If you find a tight-end with the ability to block and be a presence in the passing game, you better find a home for him. In Cleveland, second-year tight-end Jordan Cameron has made quite an impression due to his development as a pass-receiver, as well as adding bulk to his already athletic frame.
"In our evaluation of Cameron last year, we saw a player that wasn't really a tight-end or wide receiver," an AFC personnel director tells theOBR. "He was a tremendous athlete, but extremely raw and didn't have the physical size as say an Antonio Gates, another ex-basketball player that made good in San Diego."
Cameron was selected by the Browns in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL player draft. At the time of his selection, most around the league were very surprised the Browns or any team would select Cameron, coming off a senior season catching 16 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown.
"We had Cameron as a late round pick due to his vast inexperience and measurables," the personnel director said.
With each passing selection in the draft, Cameron was prepared for the best or worst. Knowing there were teams which took notice to him at his workout at USC, his hopes were realistic.
"I just hoped someone would select me and I could go to a camp and have an opportunity to learn the position," Cameron said.
On the job training it has been for Cameron. He made the Browns 53-man roster a season ago, but didn't receive much playing time until late in the season due to injuries to starting tight-end Ben Watson and Evan Moore.
In his short stint on the playing field late in the season, Cameron caught 5 passes for 18 yards. Not stats which would lead you to believe the rookie could be on the verge of breaking away from the bottom of the positional depth chart.
"Last season I was really learning on the fly. I would work on the scout team and learn the nuances of the position, but it was nothing like what happened when Ben (Watson) and Evan (Moore) were hurt and couldn't practice," Cameron said. "I've learned a lot from watching them and Alex Smith, they know what they are doing."
With Moore being on the sideline in the early days of training camp, Cameron has gained additional reps with the first and second team offensive units. Those reps have begun to equate to Cameron displaying the ability general manager Tom Heckert viewed when selecting him with the 102nd selection in the draft.
"It helps, because the lack of experience that I have in this position. It's good to get out there and get actual reps against the one defense or anyone in particular. It's been good. It's been helpful because I need the rep, that's the best way for me to learn," Cameron said.
A season ago Cameron physically looked the part, but his lack of experience was too great a mountain to climb in a rookie season in which he played sparingly. But, the Browns weren't overly concerned with the rookie appearing over-matched a season ago due to his lack of experience.
The Browns were confident Cameron would improve following his first season in the game, as well as an off-season seeing what he needed to accomplish to be ready for the 2012 season, as well as an off-season in the strength and conditioning program.
Over the first four days of training camp, Cameron has shown he is developing his skills and improved as a player.
"He (Cameron) I think just playing the game and I don't want to sounds cliché, but you have to practice it and play it to improve at it. He was guy that didn't play a lot of football in college, but showed us the skill and ability to be a good receiver," Pat Shurmur said. "Now, when you line up at the end of the line of scrimmage, you have got to get used to controlling your body in blocking situations, you have to learn how to release when somebody's basically tackling you, those types of things. Getting a feel for playing the game and I think once he gets that going I think his development will go like this."
It's still early in training camp, but tight-end Jordan Cameron could be the next former college basketball player to gain notoriety as a legitimate NFL tight-end.