(Note: If you haven’t checked out the previous positional breakdown article on the quarterbacks, make sure to go give that a read.)
In today’s article, Downtown Browns will taking a look at the wide receiver room that has gotten a slight boost in the off-season with some additions through the draft and free agency. The main focus will be on the top five guys on the depth chart who will be making key impacts this season for the Cleveland Browns.
Odell Beckham Jr (signed until 2023, Free Agent in 2024)
2020 Contract: $14.25M
If you ask anyone in the NFL, especially Browns fans, some would say that it was a down year for Odell Beckham Jr. When Beckham joined the Browns in a trade from the New York Giants, people thought that’s the Browns would win the division, and maybe even win the Super Bowl. Some skeptics said that the Browns got too much hype, and you could say that they were right
The 2019 Browns finished 6-10 with an offense that looked stacked with Beckham Jr on one side, and his LSU Tigers teammate Jarvis Landry on the other. It seemed like Beckham Jr was never in a rhythm with quarterback Baker Mayfield and it seemed like on the sidelines he wasn’t too happy with former head coach Freddie Kitchens.
Despite all of that, Beckham did finish the season with 1,035 yard receiving which, according to Pro Football Focus, was ranked 23rd in the league. That’s still impressive given the fact he only had four touchdowns on the year. It seemed also that Beckham was injured during the year. It came out the last couple days that he played through a sports hernia injury that lead to him getting surgery this past December. All signs seem good that Beckham looks to have a bounce back year in his second season with the Browns.
Under the new offensive scheme that head coach Kevin Stefanski is implementing, which sees more two receiver, and two tight end sets; there could be an uptick in yards along with touchdowns for Beckham this year. Although, with other weapons in Jarvis Landry, Rashad Higgins, Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt at the disposal for Baker Mayfield, who knows what could happen for Beckham this year. But, I wouldn’t put it past OBJ to have a killer 2020 season for the Browns.
Jarvis Landry (signed until 2022, Free Agent in 2023)
2020 Contract: $14.55M
When you talk about one former LSU wideout on the Browns, you cannot leave out the other half of that LSU combination. That other half, just none other than one Jarvis “Juice” Landry.
Landry has been with the Browns since 2018 when they acquired him in a trade with the Miami Dolphins which was one of the keys to the turn around to this franchise. From day one it seemed that Landry wanted to help set a culture of winning for the Cleveland Browns and it seems to be paying off.
Despite last season the Browns have won 13 games since Landry joined the team. Before that, one win in two seasons. It seems like not only the team has bought into this new culture, but the franchise as a whole. From 2018 to now it seems the Browns have only gotten better since the addition of Landry.
Last season, Landry finished with 1,174 receiving yards which was ranked 9th in the league according to Peo Football Focus. He also did manage to catch six touchdowns as well for good measure. Between Landry and Beckham, the Browns wideout duo finished with 2,209 yards receiving combined and 10 touchdowns. All of this under a chaotic Freddie Kitchens ran offense. But, with new head coach Kevin Stefanski, this duo could be seeing more numbers in both yards and touchdowns. Landry looks poised to put 2019 behind him and will want to help lead the Browns to the playoffs.
Furthermore, don’t overlook Landry in this loaded offense that, previously stated, has added on Austin Hooper along with bringing back Rashard “Hollywood” Higgins.
Rashard Higgins (signed until 2020, Free Agent in 2021)
2020 Contract: $910K
In the previous article that Downtown Browns has covered with Rashard Higgins it was mentioned how the 2019 season wasn’t a good one for him as a whole.
Higgins saw a dip in production under a shaky offense called by Freddie Kitchens. He only had four receptions for 55 yards and one touchdown in 10 games for the Browns. Luckily, the Browns know how good this guy can be thanks to his chemistry with Baker Mayfield and the other receivers.
Back in 2018, in 13 games Higgins had 39 receptions for 572 receiving yards with four touchdowns to boot. He was Baker’s safety net as the two hooked up for a good portion of games throughout 2018.
Expect Higgins to have a bounce back year as the the no. 3 wideout behind Beckham and Landry. You could possibly see a rekindle of the magic he and Mayfield had back in 2018 with a more controlled offensive scheme under Stefanski. Making him the no. 3 wideout will help give Donovan Peoples-Jones time to adjust to the NFL game.
Donovan Peoples-Jones (“signed” until 2023, Free Agent in 2024)
2020 Contract: N/A
As of this article Donovan Peoples-Jones hasn’t officially signed a contract with the Cleveland Browns due to Covid-19. But, it is known that he will be with the Browns until he’s a free agent in 2024.
Peoples-Jones was drafted in the 6th round (187th overall) with the Browns last pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Coming out of Michigan people thought he would be a fourth-round pick but luckily since the draft was loaded at multiple positions, he fell back to the Browns in round six.
When he was drafted a vast number of analyst said that getting him there was a steak for the Browns. At the combine he had a 44.5in vertical jump that just wowed everyone. That combination of vertical jump with his 6’2 frame, he will be hard to cover for jump balls anywhere in the field especially the red zone.
Expect the Browns to ease Peoples-Jones into the NFL as the no. 4 receiver behind Beckham Jr, Landry, and Higgins. Furthermore, there’s been talk from the Browns that they will look to use him as a returner on special teams given he played a key role for the Wolverines in that position. He will most likely be sharing that role of returning the ball for special teams with newly required JoJo Natson.
JoJo Natson (signed until 2020, Free Agent in 2021)
2020 Contract: $956K ($1M with incentives)
The Browns acquired JoJo Natson in free agency signing him to a one year/$1M deal that included incentives. The last two seasons he’s been in Los Angeles with the Rams mainly as a returner on special teams. Last season he had 149 yards on 19 returned punts. Furthermore, he had 289 yards on 13 kick returns.
Given all of firepower in the wide receiver room, expect Natson to mainly be the return specialist like he was with the Rams in Los Angeles. He could be sharing that role with recently drafted Donovan Peoples-Jones.
When it comes to the wide receiver room for the Cleveland Browns, there’s a lot of optimism for a bounce back year for this group. Considering that Beckham Jr will be back healthier and stronger than ever, along with Landry who is keen on bringing the playoffs to Cleveland for the first time since 2002, how could you not be excited?
Furthermore, bringing back Browns fan favorite Rashard Higgins to be the third wideout and someone who has great chemistry with Baker Mayfield is a solid move that this team needed to make overall. Look for some red carpet moments in the end zone this year for Higgins.
Also, adding speed and size with Peoples-Jones could give more mismatches in the red zone for jump balls. Lastly, adding someone like Natson to be a return specialist could help set up field position on special teams to help the offense get going as well.
This 2020 wide receiver room is going to bring a lot of excitement to Cleveland this year for the team and it’s fans. Only time will tell how it plays out, but all signs point to it being amazing.