BEREA—Believe it or not, the Browns passing game in 2015 was the fourth-best in franchise history as the passing game amassed 4,155 yards. The Browns played the season without a true number one receiver with Josh Gordon under NFL suspension for substance abuse. Dwayne Bowe was expected to be that guy, but he was rarely active, let alone being the top receiver. Travis Benjamin emerged and was the leading wide receiver with 68 receptions and was fourth in the NFL in receptions for over 40 yards. However, Benjamin could become an unrestricted free agent on March 9, if he isn’t signed to a contract extension.
The Browns have several solid receivers in Andrew Hawkins, Brian Hartline and Taylor Gabriel, but not many receivers that would be considered play makers. Terrelle Pryor is a developmental player who might have the biggest upside on the roster, but he is unproven.
The possible return of Gordon could be the play making receiver the offense needs. The question remains if Gordon is reinstated would he return and be the receiver that led the NFL in receiving yardage in 2013 or be the receiver that was mostly a distraction during the 2014 season.
Who is on the Browns roster
Travis Benjamin—Benjamin had a breakout year with 68 receptions for 966 yards, including five touchdowns. He was a big play receiver in the Browns offense finishing fourth in the NFL with six receptions of 40 or more yards.
Brian Hartline—Hartline’s production picked up greatly just before he broke his collar bone and ended the season on injured reserve. Hartline finished with 46 receptions for 523 yards with two touchdowns.
Josh Gordon—Gordon spent the season and is currently on an indefinite suspension from the NFL. He has applied for reinstatement and the league has yet to rule on his status. If Gordon were to get reinstated, he could become the No. 1 receiver the Browns didn’t have last season if he is the receiver that led the NFL in receiving yardage in 2013. If he’s the receiver that showed up after a suspension in 2014, he was more of a distraction than an asset.
Andrew Hawkins—Hawkins finished the season on injured reserve after suffering his second concussion during the season. Hawkins finished with 27 receptions for 276 yards and no touchdowns. He was signed to be a slot receiver, but has had to play the outside due to the Browns lack of outside receivers. Hue Jackson knows Hawkins and should be able to use him to his maximum potential.
Taylor Gabriel—After a strong rookie season, Gabriel had a very pedestrian 28 receptions for 241 yards and no touchdowns.
Darius Jennings—Jennings was on the practice squad for the majority of the season but when he was elevated to the active roster, he was productive. Despite playing in just a few games, Jennings had 14 receptions for 117 yards.
Terrelle Pryor—Pryor tried to make the jump from quarterback to wide receiver during the preseason, but compounded the problem by injuring his hamstring early in camp. After being released, Pryor spent the season without a team until the Browns re-signed him late in the season. His only reception late in the year went for 42 yards. With a full off-season, Pryor could be a factor in the Browns offense next season. Hue Jackson used Mohamed Sanu in a lot of different ways last year with the Bengals.
Marlon Moore—Primarily a core special teams player, Moore was used as the third or fourth receiver for much of the season and played ahead of Dwayne Bowe. Moore caught seven passes for 81 yards, including a touchdown.
Rannell Hall— Hall was signed late in the season to the active roster, but did not play.
Who could the Browns lose
Travis Benjamin and Terrelle Pryor will both become free agents on March 9, if the Browns do not sign them to extensions. Benjamin said he thought he was close to signing a contract extension during Super Bowl week.
Is the Need: Low, Medium or High
High—We felt that the Browns had a big need for play making wide receivers in 2014 before Gordon was suspended. At the time, we favored the Browns drafting Sammy Watkins, instead of what they ultimately did by trading down and drafting Justin Gilbert. With the uncertainty of Gordon and Benjamin, the Browns still need a top-tier wide receiver either as a free agent or high in the upcoming NFL Draft. Dwayne Bowe was supposed to be the No. 1 receiver last season but we all know how that worked out.
Top Free Agents in Position Group
Top NFL Draft Prospects in Position Group
Laquon Treadwell (Ole Miss)
Corey Coleman (Baylor)
Michael Thomas (Ohio State)
Josh Doctson (Texas Christian)
Will Fuller (Notre Dame)
Braxton Miller (Ohio State)
Tyler Boyd (Pitt)
Pharaoh Cooper (South Carolina)
Rashard Higgins (Colorado State)
Sterling Shepard (Oklahoma)
If the Browns can retain Benjamin and Gordon can return to his 2013 form, the Browns receiving corps could be much more formidable in 2016. However, the Browns cannot count on that and need to bolster their receiving corps in free agency, as well as in the NFL Draft.