If you are in need of a last-minute addition to your fantasy football lineups at the tight end position, looking at the Cleveland Browns could provide a quick solution for Week 7. Starting TE Austin Hooper will miss the game, leaving David Njoku and rookie Harrison Bryant to take on the duties. However, knowing the Browns’ offensive struggles of late, should you take the risk on either of the Cleveland Browns TE or is the floor too low to trust?
October 25th Update: TE Harrison Bryant is listed as the starting tight end vs. Cincinnati. Expect both to see snaps but going with the rookie over Njoku says volumes on their belief in Bryant and just as much as their stance on Njoku and his future with the team.
Austin Hooper (appendicitis) will miss Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals
Originally listed as missing practice due to an illness, it later became clear why Hooper was out. According to Jake Trotter of ESPN, Austin Hooper will miss Sunday’s game after having surgery due to appendicitis, per head coach Kevin Stefanski. It is unclear how much time Hooper will miss, but he will be out at least one week.
Hooper has been Cleveland’s No. 1 tight end this year after signing a $44 million deal with the Browns this offseason, following a four-year stint with the Atlanta Falcons to begin his career. The 6-foot-4, 254 pound TE has started in all six of Cleveland’s games to this point and has totaled 22 receptions for 205 yards and a touchdown.
The former Falcons TE led the Cleveland Browns in receiving in the Week 6 blowout loss to the Steelers, catching five of his six targets for 52 yards.
With Hooper missing this week, and possibly more, it will fall on Njoku and Bryant to assume larger roles in an offense that needs help, ranking 27th in the NFL.
David Njoku could have his best game of the season in his new role as the top Browns TE
The first person to look at in fantasy would be the starter last year, David Njoku. To say it has been a tumultuous season for Njoku would be putting it mildly. He has made it abundantly clear that he does not want to be on the team and has been saying this for a while.
Njoku initially made his request to the team on July 3rd to be traded and has, according to sources, made a second request earlier in the week. It is worth noting that Njoku refuted the most recent reporting, so it is hard to know the reality of the situation.
Since his return from injured reserve in Week 5 following a three-game absence, Njoku has seen minimal involvement behind Hooper, recording two receptions for 13 yards while playing only 34% of the Browns’ offensive snaps.
When targeted during his career, Njoku has been productive, especially in his first two years, where he caught 88 of his 148 targets for 1,025 yards (11.6 per) and scored eight touchdowns in 19 games. Since then, he has been a relative disappointment as he could not stay on the field.
Playing in seven combined games over the last two yards, Njoku has only seen 17 targets, catching 10 passes for 104 yards (10.4 per) and two touchdowns while playing 40% of their offensive snaps only once (Week 1 of 2019).
Cincinnati has been a relatively decent matchup for opposing tight ends. They’ve seen a league-high 56 targets through six games, even though they have allowed a near league-average 1.69 PPR points per target. They have also allowed four different tight ends to see at least five targets while allowing at least 56 yards receiving.
Just last week, Colts tight ends Trey Burton and Jack Doyle combined for 87 receiving yards and two touchdowns against the Bengals secondary.
While the ceiling might be on the lower side, the lack of a true WR3 and the increased snap count will make Njoku a TE2 on the week in fantasy. There are safer plays out there, but they are likely not on waivers anymore.
Cleveland Browns TE Harrison Byrant could have sneaky value this week
An All-American TE at Florida Atlantic, Harrison Bryant generated considerable hype during the pre-draft process. Winning the Mackey Award in 2019, Bryant had a fantastic career at Florida Atlantic, catching 148 receptions for 2,137 yards and 16 touchdowns in four years.
Even when all three tight ends were healthy, Harrison Bryant had worked himself into a respectable role on the offense, playing on 51% of the team’s offensive snaps through six games. Bryant has seen 13 targets, catching eight for 70 yards and a touchdown.
I could legitimately see Bryant outperforming David Njoku this week and be the highest-scoring Cleveland Browns TE. Both players will be on the field quite a bit and are the fourth or fifth option in the passing game behind Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, and Kareem Hunt, so we can’t expect a lot of volume. It comes down to which player do you think will either find the end zone.
Cincinnati gives up the sixth-most points to opposing tight ends (16.42) and has allowed three touchdowns to the position. If you are looking for a contrarian play this week, especially in DFS, Browns TE Harrison Bryant could be a fun pivot play that can free up salary for other more prominent named players. On DraftKings, Bryant is $2500, the minimum price for any tight end.
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