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Off-Season Position Analysis

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Browns 2020 position preview: Analyzing the tight ends

The virtual work is complete and training camp is finally here

Since then, we've devoted some time to the different position groups that dot the Browns' roster. There's been plenty of change since the Browns last took the field, and we're examining all of it with an eye toward the 2020 season.

We're wrapping things up with a position that added a Pro Bowler and is banking on a bounce-back season from another member of the group.

The Tight Ends

Check out photos of the tight ends the Browns will be bringing into training camp

What we know: The Browns made one of the biggest splashes of the offseason when they signed Hooper, a two-time Pro Bowler who is entering the prime of his career. He's coming off his best year as a pro after hauling in a career-best 75 passes for 787 yards and six touchdowns despite missing three games with an injury. His signing was a priority for the Browns, who will look to use tight ends in a variety of ways and in significant fashion. Just last year, Minnesota utilized Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith extensively, as the duo combined for 95 targets and nearly 700 receiving yards while blocking for one of the NFL's best run attacks. Njoku is two years removed from his best season but the Browns have expressed their confidence in him in multiple ways since Kevin Stefanski was hired as head coach and Andrew Berry as executive vice president of football operations/general manager. The former first-round pick had his fifth-year option picked up for the 2021 season, and Berry has said he believes Njoku's tough 2019 campaign was not reflective of what the team believes he can be in 2020 and beyond.

What we don't know: The Browns found themselves in a fortunate position when they were on the clock in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. They didn't hesitate to pounce on Harrison Bryant, college football's John Mackey Award winner who gives the Browns another dynamic option at the position. Bryant has drawn comparisons to 49ers All-Pro George Kittle, but Bryant has a long way to go to reach that kind of lofty comparison. Tight end is notoriously unforgiving to rookies, and some of the best in the league often don't emerge until their second, third or fourth seasons. Still, there's an opportunity for Bryant to find a place in the rotation, and the Browns have been adamant they'll need more than two options at the position. What Bryant does with the opportunity, and how the virtual offseason will impact it, will be one of the storylines to follow at training camp. Another will be just how much the Browns plan to mimic the usage of tight ends to what Stefanski did in Minnesota last season. They'll certainly play a big role, but could it be even bigger because of the talent Hooper and Njoku bring to the table?

X-Factor: Njoku - What happens if Njoku truly returns to his 2018 form? That's when he was one of the Browns' top options inside the red zone and was targeted a whopping 88 times in the passing game. Think about a player of that caliber on the same field as Hooper, who has caught 146 passes for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns over the past two seasons. And then think about them operating within a scheme that features two Pro Bowlers apiece at wide receiver and running back while also creating all sorts of opportunities for tight ends. It's easy to get excited about the Browns offense in 2020, and Njoku certainly plays a role in what this overall unit can become.

The biggest number: 7.5 - That's the number of targets Hooper averaged per game last season. That total ranked fifth in the NFL, was, by far, the largest total of his career and is even more impressive when you consider he was sharing the field with All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones and talented pass-catcher Calvin Ridley. By comparison, Rudolph and Smith combined for just under 6 in 2019.

Says it all: "Just take a look at the talented roster. It is just on paper one of the most talented entities in all of football. Just take a look, especially on the offensive side of the ball, at the guys on the perimeter with Odell (Beckham Jr.) and Jarvis (Landry), having a talented quarterback like Baker (Mayfield), having a talented tight end like David Njoku and having some really good O linemen. To add that with a pair of really talented running backs just on the offensive side of the football is just way too exciting of an opportunity to pass it up." — Hooper

How many were kept on the initial 53-man roster last year?: 3

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