|ADP:||Round: 12, Pick: 11|
|Ht / Wt:||6'4" / 246 lb.|
|Born:||July 10, 1996|
|Drafted:||2017 / Rd. 1 (29)|
The Browns are exercising their fifth-year option on Njoku, who was a first-round pick in 2017, Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.
Analysis: General manager Andrew Berry suggested in February that this would likely be the decision, but it no longer seemed like a sure thing after the Browns signed Austin Hooper and drafted Harrison Bryant in the fourth round. A fifth-year option is guaranteed for injury only, so this doesn't actually ensure Njoku will be under contract beyond 2020. While trade rumors figure to persist, Scott Petrak of the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram relays that Berry has been adamant about Njoku being part of the big-picture plan in Cleveland. New head coach Kevin Stefanski is coming over from Minnesota, where his 2019 Vikings offense used 12 personnel (one RB, two TEs) at the second-highest rate in the league, per NFL.com's Michael Fabiano. Given their deep group of tight ends as well as the shaky depth behind Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry at wide receiver, the 2020 Browns likely will rely on multi-TE formations on early downs.
Njoku is still viewed as part of the Browns' long-term plans following the NFL draft, Marla Ridnour of the Akron Beacon Journal reports.
Analysis: The Browns are expected to involve their tight ends more this season under new head coach Kevin Stefanski, which suggests Njoku should be safe. However, they added Austin Hooper in free agency then drafted Florida Atlantic tight end Harrison Bryant in the fourth round (115th overall) in the draft. "David has always been and continues to be in our plans," said general manager Andrew Berry, who did not directly address picking up Njoku's fifth-year option. "I have been pretty consistent this offseason in terms of we still have a ton of belief in David." The tight end enters his fourth season, and the Browns must decide on the option prior to May 3. Njoku was limited to four games in 2019 due to a broken wrist.
Despite signing Austin Hooper, the Browns aren't expected to trade Njoku this offseason, ESPN.com's Jake Trotter reports.
Analysis: Hooper's presence will make it harder for Njoku to draw targets and establish fantasy value, but the young tight end should nonetheless have an important role under new coach Kevin Stefanski, who frequently utilized multi-TE formations while serving as offensive coordinator in Minnesota last year. It's also worth noting that the Browns don't have an established No. 3 wide receiver, though they did trade for fullback Andy Janovich (elbow) a couple weeks ago. The team has until early May to make a decision on Njoku's fifth-year contract option for 2020, with a report from February suggesting it likely would be picked up. The Hooper signing might change things, and it might also make the Browns more receptive if another team comes calling with a generous trade offer for Njoku.
General manager Andrew Berry suggested the Browns are likely to pick up Njoku's fifth-year contract option for 2021, Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon-Journal reports.
Analysis: It wouldn't actually be much of a commitment, as Njoku's draft position (29th overall) and football position (TE) both serve to limit the cost of the fifth-year option, which, in any case, is guaranteed for injury only. Berry did say he envisions Njoku as part of the Browns' future, a sentiment echoed by new head coach Kevin Stefanski. It's no secret Njoku clashed with former coach Freddie Kitchens, failing to regain a significant role after he was out for two months with a broken wrist in 2019. The young tight end was promising but inconsistent in 2017 and 2018, alternating between ugly drops and big plays. With Njoku turning 24 this summer, the Browns believe he still has time to harness the immense physical gifts he displayed at the 2017 combine -- a 4.64 40-yard dash, 37.5-inch vertical and 133-inch broad jump at 6-foot-4, 246 pounds.
Njoku's chances of sticking with the Browns improved after the organization parted ways with head coach Freddie Kitchens, Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal reports.
Analysis: Kitchens and Njoku had "a couple differences," per the tight end, who was benched for Weeks 15 and 16 before playing just four of the offense's 54 snaps in a season-ending loss to the Bengals. Njoku missed 10 games with a wrist injury, but was designated as one of the team's returnees from the injured list. He was not immediately activated, which became a source of contention between the player and coach. When he eventually returned to action Week 14 against the Bengals, Njoku had a ball taken away from him on a play that was ruled an interception. That displeased Kitchens who eventually phased out the tight end. With Kitchens out of the picture, the Browns are expected to give the 2017 first-round draft pick a fresh look in 2020.
