2022 NFL Second Draft Part 4: David Njoku

by Shervon Fakhimi · NFL

David Njoku is the subject of a BRAND NEW RotoUnderworld written series as our Second Draft TE Candidate. The phrase ‘second draft’ is a common one among front offices across sports. When teams prepare for a draft in a given year, teams do their homework on every prospect, even ones they don’t need or have a chance to select in that specific draft. Why? So when one of these players eventually becomes available either via trade or free agency, there is still some familiarity with their games and how they’d possibly fit and revitalize their careers within a new system. This is not a new phenomenon.  

Tight End

It is not uncommon for a high draft pick, especially a first-round pick, to get a second chance despite early career struggles. Sometimes, the situation just was never the right fit for any party, especially the player, whether that be the personnel around them, the coaching staff, the usage of said player, or all of the above. Other times, injury gets in the way of allowing a player to shine their brightest. Sometimes, all these guys need is a fresh start to become the players they were meant to be. A little bit of everything applies to David Njoku.

Second Draft TE Candidate: David Njoku

David Njoku is a big-time athlete at the tight end position. So much so that the Cleveland Browns took him in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. They used a first-round pick on him for good reason, but he hasn’t lived up to that draft capital. Much of it can be excused to a very poor situation. The Browns did not win a single game in his rookie season. But he set career-highs across the board in his second season with a new coaching staff and a rookie Baker Mayfield in charge. That year, he brought in 52 receptions on 88 targets for 639 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 11.4 yards per reception. He was second on the team in yardage, receptions, and targets. He looked like he was about to set a stranglehold on the primary tight-end job in Cleveland. But that optimism was short-lived.

Second Draft TE Candidate

David Njoku Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

After another coaching and regime change in Cleveland that included running a tight-end-centric offense, the Browns decided that he wasn’t enough. In 2020 free agency, the Browns signed Austin Hooper to a 4-year $42 million contract. Njoku missed 12 games in 2019 due to a concussion and a fractured wrist, so the Browns opted for a more proven commodity in the tight end room. That predictably tumbled Njoku’s numbers. His numbers in the 2020 and 2021 seasons were almost identical to his numbers from his sophomore season. In the last two seasons, he caught 55 of 82 targets for 688 yards and six touchdowns.  

Elite Efficiency

If you look deeper though, David Njoku’s 2021 numbers paint an optimistic picture. His efficiency was off the charts according to advanced stats. Per PlayerProfiler, Njoku finished 2021 with a 13.2 (No. 4) Yards Per Reception average, 9.0 (No. 5) Yards Per Target, 1.72 (No. 13) Yards Per Route Run, and 2.03 (No. 6) Fantasy Points Per Target. Njoku blew starter Austin Hooper out of the water in those same statistics. Hooper finished with 9.1 (No. 32) Yards Per Reception, 5.6 (No. 36) Yards Per Target, 1.26 (No. 28) Yards Per Route Run, and 1.49 (No. 30) Fantasy Points Per Target.

Despite Hooper registering more snaps and targets, Njoku ran more routes, brought in more yards, and scored more touchdowns. He reminded the world of his alluring upside in a Week 5 shootout against the Los Angeles Chargers. In that game, he brought in all seven of his targets for 149 yards and a 71-yard catch-and-run-touchdown.

Hooper or Njoku?

It’s worth bringing that Week 5 game up for a multitude of reasons. One is that Austin Hooper has never exceeded more than 71 yards in a game as a Brown; David Njoku more than doubled that in one game and totaled that with one catch. Another is that both of these teams are in play to acquire him once he hits free agency. According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Browns are willing to pay eight figures to bring Njoku back


If the Browns let him walk, many teams would call to acquire his services. The Chargers, Bengals, and Cardinals stick out. However, the Browns franchise tagged him, assuring they will either retain his services or trade him for picks in return. The Browns will likely have to choose sooner than later whether or not to keep him or Hooper. Njoku is the younger and more explosive option. If the Browns chose to tag him, that could very well mean they’ll choose him between the two and open up a potential starting spot for him in Cleveland.


David Njoku is a talented NFL tight end. That has never been in dispute. But circumstances have not fully allowed for those talents to flourish in the NFL. A right situation after free agency could finally free him up to do so. We’ll see what ultimately will happen in free agency that begins on March 15th, but he is worth buying now before his value potentially explodes in a couple of weeks.