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2017 Draft Reaction: David Njoku Goes to the Cleveland Browns

David Njoku was drafted 29th overall by the Cleveland Browns. After selecting edge rusher Myles Garrett 1st overall and safety Jabrill Peppers at 25, the Browns traded back into the first round to address the offensive side of the ball. While Cleveland has a bevy of draft capital to play with, it is exciting to see them go and get the uber-athletic Njoku in the first round.

From a fantasy perspective, we all know the story with rookie tight ends. They usually take a few years to adjust to the NFL and it is unlikely that Njoku will make an immediate fantasy impact. I do like the landing spot. Incumbent starter and 2015 waiver wire stud, Gary Barnidge, will be 32 years old. Seth Devalve was a (surprise) fourth-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft but played sparingly as a rookie. It’s pretty easy to envision the path to relevancy for Njoku in Cleveland.

We’ll get to more of that in a minute. But first, we take a comprehensive look at the new Cleveland Browns TE, David Njoku.

David Njoku, Miami, 6-4, 246

Final Age: 20.5  Vert: 37.5  Cone: 6.97

Raw and Market Share College Production

Year Rec Yds Avg TD msYD msTD
2015 21 362 17.2 1 0.13 0.07
2016 43 698 16.2 8 0.21 0.32
Career 64 1060 16.7 9 0.17 0.20

Per Phil Watkins article, Tight End Prospecting: 2017 Draft Class, he projects David Njoku to have a higher probability of being a long-term NFL starter than the other two tight ends selected before him on Thursday night, O.J. Howard and Evan Engram.

2017-04-04 (11)

The youngest tight end in the 2017 NFL Draft class, Njoku was highly productive in a short period of time. Neil Dutton explains:

After a 2014 redshirt season, Njoku played as a wide receiver in 2015, reeling in 21 receptions for 362 yards and a touchdown. He moved across the hall to the TE room in 2016 and nearly doubled his reception and yardage totals. His 43 catches for 698 yards included eight receiving scores. These touchdown grabs were good for the seventh-most in a single season for the Hurricanes since the 2000 season…

That Hurricane touchdown leaderboard includes future NFL hall of famers, Reggie Wayne and two different seasons from Andre Johnson.

Let’s look at Njoku’s production comps using the Box Score Scout.

njoku comps

His comp list is riddled with a full spectrum of outcomes. A few studs, a few perennial teases, some up-and-comers, and a couple players that haven’t quite lived up to expectations.

Player Outlook

David Njoku was the number two tight end prospect in both the RotoViz Scouting Index and the pre-draft RotoViz rankings. I can envision a scenario in which Engram might jump him in some post-draft ranks. The Giants passed over Njoku in favor of the smaller Engram who should find some room to operate in the slot. I think Howard in Tampa Bay will remain the consensus top tight end in rookie drafts.

Njoku was my top ranked tight end pre-draft. Knowing that any relevant rookie season production is unlikely. I’ll take the long term approach on the big, fast, athletic, productive tight end who also happened to be productive at a very young age.

njoku measurables

We’ll have to see how the rest of the NFL draft plays out. There are still some big skill position names on the board with equally tantalizing landing spots. I’m comfortable going after Njoku in the late first round of tight end premium dynasty leagues. I’d probably wait until the mid-second in PPR and shallow leagues. Njoku has the measurables and comparables to be a stud in the NFL but it may be a year or two before we see a TE1 unleashed.

Team Outlook

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that an analytics-centered fantasy site is applauding the approach of the Cleveland Browns. As a team that was devoid of talent as recently as 2015, exploiting the needs and desires of other NFL teams while taking a shotgun approach at young prospects is exactly what they should be doing.

Given that Cleveland did not select a quarterback in the first round, it seems likely that the Browns already have their 2017 starting QB in Cody Kessler. Adding RotoViz favorite Kenny Britt in free agency and entering year two of Corey Coleman, the Browns have a nice young corps of receivers that should be able help a young QB succeed.

And don’t forget about fellow Hurricane alum, Duke Johnson. I like the additions of J.C. Tretter and Kevin Zeitler to the offensive line as well. On paper, the offensive talent that Cleveland is expected to put on the field in 2017 might be the best we’ve seen in Northern Ohio in a very long time.

I expect Njoku to overtake Barnidge for snaps sooner than later.  The Browns attempted the 6th and 7th-most passes in the last two seasons. Barnidge experienced a 44 target dip from 2015 to 2016. Still good for 17th among tight ends. Most of that dip can be attributed to the emergence of Terrelle Pryor. The QB carousel they played with for second half of the year didn’t help much either. If the young offense can gel and get some consistency from the QB position, maybe the targets won’t climb dramatically but the quality of targets and red zone opportunities might.


I love the landing spot. I love the approach of the team. As the young team starts to come into their own, Njoku has the physical traits to be a dominant red zone option for years to come. Adios, Factory of Sadness!

Find all our 2017 NFL Draft reaction content here.

Additional Research

  • Tight Ends – Tight End Prospecting – Phil Watkins built a TE success model that is exceptionally good at identifying busts. It’s also useful for finding players that are likely to have NFL success. Watkins analyzes the top 14 TE prospects in this year’s draft and provides odds of success for each.

See for yourself…

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