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David Njoku wants to be a 'crucial' player for Browns

When the Browns moved up to draft him in the late part of Thursday's first round, David Njoku didn't know he'd be in the driver's seat to make an immediate impact at tight end.

The subsequent release of veteran Gary Barnidge just hasn't changed the University of Miami product's mindset.

"I am going to do the same things I would do even if he was here and that is compete and just work really hard," Njoku said one day after he was selected with the 29th overall pick. "It will be all right."

Njoku is just 20 years old, the youngest player on Cleveland's young roster. With the departure of Barnidge, Cleveland's tight end room is the youngest in the building, as Njoku will join second-year Seth DeValve, third-year Randall Telfer -- who has just one year of NFL experience -- and J.P. Holtz -- who has yet to play an NFL snap. DeValve caught 10 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns last season while Telfer, who was primarily used as a blocker, had two catches for 4 yards.

The learning curve can be steep at tight end but Njoku will have as good of a chance as any of Cleveland's rookies to attack it and grow on the field.

"I'm 20 years old so I think that I have a bunch of things to learn," Njoku said. "Whether it is physical or mental, I just feel like I have a really high ceiling that I can reach. With the help of the coaches and hard work, I feel like I will eventually get there."

The Cleveland Browns draft David Njoku at No. 29 in the 2017 NFL Draft.

The members of one of the deepest tight end classes in recent draft memory came in a variety of flavors.

With his balance of size, speed and elite athleticism, Njoku is considered to be a mix of a little bit of everything at a position where the Browns are looking for the kind of production Barnidge and others provided the past few seasons.

In his final season at Miami, Njoku doubled his production from the previous year with 43 receptions, 698 yards and eight touchdowns. He made the tough catches for first downs and the game-breaking ones that separated him from the pack, like his 76-yard touchdown against Duke, when he burst out of the slot, caught an over-the-shoulders throw and stiff-armed the last defender on his way to the end zone.

The Browns will welcome that kind of playmaking to an offense that looks to bounce back from a season in which it flashed its potential some but didn't generate enough yards or points on a consistent basis. It's why Cleveland believed so strongly in Njoku, the team's highest-drafted tight end in more than a decade.

"I think my speed, my allusiveness, my ability to break tackles, I am definitely willing to block as well. I think I have it all," Njoku said. "I am just glad I get to show the world what I am capable of doing."

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