After selecting two defensive players with their two first picks in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Browns were done for Day 1 until an opportunity appeared. The Browns made a trade with the Green Bay Packers to move back into the first round at No. 29 to select tight end David Njoku of Miami (FL). The Browns finished off Day 1 with three first round picks.
David Njoku fills a need for more playmakers and mismatches for the Browns offense. The Browns needed to upgrade the tight end position with a player who can change the game. In 13 games with Miami (FL) last season, he caught 43 receptions for 698 yards and eight touchdowns.
So, what are the Browns getting in their new tight end? In this Cleveland Browns film room, we take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of tight end David Njoku. Let’s get to the film!
David Njoku’s No. 1 asset in his game is his freakish athleticism. These two plays above show just a glimpse of his amazing athleticism. In the first play against Pittsburgh, Njoku breaks off to the left along the line of scrimmage, catching the ball a yard or two behind the line of scrimmage. After the catch, he shoots around the edge, using speed to win the edge and get past the closing defender. He finishes off the play with an explosive jump that allows him to leap over another defender and into the endzone for a touchdown.
In the second play against Duke, Njoku catches the ball on the left flat. He heads to the sideline and gets a good block by his teammate, allowing him to stride down the sideline. But, Njoku puts on the jets and runs straight down the sideline, beating a defender by outrunning him and than using good balance agility to get behind a second blocker, who helps him get free for the final stretch to the endzone.
At 6-foot-4, 246 pounds, he has explosive athleticism that few tight ends possess. At the NFL Combine, he jumped 37.5 inches in the vertical and 133 inches in the broad jump, which both ranked in the top three of the tight ends group. His agility was also on display in the combine, running the 3-cone drill in 6.97 seconds, which is third fastest of the tight ends. He has the speed to run past defenders, agility to make defenders miss and explosive leaping ability to win in jump ball situations. His athleticism makes him a mismatch for defenses to defend.
David Njoku uses his athleticism to showcase strong ball skills. The two plays above showcase his ball skills. In the first play against Pittsburgh, Njoku runs a short flag route. He gets to the goal line and turns his head to start tracking the ball. The pass is little off target deeper in the endzone, but Njoku uses good body control and concentration to track the ball. He is being face guarded and contacted by the Pittsburgh defender, but uses his concentrations and body positioning to be in the right spot to bring in the catch for the touchdown.
In the second play versus Notre Dame, Njoku runs a stick and go route with the tight end shooting to the corner after the initial stick. Once Njoku starts fading to the corner of the endzone, he turns his head to start tracking the ball. Once the ball gets near to him, he gets his body in the right position to leap above the face guarding defender and snatch the ball above the defenders reach. He uses his big hands to snatch it out of the air through contact and bring it in for a touchdown. Njoku has the explosive athleticism to win in 50/50 situations where he has to beat a defender for the ball. His body positioning and size allows him to reach balls in tough spots that most would not be able to reach. His ball skills make him a redzone target right away for the Browns.
After the Catch Ability
One of the most unique aspects of David Njoku’s game is his ability after the catch. These two plays above show that ability. In the first play against West Virginia, he catches the ball in the right flat with one defender in front of him. He uses a stiff arm to get the defender to go low on him and then uses good balance and strength to get through the tackle attempt. After breaking the tackle, he runs down the sideline and leaps over another defender to get the touchdown.
In the second play against Duke, Njoku gets open down field along the numbers. Once he catches the pass, he has just one defender to beat. He uses a good stiff arm to keep the defender away and then speeds away as the defender makes a failing attempt to dive for the tackle, allowing Njoku to coast for a touchdown. Njoku has the athleticism, including speed, agility, balance and explosion to make plays after the catch and be a big time playmaker for an offense.
David Njoku, for a man his size, has great fluidity and agility as an athlete. The play above illustrates this. In this play against North Carolina State, Njoku catches the ball five yards down the field. He catches the ball and starts to run to the right, but he sticks his foot in the ground and goes the opposite direction across the face of the defender in front of him, leaving the defender falling past him. The tight end, then, explodes up field with great speed for fifteen more yards. His fluidity and agility allow him to do things that most other tight ends cannot do, like make defenders miss and move around the field like a receiver. He has the movement skills of a receiver, but the size of a tight end, making him a true mismatch.
Strength/Technique as a Blocker
Though David Njoku is a willing blocker, who uses good arm extension, he can struggle with his strength at the point of attack and he is not a technically sound blocker. These three plays above illustrate these problems. In the first play against Pittsburgh, he is lined up on the right end of the line to run block. Njoku loses in the opening moments of the block, allowing the defender to beat him with a powerful punch, pushing him off balance and opening the outside for the defender to get free. The run plays right into the defender, as the defender gets free from Njoku to make the tackle on the runner.
In the second play against Virginia, Njoku is lined up on the right end of the line to run block. He is able to get a hold of the defender initially pushing him to the side, giving the runner a lane to run through. But, Njoku is too high with his hands too wide on the defender. This allows the defender to control the tight end and get him off balance, allowing him to get away from Njoku to make a tackle on the runner. In the final play against Virginia, he is lined up on the left end of the line in pass protection. Njoku gets dominated on this play. He is completely driven back into the lap of the quarterback because his stance is too high and his lack of overall strength at the point of attack. The defender is able to get away from Njoku and get to the quarterback on the pass rush. Njoku is a willing blocker and has length to be a solid blocker. But, he must get stronger as a blocker, along with improving his leverage and hand placement as a blocker.
Another weakness in David Njoku’s is his propensity to drop passes because of focus. The two plays above show this problem. In the first play against Pittsburgh, Njoku runs out to the right flat, gaining separation from his defender with a nice route. But, the tight end drops the accurate pass in the flat because he turned up field too early before he secured the pass in his hands. In the second play against North Carolina, Njoku runs another short route to the flat. The misdirection play leaves him wide open in the flat. But, he once again looked up field before he caught the pass, dropping an accurate pass that hit him right in the chest. According to Pro Football Focus, Njoku dropped seven passes of the 71 catchable passes he was thrown over his past two seasons. He has strong hands with the ability to make tough catches, but he suffers from far too many focus drops.