Baker Mayfield needs an upgraded receiving corps. Now that Mayfield is remaining as the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback, they will need to do major work on their passing game, which only ranks 26th in the NFL. Without improvements there, Mayfield and the team cannot make a proper run for the playoffs next season.
Baker Mayfield Needs an Upgraded Receiving Corps Next Season
The Browns Must Find Mayfield a Star Receiver
Mayfield needs two or three quality wideouts, the number one receiver especially. Looking at the Cincinnati Bengals all season, the connection between Joe Burrow and rookie Ja’Marr Chase is enviable. Chase set the Bengals all-time receiving record in the first quarter of the season finale against Cleveland, giving him 1,455 for the season at that point. To compare, Jarvis Landry caught his second touchdown pass of the season during that game. No other Cleveland receiver has more than three, and tight end David Njoku leads with four. Heading into the game, the fact the Browns had merely two more touchdown receptions as a team than Chase alone, speaks volumes.
Mayfield does not have someone like Chase. Therefore, the Browns must work to find someone comparable. They need to decide if they are bringing Landry back and paying him $16.55 million. Two factors put him in good stead with the team – the way he carried the receiving room after Odell Beckham Jr.’s departure, and the fact that he is a big part of Mayfield’s support system.
What About Donovan Peoples-Jones?
The Browns thrust Donovan Peoples-Jones into the X receiver role this season. The second-year wideout seemed poised and set to be Cleveland’s newest offensive star, but only in the first half of the season. The second half was rife with inconsistencies, culminating in a dropped pass and punt on Sunday. It is believed that once Mayfield recovers from surgery, his play will improve and in turn, so will Peoples-Jones.
Are Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt Still a Threat?
Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt were supposed to the perfect one-two punch. Hunt missed nine games with injuries this season, but Hunt is valuable in the passing game. Mayfield should be able to rely on him on screens and short passes. Meanwhile, Nick Chubb is still one of the best running backs in the league and is expected to stay that way. D’Ernest Johnson has done enough to be a great No. 3 back.
As for the Tight Ends…
David Njoku is Cleveland’s best blocking tight end and led the Browns in touchdown receptions. His salary is reasonable for a tight-end of his caliber, thus it would be wise to re-sign him. Austin Hooper on the other hand has not established chemistry with Mayfield. He finished the season with 38 receptions for 345 yards and three touchdowns – half of what he accomplished with the Atlanta Falcons. Harrison Bryant had a decent season. The tight end group is fine for now.
The Offensive Tackles Are Mediocre
The offensive tackles were problematic all season. Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills were plagued with injuries, missing significant time on the field. The Browns are expecting Wills to bounce back, and he will, if healthy. Rookie offensive tackle James Hudson III will likely feature next season. The Browns are in need of depth at this position.
Mayfield’s road to recovery will hopefully lead to April training. If the Browns address the issues around Mayfield’s receiver corps, Stefanski will have the chance to be aggressive and creative in his gameplans again. Perhaps it means the Browns can once again enter the playoff conversation.