2019 WR Summary

2019 Browns WR’s of Interest

UPDATE: POST-FREE AGENCY

After adding Jaelen Strong to the roster in late February we thought that was a nice add and a player that can possibly help us. But he is not a burner nor is he an All-Pro caliber receiver. He is more reclamation project than a 4 year guy in his prime who you signed for a pile of cash because of his NFL production. Strong doesn’t have any production but is all upside and risk. Well-priced for what he represents, so good signing.

Then, Buddy Boy broke the Internet and every heart in NY by trading for Odell Beckham Jr. If you go down below to my original post before this trade, I mention 3 key characteristics of WR that I wish we would add more guys who have ELITE skills in one or more of these areas…Odell is elite in ALL OF THEM. Mike drop…

In the CLE we are all still waiting for that to sink in, aren’t we??!! It won’t be real until we see him in training camp or whatever, but holy shit balls what a brilliant move. I could go on for 4 more paragraphs about why it was smart and how it was smart but we all know the answers to those questions. Buddy Boy is a very bad man, and we’re all glad he’s on our side.

So…where does this leave us now for the Draft? Excellent question and one I am prepared to answer. Another development is Perriman leaving, so we have a need to keep adding depth behind OBJ.

My educated guess and also my preference, is that no high draft capital will get spent obviously, unless it is on a TE. Fells is now gone, we signed Demetrius Harris to replace him (nearly a PFF grade clone to Fells) and we are staring at the roster position that Seth Devalve is sitting on like: Dude, move.

My guess is if they can grab a guy like Jace Sternberger in the 4th (highly unlikely but fingers crossed) we will have truly upgraded because he can catch AND block. Sternberger might be a guy we grab in the 3rd at slot 80 instead of Defense (CB, LB or SS). If the Berger isn’t there we can always grab someone like Kaden Smith or Foster Moreau. Both dudes can block well and have excellent receiving skills. If we can afford to do this, we have added a receiving weapon at TE that is a high level upgrade in depth. Allows Munkin to run multiple-tight end sets where nobody on the field is a blocking liability and everyone can catch.

If you read my original Pre-FA post below, at WR we still have some fantastic choices in the later rounds if we feel the need to add. I would choose to use a pick on someone like Jakobi Meyers who I write about extensively below in terms of that true Possession Receiver. Goes across the middle fearlessly, NEVER DROPS THE BALL, has YAC ability. He’s one of those receivers you’ve seen the Steelers and Ravens take year after year who simply produces.

The other option is adding depth behind OBJ. My favorite guy for this scenario is Shawn Poindexter from Arizona. Man is he raw but good. Has Mike Evans type frame and ability, just needs a little more weight and strength. Dude is fast and upside is tremendous. Has Red Zone length at 6’5″ and already about 220 lbs. He can play X or as a BIG Slot. You can have this guy in the 6th or the 7th Round!

Here is Depth Chart after trades/FA. Remember, I am grading these guys on a tough scale, greatly impacted by NFL production to date, and the score is an average of the entire depth of position, not just the starter…

Post Free Agency WR Depth Chart

PREVIOUS POST: PRE-FREE AGENCY

This year is challenging in terms of adding Wide Receivers in the Draft. There is some talent at the position but they all seem to come with major questions. There is maybe only one obviously elite player that screams ALL PRO that I would even consider in Round 1 (DJ Metcalf). Even he comes with concerns. A team like us picking at #17 would normally have a pretty sweet player at the position fall to us in that slot because in a good WR draft there are 3 potential ALL PRO quality players. Or it would be fairly easy to move up a few slots for a reasonable price in order to target that elite WR.

2019 holds no such fortune. Sure, I’ve got a handful of guys scored 5.0 but those grades are based on Year 2 or 3 potential. This is why I’ve only got ONE receiver with a 1st round grade. If you’re taking a receiver in the 1st round, you better be getting an instant starter and potential Pro-Bowler. The position value simply isn’t there otherwise. Now, 2nd round and beyond? Different story indeed.

There are 30 WR’s on my board. The only other position that I chose more is LB. Both positions desperately need improved talent and high quality depth. Remember our need for Possession Players? This is what I am trying to propose, adding guys that are dynamic/multiple in their skill sets, preferably with at least one elite skill. Incredible hands, route running, wins 50/50 balls, elite YAC guys. And on top they can return kicks and play ST defense. This is the type of depth that will win you games when it matters, after your starter goes down.

Another consideration that we can’t fully take into account this year is we don’t know yet how much of our offense is going to be legit Air Raid playbook. This offense if implemented in it’s pure and original form relies on a QB that can drive the ball, is very accurate and will throw to a SPOT before the receiver is open.

We check the boxes for QB type no problem. But it also requires WR’s that can run REALLY precise routes every time and can make adjustments when necessary to get open so processing/awareness skills are also needed. And if you can’t get open by the time you arrive at your spot, you might need to fight through the DB contact to catch the ball.

