Skip to main content

Position Preview

Browns 2023 Position Preview: Breaking down the TEs

David Njoku should have a great opportunity for a career-year, while Jordan Akins, the lone free-agent addition to the group, will reunite with Deshaun Watson


Can you believe it? Training camp is just four days away. It's been another busy offseason for the Browns, and we'll start seeing how all the new and refined pieces come together very soon. We're preparing for it all with a comprehensive preview of every position on the roster, rolling next with the tight ends.

The Tight Ends

David Njoku

Jordan Akins

Harrison Bryant

Zaire Mitchell-Paden

Thomas Greaney

Check exclusive photos of Browns players posing for a team photoshoot

What we know: The Browns have three solid tight end options at the top of the depth chart, and it all starts with Njoku, who was thriving in his biggest role yet of his Browns career early last season before midseason injuries halted some of his progress. The Browns complemented Njoku with the free-agent addition of Akins, who built a career-best season last year with the Texans and has familiarity with Deshaun Watson, the quarterback he teamed up with the first three years of his career. The speedy additions the Browns made to their receiving room this offseason in Elijah Moore and Marquise Goodwin — players who can stretch a defense and create more space in the middle of the field — could also benefit Njoku and Akins, who figure to see plenty of accurate targets from Watson in his first full season under center in Cleveland.

What we don't know: How potent can Njoku be with Watson? In five games together last year, Njoku caught 17 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns and topped 50 yards in just one game, but perhaps no sequence offered a better glimpse of their potential than when Njoku caught three straight passes from Watson in Week 14 against the Bengals, with the final completion being a 13-yard touchdown. The Browns need Njoku and Watson to connect with consistency, and they would also enjoy any added production from Akins, who caught three of his five touchdowns last season in the red zone.

The X-Factor: Njoku. Even with the Akins addition, the top responsibilities for receiving and pass-block jobs will fall on Njoku, who nearly set a career-best with a 76.3 pass block grade from Pro Football Focus last year. That was only a few ticks away from his career-high grade of 76.5 he set in 2020.

The biggest number: 1,015. That was the amount of receiving yards Njoku was on pace to finish the season with after the first seven games before he suffered an ankle injury, forcing him to miss two games. He played just 37 percent of the snaps in his first game back, and then missed another game with a knee injury two weeks later. Njoku topped 70 yards in the five games before the first injury. He still finished eighth among tight ends with 628 receiving yards.

Says it all: "I think Dave is super sharp. In this offense, we ask the tight ends to do a ton, and it takes a special type of person to be able to handle all that, and he's one of them. The other thing is that he played a lot of plays last year. He's super physically tough, which is critical to play this position. So I think those are the two things that have jumped out the most, just how smart and how tough he is." Tight ends coach TC McCartney on what's been impressive about Njoku's growth

How many were kept on the initial 53-man roster last year?: 2

Related Content