some development and work to do, but Pryor has the chance to be a No. 1 receiver in the league. The Browns need to sign him to a long-term contract as he is a free agent.

Corey Coleman had an up-and-down season like many rookies. He exploded onto the scene in his first two games, notching seven catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns in that stretch. But after these games, he broke his hand and missed six games. When he returned, it looked like he had fallen behind and was not able to return to performance level of the first two games. He has great speed, elusiveness and playmaking ability, but he is still raw as a receiver. Coleman needs to learn the finer points of route-running, amongst other receiving techniques. With more development and time, Coleman can be a dangerous receiver, who can make big plays for the offense.

Beyond Pryor and Coleman, Andrew Hawkins saw the most action. His skills and athleticism have diminished, but he is a solid veteran to have in the room with the younger receivers. Hawkins provides the position with a reliable veteran, but he is a player who may be let go if the Browns add a receiver this offseason.

Of the three other 2016 rookie receiver draft choices, Ricardo Louis had the biggest impact. He showed off his great size and athleticism, but he also showed his questionable hands, which landed him mostly on special teams later in the season. His biggest impact was on special teams. Rashard Higgins saw limited action, but he could see an increase in time next year. Jordan Payton did not see much time on the field, and he also was suspended during the season for failing a test for performance enhancing substances.

The ongoing, frustrating enigma in the receiver unit is Josh Gordon. He has been involved in trouble throughout his NFL career and his status with the Browns and the NFL is highly in doubt. Mario Alford has a chance to make the roster next season because of his returning skills, which he showed off pretty well this past season.

The Browns receiver unit has potential and youth, but it needs development and time. The unit was not consistent enough this season. The Browns have a potential really good tandem of Pryor and Coleman. But behind those two, Cleveland really did not have a great option to go to. Hawkins is aging, while the three rookies contributed very little in Year 1. It is a position with a lot of potential, but also a position with a lot of work to do.


Potential and Youth

The Browns wide receiving group is a very young group with a lot of potential. The average age of the group is 24.1 years old with just Terrelle Pryor and Andrew Hawkins older than 25. Especially with Coleman and Pryor, the youth means that there is still a lot of potential in this group. With development this offseason, the Browns could have a really talented group of receivers. Coaching and work ethic will be key this offseason for the youth to turn their potential into on-the-field production.


Depth and Reliability

The strength of the team also relates to the position’s weakness. The Browns have a lot of young players with a whole lot of potential, but right now it is hard to rely on them. This past season, the Browns only had three receivers who produced consistently when they were healthy. The young rookies, besides Coleman, struggled to get on the field. The coaches could not rely on these players yet. Other than Andrew Hawkins, the Browns lack a veteran presence, who can be a stable and reliable target for the Browns quarterback.

To Do List

  1. Re-sign Terrelle Pryor to a long-term contract

Terrelle Pryor is priority No. 1 for the Browns, regarding their receiver position. The Browns must re-sign Pryor to a long-term contract. Pryor showed this season that he has the makeup and talent to be a No. 1 receiver, even after just being at the position for two years. The team cannot let the young talented receiver to get away like some of the young talent they let go last offseason.

  1. Let Josh Gordon go

The Josh Gordon era is over. With his most recent slip-up, Gordon has blew past all his chances the team has offered him in his career. The Browns cannot wait for him and they cannot muddy the receiver group with his presence. It’s time to move on.

  1. Find a veteran backup receiver

The Browns lack a reliable veteran backup at the receiver position. This does not need to be an All-Pro. The team just needs someone who can help guide the young receivers on the team with his actions. Players like Pierre Garcon, Anquan Boldin or Vincent Jackson could be possible options the Browns could target in free agency.

  1. Develop the young receivers

The Browns have so many young receivers. This offseason, the team must focus on their development. If the Browns can develop Pryor and Coleman, the team could have one of the more dangerous receiver duos in the league. Pryor and Coleman have some development to do if they want to achieve that potential. The young backups must also make the jump this offseason in order to create better depth at the position. If at least one of these other young guys can develop, it makes the unit that much better.

  • RGB
  • tigersbrowns2

    Ricardo Louis was the biggest disappointment for me … when Coleman got hurt , he had a chance to shine , but didn’t impress … he couldn’t nail-down being the kick-off return guy either. he was drafted fairly high & i was expecting a little more.

    the good : he was only a rookie , so there’s room for improvement.

  • mgbode

    I was higher on Higgins but I was left even more disappointed since he couldn’t force his way onto the field. That preseason TD catch from Kessler seems so long ago now.

  • tsm

    Agree with both of you. This position group was the most disappointing. With all these picks I expected at least one to step up and be productive. Let’s hope at least one of them shows a work ethic and spends the offseason watching film and working on his game.

  • Jaker

    Much like RB, I don’t think we can afford the luxury of drafting a WR on the first two nights, even though this group did not fare too well this season. I could see us adding a guy like Vincent Jackson or Pierre Garcon, but I feel like they will want more money than their worth, and I’d rather focus our FA search on OL/DBs/Tyrod.

    In regards to evals, its tough to be too critical of a bunch of rookies and Pryor (who was still learning the position). Hawkins is the one veteran WR here, and as much as I like him as a player and leader, I was hoping to see more first downs from him. There are plenty of slot WRs in this league and more coming next season, and most of them would be cheaper. I hope we keep him though cuz I think he’s better than his stats were this season… I think TP is only scratching the surface of his talent. If given a consistent QB and better OL to help develop runs to set up the pass, I think what he did this year can become his bare minimum. High expectations here, so get him signed now so we can focus elsewhere for FA/Draft.

    I was at the Raven game and loved what I saw from Coleman. That injury really sucked with timing, but I still have high hopes for him this offseason. We need to find more ways to get him the ball this offseason… Higgins was the WR that really disappointed me, but maybe its because I had some unrealistic expectations. Just from watching his tape from college, I thought there was a great ability to get open and catch the ball, and I was hoping we’d see more of that. Maybe with a better OL and more consistent play from QB, a guy like him will be given more time and can find a way to make an impact. I’ll have my eye on him this offseason, let’s hope he tries to take the next step forward and we don’t need to address the position at all.

    I did not really expect much from Payton/Lewis. And they will really need to get to work this offseason if they want to stay with the team. Lewis was given lots of opportunities, but never made an impact as a WR. Being big and fast means nothing if you don’t work on catching the ball and running your routes… Payton barely even touched the field. Like Gregg Williams said, there are gunna be guys working their tails off to take your seat. Really gotta show improvement because of Lewis/Higgins/Payton, expect AT LEAST one to not be with the team opening day. The guy that barely got on the field would be the current low man.

  • paulbip

    Coleman played like a FA and Pryor is a cancer. The entire draft was a bust.

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  • jpftribe

    We are so used to crummy QB’s and draft busts. Have to be careful not to give up on these guys too soon.

  • mgbode

    No doubt. Gabriel & Snead showed us this year (Lance Moore one of the ones in the past) how much more important QB than WR is when it comes to guys that are OK but not special talents (guys like AJ Green, Julio Jones, Josh Gordon dominate regardless – though obviously still get a bump)

  • scripty

    I think people underestimate the difficulty of things for rookie WRs.

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  • tigersbrowns2

    hi PAUL … man , that’s pretty strong. what were you expecting from rookies playing on a bad team ? … you wrote all of them off after only 1 season ?

  • tigersbrowns2

    and Gabriel & Snead both went undrafted … so , who was the genius that saw the talent in these guys ??

  • mgbode

    Nice point (Lance Moore too)