Cleveland Browns Daily hosts Nathan Zegura and Matt Wilhelm did not sugarcoat their feelings for Taylor Gabriel: They both think he's been the best wide receiver on the team during the offseason program and that he could shatter the 621 receiving yards he posted as a rookie.
There are three reasons Gabriel attributes to why he's evolving as a legitimate threat for the Browns offense and a fantasy football sleeper.
Gabriel is no longer wide-eyed about learning the playbook or being called out in a team meeting.
"Now I get to focus more on my releases or if I'm speed-bursting in a route," Gabriel said. "I get to really get technical with football. I'm hungry."
Secondly, more often than not, Gabriel has been going toe-to-toe in practice against Pro Bowler Joe Haden. It's harder to name another corner in the league as physical as Haden is at the line of scrimmage and he's constantly challenging Gabriel to raise his game during 11-on-11 settings. Further, the pair has lockers next to each other and have become close friends.
That magical Haden leadership seems to be rubbing off on him.
"He's a defensive back, so he knows all the wide receiver tendencies," Gabriel said. "I feel like Joe has helped me a lot."
Lastly, Gabriel has made it clear to his older teammates he doesn't want to just be a guy in the NFL – he wants to be a name everyone around the league knows. And the veterans, who are helping give the Browns' receiving corps a new identity, have been receptive.
Gabriel has been stealing route-running skills from Brian Hartline. After a play on the practice field, Gabriel first seeks out his position coach Joker Phillips, and then waits for Hartline's critique. Quarterback Josh McCown has sat down with Gabriel and explained coverages. Dwayne Bowe has taught Gabriel to put up his hands later in his route to throw off defenders.
"When it comes to Dwayne Bowe, he's just a dog, man," Gabriel said, affectionately. "Josh is a baller. He's the real deal. Anything I can get from those guys, I'm going to soak it in."
Gabriel wants a bigger role. He's earning it in practice, too. In an interview earlier in the offseason, he compared himself to big-time receivers who are similar in size to him, Antonio Brown and Steve Smith, and he had a more impactful rookie season than both of those two stars combined.
Even though Gabriel stands at just 5-foot-8, the expectations surrounding his potential are creeping closer to the clouds.