Nobody on the Browns' current roster has a better catch-to-touchdown ratio than Seth DeValve.
Indeed, the second-year tight end from Princeton made the most of his limited opportunities last season, catching 10 passes and two touchdowns on just 12 targets and 93 snaps. But as the year went on, it was clear DeValve's arrow was trending up. Now, with the departure of veteran Gary Barnidge, whom Cleveland released earlier this spring, DeValve is poised for a significant role on a new-look offense still coming into form.
"It was hard to see him go," DeValve said. "It was a shock, I think, to everybody. I certainly didn't expect it.
"That being said, now that he's gone, I did feel a huge responsibility and really wanted to just step right in. I had limited opportunities last year, and I felt the whole time like I wanted to do more. And suddenly, here comes an opportunity to do more."
And as Cleveland wraps up offseason workouts next week, he's caught the eye of head coach Hue Jackson, who described DeValve as an "emerging player."
"This is not the same Seth as a year ago. He came out and was banged up and learning his way in the National Football League," Jackson said. "I'm sure he'd probably tell you he felt a little overmatched. But I think he's worked extremely hard, and I think it shows in what he's done this offseason to give himself a chance to compete and I think he's done a good job."
DeValve, a fourth-round pick in 2016 who played mostly slot receiver and wing back at Princeton, found himself learning the ins and outs of a new position and new offense this time last year. He was also battling a nagging hamstring injury that nipped at him through training camp.
"I think you spend the majority of your rookie year finding your routine, finding your success routine," he said.
"And once you find it, you kind of just want to stay with it. And the biggest difference is, I can stick with that routine from Day 1 this year and I'm in better shape. I'm stronger, I'm faster, I'm healthier and I know better what I'm doing on the field. So just getting in that routine, having that routine down from last year and just sticking to it, everything's gone a lot more smoothly."
DeValve, 22, will compete for playing time with third-year tight end Randall Telfer and the rookie David Njoku, the third of the Browns' three first-round picks in April. Asked what challenges two pass-catchers like DeValve and Njoku -- who thrived as a mismatch threat at Miami -- could pose for defenses, Jackson nodded.
"It can cause problems. Those guys have got to be ready to play," he said. "They have got to be accountable, dependable, be out there every day and be able to make those plays when the opportunities come."
That's why DeValve said he's not about to rest now with the season three months away.
"I have pretty high expectations for myself, but I wouldn't call them expectations, I'd call them goals. I know what I'm capable of doing," DeValve said.
"I wasn't able, for a lot of different reasons, to really show what I'm capable of last year. I feel like I'm starting to show it now, but we're not playing games right now. That's a whole different thing. This is about getting into the season getting prepared, healthy, ready to go. And then it's all talk unless you can do it on game day."