Get your red pens out! After I took on the quarterback position and WFNY’s Jake Burns looked at the running back unit, I will continue the grading by examining the performance of the Browns wide receivers in the 2017 season.
The Browns wide receivers have been a position of great interest for fans, especially over the last few seasons. The Browns have had a tough time finding answers at the position. This offseason the Browns lost Terrelle Pryor but replaced him with Kenny Britt. Let’s just say that trade-off did not work. Let’s examine this position further.
Overall Grade: C-
Josh Gordon: A
18 receptions for 335 yards, one touchdown and 18.6 yards per reception
Corey Coleman: C+
23 receptions for 305 yards, two touchdowns and 13.3 yards per reception
Sammie Coates: D
Six receptions for 70 yards and 11.7 yards per reception
Rashard Higgins: C
27 receptions for 312 yards, two touchdowns and 11.6 yards per reception
Ricardo Louis: C
27 receptions for 357 yards and 13.2 yards per reception
Kasen Williams: D+
Nine receptions for 84 yards and 9.3 yards per reception
Kenny Britt: F
18 receptions for 233 yards, two touchdowns, 12.9 yards per reception
Bryce Treggs: D+
Five receptions for 79 yards and 15.8 yards per reception
Jordan Leslie: INC
One reception for 26 yards and 26 yards per reception
Top Grade: Josh Gordon
The top grade at the position goes to Josh Gordon, who played in just five game, which illustrates how well the position performed this past season that a player who played in just five games had the highest grade. Nevertheless, Gordon returned from his suspension and showed that he is still a freak with the ability to be the best receiver in the league. In five games, he had 18 receptions for 335 yards, one touchdown. His 18.6 yards per reception led the team.
Expectations were not high after Gordon did not play in a regular season game since 2014. But, he shattered expectations in his first game, showing he still had the talent that amazed Browns fans and the league early in his career. He still is a physical freak with the ability to win one-on-one matchups with just his athleticism. Gordon immediately became the top receiver on the team when he returned and performed that way, earning him my top grade. Gordon could have been even more productive, but poor quarterbacking by DeShone Kizer negated some of that production. He was a bright spot in a position that underperformed overall.
Biggest Strength: Upside
The biggest strength of the wide receiver unit is the overall upside of the players. The Browns oldest receiver on the current roster is 26 years old, but that 26-year old is Josh Gordon, who probably has the biggest upside on the team. Gordon has the most talent of all the receivers, but he is coming off a huge break where he did not touch the football field. He has to rebuild to the level he was once at, giving him a huge upside. Along with Gordon, Corey Coleman has a big upside, too. He has struggled with injuries in the first two seasons and poor quarterbacking. So, if he can stay healthy and the Browns find a quality quarterback, we could finally see the talent that earned Coleman the first-round billing. Beyond these two receivers, Rashard Higgins and Ricardo Louis have some upside due to their youth and inexperience. The position is full of developing, young receivers.
Biggest Need: Consistency
This position has been one of the most inconsistent units on the team for the few years. The Browns need consistency in their wide receiver unit. The only real consistent receiver over the past couple years has been Terrelle Pryor for one season last year. Other than him, we have not seen a steady performance for an entire season. The Browns tried to get one last season by signing Kenny Britt, but that turned into a disaster. On the Browns currently, Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman have the talent to be the consistent receivers on the roster. But, the Browns must add talent to the position to help make more options to fill this need. A veteran leader like Jarvis Landry, Terrelle Pryor or Paul Richardson could be good options to get a steady force in the unit to go along with Coleman and Gordon.
The Cleveland Browns wide receiver unit was just not good in 2017. It was an inconsistent unit with a revolving door of talent coming in and out of the lineup all season. The position can be summed up in this way. Josh Gordon did not play a snap in a regular season since 2014 and came back in Week 13 of the season, but he ended up with the best performance of all the receivers on the team. Coleman struggled with another injury that derailed his early season and so he was playing catch-up all season. Kenny Britt was signed to replace Terrelle Pryor, but his season was a dumpster fire and ended up leading to his release before the end of the season. Rashard Higgins and Ricardo Louis showed some glimpses, but neither were able to be a consistent producer. The rest of the unit saw a revolving door of names who could not leave an indelible mark in a game.
This offseason the Browns need to upgrade this position. I think they need to address the unit both in free agency or trade and the 2018 NFL Draft. As I stated earlier, the Browns need more consistent performers. A veteran is desperately needed to give leadership and a steady hand in the unit. But, the Browns should also look for a receiver in the draft, who can produce right away and hopefully be an eventual starter-level talent. With one or two of their five picks in the first two rounds, a receiver should be drafted. However, the production of this position is not all on the receivers. The Browns need to get a quality quarterback. With a quality quarterback, the receivers will have an easy time and produce more based on that upgrade.
The Cleveland Browns will sign or trade for a big name receiver in free agency (either Jarvis Landry, Terrelle Pryor or Paul Richardson) and the Browns will use the first or second pick of the second round on a receiver (Look for guys like Anthony Miller, James Washington, Auden Tate or Dante Pettis).