2017 Browns Season Position Preview: Tight End

The Cleveland Browns is seeing a big youth movement in their tight end unit for 2017. The position has a variety of talents with some exciting young tight ends. Currently, Seth DeValve, David Njoku, Randall Telfer, J.P. Holtz and Taylor McNamara make up the Browns tight end position.

So, what can the Browns fans expect from the tight end unit? WFNY can help answer that question. Let’s take a look at the Browns tight end position going into the 2017 NFL season.

Additions: David Njoku and Taylor McNamara

Subtractions: Gary Barnidge and Connor Hamlett

Projected Starter: Seth DeValve

The Browns will likely play a lot with tight end sets, but I believe Seth DeValve will be the No. 1 tight end on the roster. DeValve was the Browns fourth round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. He played college at Princeton. Last season in 12 games for the Browns, he had ten receptions for 127 yards and two touchdowns.

DeValve is a physical freak, with ability to be a big play producer in the passing game. Three of his ten receptions last year were for 20 or more yards. It is a mismatch for any defense, too big for defensive backs and too athletic for linebackers. With his size at 6-foot-4 and his ball skills, he makes for a very big target for the quarterback. He is a player who can line up on the end of the line or out wide. But, he was very raw coming out of college, after playing the wide receiver position at Princeton. He actually showed off OK blocking last season, but he can get better and his skills as a receiver could use some refining. But, his athleticism and big play ability will be a huge asset in the Browns passing game.

DeValve is not the definitive starter at tight end, especially with the talented rookie David Njoku fighting for the spot. But, I believe this will be a coming out party for DeValve and think his year in the NFL gives him an edge over Njoku for the starting spot. It will be fun to watch his development with more playing time. He showed glimpses of what he could do last year. I think he will emerge this preseason and win the starting tight end spot.

Possible Contributors: David Njoku and Randall Telfer

The Browns will likely run a lot of multiple tight end sets, so the need for contributing tight ends will be important. The two most likely tight ends to be contributors along with DeValve are David Njoku and Randall Telfer. Njoku was the team’s third first round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. In 13 games at Miami (FL) last season, he had 43 receptions for 698 yards and eight touchdowns. Telfer is entering his third season with the Browns. He caught two passes for four yards in 14 games last year.

Njoku is another physical freak in the Browns tight end unit. He has traits that many receivers would love to have. He is an explosive athlete with the ability to sky above defenders with his large frame to win 50/50 balls. After the catch, he can make people miss and run past defenders to create bigger plays. He is another tight end who could be a huge mismatch for defenses to have to defend against. But, he is still a little raw in terms of blocking and he needs to focus better on securing passes and having as many focus drops. In the end, though, he should be a productive receiver in his rookie season.

Telfer is not going to be a playmaker in the passing game, but he will contribute as a blocker. He is a well-built tight end with good strength to be an extra blocker when the team needs one. His biggest issue is his ability to stay healthy and be available on the field. He missed his entire rookie season with an injury and also missed a few games last year. But, his spot on the roster is pretty solid because he is the best blocker of all the tight ends on the roster.

Biggest Strength: Athleticism

The Browns tight end unit’s biggest strength is its athleticism. Seth DeValve and David Njoku are the big examples of this athleticism. Both players are big athletes with the ability to run and move like smaller players. The athleticism in the unit helps create mismatches for defenses to have to defend against. This makes the group potentially a big play producer that can change games with one play. Not many teams can say they have the freakish athleticism that the Browns possess in the tight end unit.

Biggest Weakness: Experience

The Browns released Gary Barnidge this offseason, making the tight end unit very young with not much experience. The likely three main contributors in the group all have less than three seasons of experience in the NFL, with DeValve and Telfer playing only one season and Njoku coming in as a rookie. So, the group will be developing while it is thrust into playing time. The unit will not have a veteran to lean on and will need to learn on the run, so to speak. This group will likely experience some growing pains as the young group goes through the season.

Key Player: David Njoku

The key player in the tight end unit is rookie David Njoku. I believe he is the key to the position because he is, in my opinion, the most talented and physically gifted tight end. He is the most dynamic player of the bunch. The Browns are in need of a tight end who can take the starting spot and run with it. DeValve is also a player with so much athleticism and potential, but Njoku has even more athleticism and a higher ceiling than the Princeton alum, which says a lot about Njoku. His development in the position will be important to watch. The more quickly he can develop, the better the position and offense can be.

Top Training Camp Battle: David Njoku vs Seth DeValve

This will be one of the more interesting and fun battles to watch during training camp. David Njoku and Seth DeValve are the two leading tight ends in the unit and will fight for the No. 1 tight end spot on the roster. Both players are athletically gifted with the ability to be mismatches in the passing game. I believe DeValve will win the starting job over Njoku and earn the most playing time at the position. I think DeValve’s experience of just one year will give him the slight advantage over Njoku. But as I have said earlier, the Browns will probably use a lot of two tight end sets, giving the second tight end on the depth chart his fair share of playing time.

Overall Opinion:

The Browns tight end position possibly has the most potential and upside of any position on the roster. The unit potentially has everything teams want in a tight end unit. It can provide mismatches for the passing game, blockers, big play ability and flexible role usage. But, much of this is based on potential and developing the players to reach their ceiling. The group is extremely young and raw, meaning there will likely be some growing pains during the young players’ developments. So, the position may not be highly productive immediately out of the gate. But, it can be really good.

It possesses two tight ends who are freak athletes with the talent and size that few possess in the entire league. Seth DeValve and David Njoku are the leaders of the tight end unit and the success of the position will fall on their laps. Both tight ends are young with little to no NFL experience. So, the development of these two will shape the unit overall and decide if it will succeed or flounder. Beyond those two, Randall Telfer gives the Browns a really valuable blocker to use when the team is in need of an extra blocker. If he can stay healthy, which is a big if, Telfer will play an important role on the offense. J.P. Holtz and Taylor McNamara might be fighting for the fourth tight end spot, but the team might just take three, leaving these two off the roster. The Browns are in a good position at tight end, but coaching will be important for this unit to really be the best it can be. I am really excited and confident to see this group play well this year and become a strength for years to come.

2017 Browns Season Position Preview Series: Quarterback, Running Back/Fullback, Wide Receiver, Tight End