This past May, the Cleveland Browns gave tight end David Njoku a four-year contract extension.
With that deal comes the pressure to improve, as Njoku hasn’t outperformed his 2018 season.
His 2019 was hampered by a wrist injury that caused him to miss 10 games.
However, in his 2020 season, he showed no improvement as his numbers went down.
But even after a bad 2020 season, he showed some resurgence in 2021.
Now that he’s got this new deal, he’ll need to earn that contract this season.
Can Njoku Top His 2018 Season?
Njoku’s second season with the Browns in 2018 saw him end the season with 56 receptions for 639 yards and four touchdowns.
That season saw him doing his best in terms of those statistics and others as well.
66 days until the start of the NFL season
In 2018, only 8 players ran at least 160 routes (10/game over a full season) when they were lined up as a tight end at the snap.
Most: David Njoku 259
— SIS (@SportsInfo_SIS) July 1, 2019
But ever since his injury in 2019, his production hasn’t been the same.
However, 2021 had some glimpses of how his 2018 was, as his receiving yards average was 13.2 and he was back to four touchdowns for the season.
Not only will the Browns need this from him this season, but he needs it as he’s trying to prove he’s worth that contract.
And while his production hasn’t been as high as that 2018 season, his drops are decreasing.
In 2018 David Njoku was TE1 and had 83 targets and was 8th amongst TEs in receiving. He did this despite 8 drops (PFF)
Since then he has 5 drops total in 3 seasons (PFR)
He has become a substantially better pass catcher and blocker.
He is just getting started #Browns pic.twitter.com/hk8NaBMpTR
— Jacob Roach (@roachizm13) May 28, 2022
But can he keep doing well with Deshaun Watson set to miss some games in 2022?
With the talent he has, he can do it no matter who is quarterback.
However, the more games he has with Watson, the better his chances are of making big plays.
But the Browns will also need Njoku in the running game, as that will become important while their starting QB is gone.
Can Njoku Be An Efficient Run Blocker For The Browns?
With two big name running backs in Cleveland, you can expect a healthy dose of that running game.
However, how much will Njoku be a part of that running game?
With how he’s improving as a run blocking tight end, it’s safe to say the Browns will feature him as a blocker often.
Getting outside blocks from him will help Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt this season as they lead the running game.
His improvement last season also helps with his PFF grade in that run blocking department.
TE's ability to block in the run game is key in Kevin Stefanski's system. Thursday against Denver all 3 TE's finished with relatively good run blocking grades. David Njoku led the way with a 75.0, Hooper had a 73.9, and Bryant pitched in with a 66.5 (PFF). Depth is king #Browns pic.twitter.com/JzBgoygmeU
— Jacob Roach (@roachizm13) October 27, 2021
So the future is bright for him going into 2022, giving the Browns a dual-threat receiver.
Could Njoku Be The Next Gronk?
One of the best tight ends of this generation is clearly Ron Gronkowski.
He’s the best dual-threat tight end to date and sets a standard as a clear top ten tight end of all time.
However, could the Browns tight end match his abilities?
David Njoku is 6-4 and 247 pounds of muscle so he has the potential for a great career if he stays healthy.I think that he can be the next gronk in the future, however the browns are not the greatest team.They have Baker mayfield who I think will turn the organization around. pic.twitter.com/6Yl8ToVfje
— Alex (@Alex11311523) December 12, 2018
Right now, the jury is out on that.
While he’s gifted and shows how good he is, he hasn’t hit the numbers that Gronk has in his career.
But it doesn’t mean things can’t turn around for him with a new quarterback in town.
With him showing he’s improving, he’s clearly taking steps in the right direction.
However, at the very least, he can show that he’s earning that new contract that he got this season.