David Njoku Fantasy Outlook: Why a Crowded Cleveland Browns Offense Might Doom Their Top TE

In 2022, Cleveland Browns TE David Njoku had his best campaign in four years. Has he topped out, or is Njoku's 2023 fantasy outlook even brighter?

At PFN, we’ve researched more than 350 fantasy football players, trying to identify which ones are overrated, underrated, and priced right. With that in mind, here is Cleveland Browns TE David Njoku’s fantasy outlook for 2023.

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David Njoku’s 2023 Fantasy Outlook

There was a stretch last season when the Browns realized they had a good tight end at their disposal. In his previous 35 games with the club, dating back to the start of 2019, Njoku had averaged only 2.8 targets per outing. For context, Colts backup TE Kylen Granson averaged 3.1 targets last season.

When Cleveland QB placeholder Jacoby Brissett finally started looking Njoku’s way in Week 3, it was a revelation. In those next five contests, the 26-year-old tight end reeled in 30 receptions for 379 yards and a score, compiling a blistering 83% catch rate.

It was an incredible — and not entirely surprising — showing for one of the league’s most underrated tight ends.

Ensuing injuries and a QB change (Deshaun Watson) marred what had once appeared to be a breakout campaign, transforming Njoku into a more TD-dependent fantasy asset. Still, after several quiet seasons, he was finally back on the fantasy map, finishing as the TE8 in points per game.

What can Njoku do for an encore? Well, that’s where things get muddy. Because we’ve seen this before. Njoku fared well as a 21-year-old rookie in 2017 before taking a significant leap in 2018.

Injuries limited him to four games in 2019, which might have prompted the Browns to add Austin Hooper and fourth-round rookie Harrison Bryant that next offseason. Because Cleveland was now going all in on a title, and their TE trio would give them the depth to compete late in the season.

While severely capping Njoku’s ceiling, the strategy largely worked, as the Browns reached the playoffs for the first time in 19 years and won their first playoff game in 26 years.

In that second-round contest against the Chiefs, in which they lost by only five points, Njoku was second on the team in receiving yards despite getting out-snapped by Hooper. Those disparities symbolized the fantasy limitations Njoku would continue to endure in a crowded corps.

Entering 2023, Njoku still has TE competition. Bryant looms, while 2018 third-rounder Jordan Akins might wind up being an upgrade over Hooper. Akins played with Watson early in their careers. This was a “chemistry” signing, and fantasy managers should take note.

Additionally, Njoku must contend with a more crowded WR corps. During his fantastic run early last season, he and Amari Cooper largely dominated as a one-two aerial punch, with Donovan Peoples-Jones filling the gaps.

Now, however, Cleveland has added Elijah Moore and third-round rookie Cedric Tillman. Additionally, 2022 third-rounder David Bell remains in the picture, one year older and seemingly more developed as an NFL-caliber contributor.

In other words, that wonderful five-game stretch for Njoku last season isn’t just in the rearview mirror. It’s no longer visible. It’s a remnant of a time when Brissett heavily targeted Cooper and Njoku in a top-heavy offense.

The 2023 Browns are a more muscular version of their 2022 selves, with plenty of mouths to feed. If Watson can return to greatness, then, of course, Njoku could still be fantasy relevant as a top 10-14 option.

But that’s a realistic best-case scenario, which managers shouldn’t draft based on unless they’re nothing-to-lose dart throws. Njoku’s most likely mid-range scenario places him in the top 14-18, making him virtually undraftable in most leagues.

Rather than operating as a primary or even consistent secondary option, Njoku probably will be out-targeted by Cooper, Moore, and Peoples-Jones, rendering him no more than the No. 5 offensive option (don’t forget Nick Chubb).

If Tillman or Bell steps up, and/or if Akins steps up immediately, then Njoku might end up outside the top 20 at the position.

Fantasy production doesn’t always correspond with talent. Based purely on ability, Njoku “deserves” to be a top-10 TE. He possesses the skill set to help lead a passing attack alongside one or two terrific wideouts.

But that’s not how Cleveland’s built its roster, and managers must adjust. Njoku is now one of many pieces to the puzzle, and it would take a sizable personnel shift to return him to his peak — or even near-peak — 2022 form.

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