Njoku played four offensive snaps in Sunday's 33-23 loss to the Bengals in Week 17.
Analysis: Njoku was back on the active roster after being a healthy inactive the previous two weeks, but (now former) head coach Freddie Kitchens limited his exposure. With Kitchens now gone, perhaps there is a path for Njoku to reclaim the starting tight end job. Cleveland never had a reliable third receiving option in 2019 beyond Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, so Njoku could fill a need in 2020. The 23-year-old tight end has one year left on the four-year deal he signed after the Browns selected him in the first round of the 2017 draft.
Njoku is listed as active Week 17 against Cincinnati.
Analysis: Njoku is undoubtedly disappointed in how this season ended, as he rehabbed from a wrist injury for 11 weeks only to make a limited return Week 14 and end up a healthy scratch for the two games after that. He'll get a chance to end his season on a high note in the finale, though Njoku will be part of a position group that includes Demetrius Harris and Ricky Seals-Jones, the latter of which overcame an illness to suit up this week.
Cleveland head coach Freddie Kitchens was non-committal about Njoku's status for Week 17 against the Bengals, Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal reports.
Analysis: Kitchens benched Njoku for each of the previous two games and rolled with coach-speak when asked about the tight end's status for the season finale Sunday at 1:00 PM. "We're going to play the people I think gives us the best chance to win each week," Kitchens said. "Depending on what that is, we'll see how it goes Sunday." If Njoku doesn't dress, Demetrius Harris is expected to be the team's lead tight end.
Njoku is on the inactive list for the second consecutive week in advance of Sunday's matchup against Baltimore.
Analysis: Njoku will wind up a healthy scratch after not appearing on the injury report, giving way to Demetrius Harris to draw the start at tight end in his stead. He logged 21 snaps in his return from the IR in Week 14, but has now sat in back-to-back weeks. It's unclear what, if any, role Njoku will have when the Browns head to Cincinnati to finish the regular season next week.
Browns offensive coordinator Todd Monken said Njoku has "responded well" after being a healthy scratch Week 15, Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal reports.
Analysis: Both Monken and head coach Freddie Kitchens acknowledged Njoku's improved attitude, but neither coach discussed the tight end's status for Sunday's home meeting with the 12-2 Ravens. Njoku had a promising start to the season with a touchdown, four catches and six targets in the season opener before sustaining a Week 2 injury that forced him to miss 11 games.
Njoku (coach's decision) is inactive for Sunday's game against the Cardinals.
Analysis: Per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, Njoku's deactivation Sunday is a coach's decision. In his absence, Demetrius Harris is slated to start at tight end for the Browns in Week 15.
Njoku (knee) returned to a full practice Thursday, Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal reports.
Analysis: Njoku is thus on track to play Sunday against the Cardinals. The tight end didn't make much of a mark (one catch for four yards) in his return to action from a wrist injury in Week 14, but he's at least in a decent position to bounce back this weekend, given Arizona's struggles containing tight ends this season.
Njoku (knee) was limited at practice Wednesday, Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.
Analysis: In his return to action from a wrist injury in Week 14, Njoku logged 20 out of a possible 54 snaps on offense in the Browns' win over the Bengals, en route to catching one of his three targets for four yards. Now the tight end is contending with a knee issue, but at this stage it remains to be seen if it's something minor he's simply managing or an injury that cropped up at practice Wednesday.
Njoku caught one of three targets for four yards in Sunday's 27-19 win over the Bengals in Week 14.
Analysis: Njoku returned from the injured reserve list Sunday, playing for the first time since Week 2. The rust showed on the Browns' first series when a pass he appeared to catch was wrestled away from him as he fell to the ground and ruled an interception by Cincinnati linebacker Nick Vigil. He received the most targets of Cleveland's tight end while playing 21 snaps, second to Stephen Carlson (41 snaps). Other than the catch-turned-interception, Njoku had one red zone target. His snap count should grow over the final weeks.
