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David Njoku: 2022 Breakout Candidate For Fantasy Football

David Njoku - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

The Cleveland Browns have made some interesting personnel decisions in recent years. Look no further than acquiring troubled quarterback Deshaun Watson and signing him to a $230 million deal when he was eventually suspended 11 games by the NFL for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.

What Cleveland has done at the tight end position is suspect to say the least, too. The Browns spent multimillions on Austin Hooper and watched him languish in a run-first offense where he was part of a tight end trio that split time and targets. They seemed surprised he only managed to have 780 receiving yards and seven touchdowns over two seasons when he had done almost the same in one with the Atlanta Falcons in 2019, but the scheme and roster makeup set him up for failure. Cleveland cut Hooper this offseason.

After Hooper was released, the Browns decided to hand $56 million and the top tight end spot on the team to Njoku, a former first-round pick who has never made anyone think he was the next coming of Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce. Sure, there have been flashes of playmaking brilliance, and Njoku has the skill set of a wide receiver, yet this is the same guy who barely saw the field in 2019 because he was injured and because the coaching staff did not think he could contribute much. He has never had five touchdowns in a season and has only had one 500-yard year to his credit despite being in the league since 2017. $14 million per year for a tight end with this résumé? On paper, it seems like a head-scratcher. So why is Njoku a fantasy breakout candidate now? Here are three reasons why you should follow Cleveland’s lead and not give up on this talented tight end:

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No More TE Trio

Hooper was the biggest reason Njoku could not gain any traction at tight end on the team the past two seasons. He was targeted 59 more times than Njoku over the span, while No. 3 TE Harrison Bryant only had 16 less than Njoku. So simple mathematics show why Njoku can make humongous fantasy strides in 2022. Hooper is no longer in the tight end equation, so those targets must go somewhere, and most likely the bulk of them will fall in between Njoku’s handsomely-rich hands.

Bonus first-grade fantasy math for you! More playing time plus more targets equal more receptions, yards, touchdowns, and fantasy points for Njoku! You do not need to be a calculus major to figure that out.

 

Slim Pickings at Wide Receiver

Tight ends can get lost in the passing attack pecking order when a team is loaded at wide receiver. Just ask Los Angeles’ Tyler Higbee. Njoku is not going to have that problem in 2022, though. Cleveland traded for Amari Cooper to be the No. 1 WR, but below him on the depth chart is a potpourri of rookies and retreads.

The jury is out on Donovan Peoples-Jones as he did not distinguish himself after he was inserted into the starting lineup last year when Odell Beckham Jr. was traded. Anthony Schwartz did not muster much (10-135-1) during his rookie campaign. This means there is a decent chance that Njoku could be Cleveland’s second-best option on pass plays behind Cooper when the season starts.

 

Deshaun Watson Is Better Than Baker Mayfield

Mayfield is a decent quarterback when healthy and not too busy filming commercials. He is not the type of quarterback that will elevate the fantasy values of his receivers and tight ends. Watson is an upgrade. An enormous, gargantuan upgrade. He threw for 4.823 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2020. Mayfield has never had a 4,000-yard year or a 30-TD season. And Watson can surely take the fantasy values of his pass catchers to another level – as long as he finds the field instead of the courtroom, the suspended list, or the massage parlor.

With Watson available for the final five games of the season, Njoku will have an All-Pro-caliber quarterback throwing to him for the first time in his career in 2022 and for seasons to come. That will translate into more game-breaking chunk plays and visits to the end zone after only scoring 15 touchdowns in his first five seasons. There is no doubt about it. Backup QB Jacoby Brissett is decent enough to be able to get the ball to Njoku while Watson is serving his suspension. The veteran backup was able to find his tight ends with no trouble during his stints with Indianapolis and Miami.

Njoku has plenty of things going in his favor, plus he is in the prime of his career and has upward mobility fantasy-wise. With additional targets undoubtedly heading his way, Njoku is a sure bet to set new career-highs across the board in every major offensive category this upcoming season. The best part is you can draft him as a TE2 and then enjoy the fruits of your intelligence when he transforms into a borderline TE1 as the season wears on. When it comes to Njoku, take a flyer and watch his fantasy value go higher!



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