With the Cleveland Browns’ historically disappointing 2017 season, it is time to look back at the season. With the Browns in the middle of a rebuild, the roster is filled with young players. So, let’s look at how the rookies that played significant snaps on the offensive side of the ball performed in 2017.
Quarterback DeShone Kizer
The second-round pick showed promise throughout the season, but also made plenty of rookie mistakes. In 15 games, Kizer completed 53.6 percent of his passes for 2,894 yards, 11 touchdowns and 22 interceptions for a quarterback rating of 60.5. He also carried the ball 77 times for 419 yards and five touchdowns.
Kizer has a big arm, and used it to sling the ball into tight windows that a lot of quarterback cannot complete. But at the same time, he has trouble with accuracy and decision making, which points to the high interception rate. Oftentimes he was overthrowing his receivers and not giving them a chance to make a play.
His biggest issue was not taking care of the ball in the redzone, crippling the Browns offense. In the redzone, Kizer had a 31.8 completion percentage for 105 yards, eight touchdowns, and league leading six interceptions. He also had issues with holding the ball too long, as he was sacked 38 times. Kizer has the potential to develop into a good quarterback, but showed in 2017 that he has plenty to work on in the offseason.
Tight End David Njoku
The first round pick out of Miami had an up-and-down 2017 season. Njoku showed the flashes that he can be the Browns number one tight end and one of the top pass catchers for whoever is playing quarterback. But he also did not create as many opportunities for his quarterback as would be expected from a first-round pick. He was splitting time at the position with Seth Devalve, but was still able to lead the team in receiving touchdowns with four. He finished the season catching 32 passes for 386 yards.
Every time Njoku is on the field, he has the ability to be a game-changer by creating big plays down the field. He has the size of a tight end, but the athleticism of a wide receiver. The biggest concern regarding Njoku is blocking. He struggles with his technique, which allows for defenders to blow past him to make plays in the backfield. His inability to block was a key reason he split time with Devalve. But as the youngest player on the Browns at 21 years old, Njoku has plenty of time to be molded into a great tight end.
Kicker Zane Gonzalez
Picked in the seventh-round, Gonzalez won the kicking job in training camp. But he struggled to start his career, missing three of his first five kicks. But since that time, he made 13 of 15 field goals. He also made two kicks from 50+ yards, with his longest coming from 54 yards. He also made 25 of 26 extra points on the season. The Browns have not had a stable kicker since Phil Dawson left the team after the 2012 season. It seems that Gonzalez could be the Browns’ long-term kicker.
Running Back Matthew Dayes
The biggest contribution from Dayes did not come out of the backfield. Instead, he proved himself as a valuable kick returner. Although he did not return a kick for a touchdown, Dayes had an average return of 24.3 yards per return on 18 kick returns. His longest return for the season went for 71 yards. For a team that has not had a kickoff return touchdown since 200, Dayes has shown the potential that he can break that streak.