The 2019 Cleveland Browns season is almost upon us with less than a week until the team hits Berea to start training camp. The Browns have had a very busy, exciting and newsworthy offseason. It saw the team make some big roster shaking moves, which has in turn catapulted the hopes and excitement of Browns fans into all new heights since the return of the franchise in 1999.
We have been getting you ready for the start of the 2019 season by examining each of the Browns’ position groups. The next position under the microscope is the Browns tight ends unit.
The Browns tight ends unit is filled with exceptional athletes. It is led by David Njoku, who is an athletic freak with the explosion and speed most tight ends do not possess. The newly acquired Demetrius Harris is another athletic player. He is a former college basketball player. Seth DeValve was a receiver in college and has come into the league showcasing in spurts his athleticism as a receiving threat. Orson Charles has used his athleticism to perform numerous roles for the offense. And, Pharaoh Brown is another good athlete on the depth chart.
The Browns tight ends struggled to block last season, in particular in run blocking situations. The team lacked a true run-blocking tight end, who they could put in as an extra blocker and trust that he would do the job. This offseason the Browns signed Harris to be their backup tight end and to help shore up this run blocking weakness. According to Pro Football Focus, he had the 11th best run-blocking grade amongst tight ends last season. But, this was a career high grade with previous seasons posting far lower grades in this area. He should be an upgrade for this unit, but he must show that last season was not an aberration. If he can, this weakness will be greatly addressed.
The tight ends unit is led and driven by Njoku. He has the potential to be one of the best receiving tight ends in the entire league. Last season, he showed good production, but his ceiling is still much more than what he has shown so far in his career. Njoku has the rare athleticism to be a mismatch in the passing game. If he can reach his ceiling, the Browns have another Pro Bowl level receiving threat for Baker Mayfield to target. His play will determine the success of the overall position group.
Darren Fells was brought in to be a blocking tight end behind Njoku, but he did not perform adequately in that area. However, Cleveland did get a solid receiver who made some big catches last season, all be it in limited action. In terms of blocking the Browns will likely get an upgrade with Harris over Fells. But, Fells had a successful connection with Mayfield. The team is hoping to get a better athlete in the passing with Harris. But, can Harris provide the efficient production Fells had with Mayfield? I think Harris will be able to meet and eventually exceed Fells level of production.
Demetrius Harris may be one of the most underrated pickups this offseason. Cleveland really needed to find a better run blocker to go behind Njoku. Harris fills this need. But, he also offers a lot of upside because of his age and athleticism. He showed brief snippets last season that he has some really exciting talent in the passing game. If he continues to develop, the Browns may have another athletic freak at the position to help make the Browns passing game even more dangerous.
Seth DeValve remaining on the team
The biggest training camp battle will be whether or not Seth DeValve can show enough to make the roster this season. DeValve has so much athleticism and potential, but he has yet to show any sort of consistency to give the Browns any confidence in extending a roster spot for him. He could be a nice receiving threat for the offense, but he has just not been able to get on the field to show off his talent. The battle will be between DeValve and either Pharaoh Brown or Orson Charles, who the Browns may keep as both a fullback and tight end. Can DeValve show the consistency on the field to make the squad this season?
The Browns tight ends unit is filled with potential and athleticism. Njoku might be the leading candidate for a breakout season on offense. Entering Year 3, he has a lot of things going for him, including a good quarterback to rely on and offense filled with many playmakers. These conditions should give him the platform to have a career year. The unit will be driven by Njoku, but I believe Harris can complete and elevate this unit into one of the better ones on the team. If Harris can be the run blocker he was last season, the unit will have shored up its biggest weakness. But, his potential in the passing game makes him even more intriguing. Can he be yet another mismatch in the passing game?
The rest of the unit will be an interesting decision for the Browns. How will the team decide to fill out the rest of the roster? Do they trust DeValve enough to go with him as the third tight end? Can Brown showoff in the preseason to give the Browns a better option over the inconsistent DeValve? Or will they decide to just keep Charles to fill both the third tight end spot and the starting fullback spot? The Browns have a lot of choices to go to fill this unit out. But, overall this position is so exciting and is a unit to watch this coming season.