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Browns rookie WRs embrace strength in numbers

Rashard Higgins knows it's hard to believe, but he's adamant when he says it.

The wide receiver from Colorado State was filled with a mix of joy and relief when the Browns selected him late in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. In the months leading up to the draft, Higgins had a standard amount of communication with the Browns, nothing more or less than what he had with most NFL teams. As he watched the names fall off the board, he wasn't paying too much attention to Cleveland's haul as he waited for his name to be called.

It wasn't until two days later, Higgins said, when he discovered he was the fourth of four receivers drafted by the Browns. His friend, Arkansas Tech defensive back Quincy Peyton, rang him up to see how he felt about his new situation.

"You guys have got Corey Coleman, the guy from Auburn (Ricardo Louis), a lot of guys. You've got some competition you have to beat out," Higgins recalled Peyton saying. "I'm here for it and I couldn't be happier to be here."

Each one of Cleveland's four rookie receivers discovered just how much competition they'd have in different ways. Their reaction, though, has been nearly identical to Higgins', and that's exactly what Hue Jackson, Pep Hamilton and Al Saunders liked seeing throughout OTAs and minicamp.

"If they continue to make the improvements that they've made since they've been here, we're looking forward to a group of very energetic and very capable players," said Saunders, Cleveland's senior offensive assistant/wide receivers coach. "These guys work hard. They've had great careers in college, and those that have been here for a year have made marked improvement on a daily basis."

Coleman, the Browns' first-round selection and last year's Biletnikoff Award winner, was touring the team facility in Berea when the Browns added three receivers over the course of two rounds on Day 3 of the draft. Louis, the athlete from Auburn, came first. UCLA's Jordan Payton was added early in the fifth round and Higgins was locked up with a compensatory pick near the end of it.

Moments later, Coleman stepped to the podium for his introductory press conference and was facetiously asked if he was worried about making the team after the additions of Louis, Payton and Higgins.

"I'm not worried about it at all," Coleman said. "I'm excited to get some competition. We can push each other and really just step up the level of the receivers and really come in and help each other out, too."

In the moments after the draft, Jackson and vice president of player personnel Andrew Berry explained the thinking behind the selection of four players at the same position and broke down the differences in their respective skill sets.

The "why" was simple: The Browns needed to be better at "scoring the ball," and injecting the wide receivers room with four new faces gave the team "a chance to put out the best of the best that we have," Jackson said. With Coleman and Louis, the Browns got receivers with speed and the ability to generate explosive plays, Berry said. With Payton and Higgins, they added size and reliability, as both are highly regarded for their hands.

It didn't take long for the receivers themselves to realize how they mesh together.

"Everybody comes and brings something different to the table," Louis said. "Corey is definitely fast, explosive. I'm fast and explosive. Rashard is very explosive and has great hands, runs great routes. All of us have something we bring to the table that's different.

"When you're playing in an offense that's trying to turn it around and that has the ability to get you the ball and let you do something with it, that's great."

Perhaps most importantly, the "why" has been just as understood.

"When you believe in yourself and trust your game, you want better guys around you because it helps you get better," Payton said. "My thought was 'let's go.' Let's make this organization the best in the world. When I saw the guys and have been around the guys, we all have a common goal. It's just going to drive us to be better to make this team so much better."

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