David Njoku: Low Risk, Huge Potential - Footballguys

A look at fantasy football implications for David Njoku in his second season.

Off the Radar

Josh Gordon. Jarvis Landry. Tyrod Taylor. Duke Johnson Jr. Baker Mayfield.

These are the names that preempt David Njoku when discussing Cleveland fantasy football. The excitement for Browns football in The Land is palpable in LeBron’s wake. After decades of misery, Charlie Brown is finally going to kick that football this season. Trust us.

Cleveland’s offense is particularly exciting after another good offseason on paper. The Browns added to a good, young core and may have finally found a quarterback. Both sides of the ball have great potential, but fantasy football fans are particularly salivating over the offensive potential on the team.

Njoku does get lost in the mix, though. Anecdotally speaking, the young tight end isn’t discussed or drafted nearly as much or early as his teammates. That makes him a sleeper. But can he fulfill his potential? At his current average draft position, Njoku is a risk worth taking. He has No. 1 upside at No. 2 prices. 


Rookies in Context

Tight ends usually don’t make huge impacts as rookies. Evan Engram was an exception to that rule last season, where Njoku and his fellow rookie classmates proved the rule. The former Hurricane nabbed just 32 passes for 386 yards, though he did manage to score four touchdowns on his limited target diet.

Engram commanded a whopping 115 targets last season. That is almost double what any rookie tight end has gotten in the past five years. In fact, Njoku was sixth over that span in rookie-tight-end targets with 60 last season. But he was only 11th in receptions and yards thanks to a woeful 53.3 percent catch rate.

What does all this mean for his sophomore campaign? For starters, either Njoku has terrible hands, or he needs better quarterback play. His catch rate is a product of bad targets coupled with the fact he saw the ball downfield. Njoku does have some drop concerns, but getting consistently better ball placement is going to go a long way toward improving his efficiency. The numbers also show how much opportunity matters — Engram’s catch rate was marginally higher at 55.7 percent, but his target count put him among the top fantasy scorers.

Full-Time Job

More important are the numbers from second-year starters, and this is where it gets interesting.

 
 
Rookie Season
Year 2
Player
Age
Games
Targets
Recs
Yards
TDs
Games
Targets
Recs
Yards
TDs
22
14
27
19
271
3
16
65
49
526
3
21
13
47
25
248
1
14
70
47
537
5
Hunter Henry
22
15
53
36
478
8
14
62
45
579
4
21
8
11
8
56
1
16
60
39
338
3
Mychal Rivera
23
16
60
38
407
4
16
99
58
534
4
Richard Rodgers
22
16
30
20
225
2
16
85
58
510
8
Will Tye
24
13
62
42
464
3
16
70
48
395
1
23
16
57
36
469
4
16
89
58
702
3

The moral of the story here is serviceable — at a minimum — tight ends with starting jobs get more targets in Year 2. That list doesn’t even include Travis Kelce, who was injured as a rookie and went from 87 targets in his first real season to 103 in the next. It is important to note, though, that this chart isn’t a representative sample of first-to-second-year tight ends, rather it is a smattering of standouts over the past five seasons.

Njoku is easily as talented as the best among the group above, and he is slated to take over as the full-time starter in Cleveland this season if local beat writers are to be believed. The proverbial math looks good here.

Merging Talent with Opportunity

Opportunity is one part of the equation. Whether Njoku gets more targets this season won’t matter much if he can’t convert them into fantasy points. Good thing Tight End U produces some good ones, though.

Njoku comes from a long line of studs to be drafted out of the University of Miami. From Bubba Franks to Jeremy Shockey to Jimmy Graham, tight ends out of Coral Gables have fared well in the NFL and fantasy football over the years. Njoku is up next, and history is going to repeat itself.

Just watching Njoku run away from linebackers is tantalizing enough in itself. He had some eye-popping highlights as a rookie, including a one-handed touchdown grab on a bad throw. He was wide open on the play, incidentally.

All Browns quarterbacks have to do is look for him on the field.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

None of this matters if the value isn’t right. We could be talking about 100 targets turning into a Top Eight fantasy season, but that won’t translate to part of a quality roster if he is being taken in the fourth round. Fortunately, that is nowhere near the case.

Njoku is currently being taken as the TE14 or 141st player off the board on average, a solid backup. For those inclined to wait at a top-heavy position, Njoku represents a low-risk investment with huge payoff potential. The question is whether his ADP is going to rise dramatically through the preseason. If his ADP dips into the single digits, the value will be gone. But as long as he stays off the hype radar, his ADP may not improve much in the coming months.

Projections

Projector
Games
Receptions
Yards
TDs
PPR FPTs
David Dodds
15.3
48.0
566
4.0
128.6
Bob Henry
16.0
47.0
560
4.0
127.0
Jason Wood
16.0
39.0
480
4.0
111.0
Maurile Tremblay
16.0
38.5
440
2.9
99.9
Alessandro Miglio
15.0
51.0
605
5.0
141.5

What Others Are Saying

Here is what the Shark Pool recently had to say about Njoku:

Current ADP at 179 to 180.

  • Recently named starter
  • QB has improved
  •  WRs improved, i.e. he'll get benefit from coverage matchups especially in the red zone
  • Second year TE bump
  • Improved as a blocker so he's not coming off the field

I don't think ADP has caught up to him to where he will be after people get a peek at what he does in camp.

Right now, at this point, he's a bargain.

Our own Ryan Hester spreads the love in FBG’s value plays at tight end:

Njoku was a first-round pick in 2017 due to his athleticism and size. Like most rookie tight ends, he didn't adjust instantly to the game and didn't see the field much, especially early in the season. But local papers are already reporting that he'll be the "full-time starter" this season. Simply being on the field more should yield better numbers. Add to that an improved quarterback situation and the expected growth from another offseason of learning, and Njoku has the potential to be a TE1 this season. At this point in drafts, owners should be looking for ceiling; Njoku has a top-six tight end finish in his range of outcomes.

Final Thoughts

Even if Njoku does not fulfill his promise, the risk is low enough to make a minimal impact on fantasy rosters. He will command the ball more often in spite of the number of mouths to feed in Cleveland, though. The promise of a 90-target season makes him one of the most attractive options outside the Top 10 in ADP at his position. He should be a prime target in the early teens of any draft until his ADP rises dramatically.