These skill sets could be what’s being prioritized by the Browns staff when evaluating who they might like. I have tried to take this into account. For the 2020 Draft we will have a much better idea what the type is they want.

You won’t find me excited about the alpha receivers this year that most pundits are projecting in the 1st and 2nd round. Those X-Receivers that change an offense nearly single-handedly (assumes a FQB is in place already!). This year there is not a Julio Jones, Deandre Hopkins or AJ Green. At least not clearly so. It’s muddy, this year the guys all have major flaws and/or problematic medicals.

So for me, someone who wants to Draft What You See and combine that with proper position/slot value, this year’s crop of X’s could be a bit of fools gold. I will say this in almost all of my position posts this year – We CANNOT afford to blow this 1st round pick…you get it right by drafting the obvious and HEALTHY elite talent, not a player with potential or sketchy medicals. What happens if we take DJ Metcalf, he plays 10 games on his way to a Pro Bowl season…and hurts his neck again? Out for the year, or worse…

So, for this Draft, where I do get excited is that that there are a TON of WR’s after this first grouping that can help our team. When you break down each player into the roles they play on the field and look at skills sets, some of these guys are really special and can help you win right away. These players I like show those Possession Player characteristics that must be there, along with elite intangibles – toughness, strength, desire to win every rep and heart.

Let’s take a quick look at what our current 53-man roster looks like. Here is how I have graded our starters and depth at his point:

WR Position Grades by Player

Couple of issues that are concerning. We really only appear to have one special player on the roster right now (Landry). The other guys are still developing or don’t have any obvious elite skills. Maybe Callaway with his speed will add route running and catch ability over time to become a top-tier guy, but right now he’s a work in progress. Higgins is finally starting to shine a little, but again he’s not overly explosive off the line so he plays a lot of the Z receiver role set back from the jam. He’s not a true burner and his hands are average so far.

Perriman is a great story and he has physical attributes you love. Size with some speed to go with it. His hands appear to be solid but in the past that was one of his weaknesses. I believe this position is very mentally challenging so maybe he just has a clear head finally and can just play without thinking, so his skills finally are shining through? Ratley also has shown up at certain moments but he was not targeted much despite almost all of our other receivers going down.

The injury bug hit hard early in the season as Ricardo Lewis (neck), Rod Streater (neck) and Derrick Willies (broken collar bone) all went down for the season. Ricardo Lewis is unlikely to return to the team for 2019. The others should be camp guys we can work with and see who might stick. Again though, no obvious special players in this group.

When we look at the full season stats by player, what stands out is we don’t have that alpha dog WR that is scoring 10+ TD’s a year for us. Mayfield is partly the cause because he does a fantastic job spreading the ball around. But I doubt that we will find that player this year unless they want to spend our 1st rounder on one of those big X-types. I personally don’t want to see that happen. I would however argue that there are great WR values in rounds 2-7 that represent the kind of specialty skill sets we currently lack. Let’s see what falls to us in Round 2.

Stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com

What I take away from these stats is that Callaway is starting to show up. Landry needs more targets but is he not getting the ball because he’s not getting open? He was used in WAY more roles than he should have been due to our injuries and general lack of proper role players. I believe we asked him to do things outside of his elite skill sets so we got lousy results from the effort. Not his fault. Bigger concern is both guys Catch % was below 55%. That’s not going to cut it.

Njoku got a ton of targets but our return on that investment was low as he didn’t get great net yardage on his receptions (he falls down on first contact constantly…) and only scored 4 TD’s so he wasn’t the Red Zone guy we might have thought? I realize it’s all situational by game, vs certain opponents but lack of special skills and guys not in proper roles hurt us.

So…what exactly are we looking for? Here are the ROLES I am looking to fill and this draft offers all of these skill sets if you want to invest. I know this may look insultingly simple, but ask yourself why we haven’t put guys that are ELITE in some of these areas on the team yet:

Guys that GET OPEN: We are looking for elite vision, speed, route running and/or separation skills. All WR roles benefit from these characteristics but my argument is we lack it especially in the middle of the field. We are lucky Mayfield has the ability to throw guys open, but we have to do more to help him. I need to pull the stats from PFF, but my guess is Mayfield’s completion percentage was lowest to the middle of the field.

Guys that CATCH EVERYTHING: We are looking for elite hands, catch radius, high point skills, contested catch skills and/or natural ability to make that sideline catch and get feet down. If we are going to get open and balls are thrown our way we better damn well catch it. I am looking for those move-the-chains dependable guys. Who is going be completely fearless across the middle and always make that 3rd down catch?

Guys that GET YARDS AFTER: We are looking for elite contact balance, toughness, lower body strength, field vision and/or lateral athleticism. These guys have natural ability to convert from receiver to runner after the catch so smoothly you will be amazed. They have a plan once they convert to runner and can see their paths in the second level. If they run to contact their elite balance and powerful leg drive help them get those final plus yards.

Take a look at my Player Evals to see each WR Role I have defined and the specific players I want us to target!