Njoku will start at tight end for the Browns in their Week 14 matchup against the Bengals.
Analysis: Njoku has seen just 76 total snaps this season, as he's been sidelined since Week 2 against the Jets due to a broken wrist. The third-year player was activated from the IR on Saturday, however, and Cleveland will waste no time getting him back into action. Njoku has favorable fantasy matchups both this week and next, but it's unclear if there will be any rust to shake off after this much time on the sidelines. Working in his favor against the Bengals is the fact that fellow tight end Demetrius Harris will be inactive with a shoulder injury, leaving Njoku to lead the way if he's able, though Ricky Seals-Jones and Stephen Carlson are still on hand to provide depth.
Njoku (wrist) was activated from injured reserve Saturday, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.
Analysis: Njoku's return from injured reserve couldn't have come at a better time, as the Browns face both the Bengals and Cardinals --- the latter of which could go down as one of the historically worst team's at covering tight ends --- in consecutive weeks. The 23-year-old isn't expected to be limited either, as Njoku was reportedly doing well in terms of conditioning weeks before Saturday's roster decision. It's pretty clear the third-year will immediately jump to the top of the depth chart, with Demetrius Harris (shoulder) and Ricky Seals-Jones expected to see a drastic step back in terms of playing time.
Njoku (wrist) said he expects to be activated from injured reserve ahead of Sunday's game against the Bengals, Jake Trotter of ESPN.com reports. "[The coaching staff] told me, that's the plan," Njoku said after Friday's practice.
Analysis: Though he noted earlier Friday that Njoku was "healthy and ready to go" after missing the Browns' past 10 games, coach Freddie Kitchens was unwilling to commit to the tight end suiting up this weekend. Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reported shortly thereafter that the Browns do intend to bring Njoku back from IR, and the 23-year-old's own comments seem to support that. Since Njoku isn't returning from any sort of lower-body injury that would normally result in a player being eased back into action with a smaller workload, it's fair to expect him to step back into a starting role while taking on a normal snap count as he suits up for the first time since Week 2. The Browns should officially activate him from IR at some point before 4 p.m. ET on Saturday.
Coach Freddie Kitchens said Friday that Njoku (wrist) is "healthy and ready to go," but the Browns haven't decided whether to activate him from injured reserve ahead of this weekend's game against the Bengals, Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal reports.
Analysis: A final decision on Njoku's Week 14 status should come before Saturday at 4 p.m. ET, the deadline for teams to activate players designated to return from injured reserve ahead of Sunday games. Njoku has been taking full contact since he resumed practicing Nov. 20, but the Browns would have the luxury of waiting until Dec. 11 to activate him if they don't feel he's quite ready to play against Cincinnati. Whenever he's reinstated, Njoku will likely take over as the clear No. 1 tight end, as the Browns have essentially taken a committee approach to the position since he landed on IR.
Coach Freddie Kitchens said Wednesday that Njoku (wrist) is "getting closer" to a return to the active roster, Andrew Gribble reports.
Analysis: Njoku would be eligible to suit up against the Bengals on Sunday if activated to the 53-man roster, but the Browns have until Dec. 11 to make a decision on the 2017 first-round pick's health and could opt to take a cautious approach to his recovery. In order to have Njoku available for Week 14, Cleveland could wait until Saturday at the latest to add him to the active roster. In any case, Demetrius Harris (shoulder) and Ricky Seals-Jones will handle the bulk of tight end reps as long as Njoku is unable to play.
Njoku (wrist) will not be activated ahead of Sunday's contest against the Steelers, Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal reports.
Analysis: The wait continues for Njoku, who returned to practice Nov. 20 after breaking his wrist in Week 2, thus landing on injured reserve. The Browns have until Dec. 11 to active their star tight end or shut him down for the rest of the season, so there's still time for Njoku to find his way onto the field. Demetrius Harris will start Week 13 against the Steelers.
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