Cleveland Browns receiving corps truly underrated


Sure, the quarterback situation in Cleveland is tenuously in the hands of 36 year-old Josh McCown, but what isn’t tenuous for the Browns is their renewed and revived receiving corps consisting of Dwayne Bowe, Brian Hartline, Andrew Hawkins, Travis Benjamin and Taylor Gabriel, all of whom can definitely light up the scoreboard.

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In comparison to the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals, the Browns do not have a true elite receiver like Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown, Baltimore’s Steve Smith or Cincinnati’s A.J. Green, but they have massive depth, evident youth and underrated talent.

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You already have the youth in Travis Benjamin and Taylor Gabriel (25 and 24 years old, respectively) who combined for 54 catches, 935 yards and four touchdowns in 2014. Travis Benjamin (not related to 2014 Offensive Rookie of the Year Candidate Kelvin Benjamin) has fleet feet and hidden explosiveness I know we’ll be seeing soon.

Gabriel, a undrafted sophomore receiver out of Abilene Christian, is a downfield threat for the Browns who was consistently on the end of Brian Hoyer bombs last year. In 2014, Gabriel had a 17.3 yards per catch average with games in which he caught a 34, 35, 48, 49 (x2) and 70-yarders. Whether or not head coach Mike Pettine will call Gabriel’s number deep down the field in 2015 remains a mystery, but I think if they do, Gabriel could be a candidate for a breakout season.

Some may not know, but the Browns picked up Washington State burner Vince Mayle this offseason who thrashed secondaries in college. With 106 receptions for 1,483 yards and nine touchdowns, Mayle was ranked fourth in receptions, fifth in yards and second in yards per game (123.6).

And although Mayle may have some boom-and-bust tendencies, when he booms, he really booms. While Mayle’s lowest receiving game of 2014 was five-catch, 35-yard performance against Portland State, his biggest receiving game was against Cal when he caught 11 passes for an insane 263 yards and a touchdown in a narrow 59-60 loss at the hands of the Golden Bears.

He may not get much playing time in the face of these other receivers, but he could be a huge addition if someone goes down late in the season.

May 26, 2015; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns defensive back

Robert Nelson

(27) and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (80) during organized team activities at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

And while Josh Gordon is suspended, former Bengal Andre Hawkins has the number one spot in this receiving corps as he went for 824 yards, two touchdowns and 63 catches this past season and could be headed for bigger and better things in 2015 with McCown at the helm. He’s got sure hands and caught 44 first-down passes in 2014.

But, truly, I think the difference maker for the Browns could be in a recent acquisition: Brian Hartline. Admittedly he isn’t the biggest or fastest receivers in the league, but he can still come up with a solid five grabs and 60 yards a game week after week after week. With the Dolphins, he caught over 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons with last season featuring a very uncharacteristic dropoff.

In 2012 and 2013 though, Hartline had a combined 16 games of five or more receptions. In fact, 2013 saw Hartline catch 5.6 receptions per week in six weeks near the end of the season. He is as consistent as they come and will stabilize this veteran receiving corps.

Miles Austin is gone, but that doesn’t mean the Browns are totally lost, because they have former Kansas City Chief Dwayne Bowe.

As one of my all-time favorite players, I will always root for DB wherever he lands. Looking at his resume, he managed to thrive somewhat in a KC system that is dominated by the run (532 catches for 7,155 yards and 44 touchdowns). In Pettine’s pass-first offense, I think Bowe will see success if given the chance. After all, he did catch 76 passes for 1,162 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2010 (career highs in yards and TDs).

That was five years ago, but perhaps he still has some steam left in that 30 year-old engine. In 2014, Bowe did have seven games of over 55 yards including a season-high eight-catch, 93-yard performance against the top-ranked Buffalo Bills pass defense.

The way I see it, this team is a collection of young and old. The young, Travis Benjamin, Vince Mayle and Taylor Gabriel, have the youth and speed to give the old, Dwayne Bowe, Brian Hartline and Andre Hawkins, have the experience, talent and overall playing abilities to turn any game around.

This receiving corps isn’t elite, but that’s okay. In these player’s individual primes, they were all top performers. And, admit it, even though the expendables featured actors past their glory days, we all loved it when Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone blew away the bad guys.

The Cleveland Browns receiving corps: a new take on a fall classic. Four stars.

Next: Could Terrelle Pryor be the next big WR?

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