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Cleveland Browns Rookie Spotlight: Donovan Peoples-Jones

As the last pick made by Browns in the 2020 NFL draft, Donovan Peoples-Jones will be the final rookie spotlight article before camp begins. The talented wide receiver out of Michigan had some waves made for him when Urban Meyer said his talent was top ten worthy. Especially since he was a sixth-round pick. Peoples-Jones production in college certainly wasn’t.

Urban just taking a shot at Jim Harbaugh? Was it the average at best quarterback play or the offense ran Harbaugh ran? Did Peoples-Jones just underachieve? We all know what Urban means to football in Ohio, so Peoples-Jones has some fans in Cleveland thinking he could be great. Will that be this year?

Why take Donovan Peoples-Jones?

He was likely the most gifted player still on the board that team in the sixth round. Coming out of high school, Peoples-Jones was the number one rated wide receiver in the country. He chose to join Jim Harbaugh in Michigan. Looking back after being pick by the Browns Peoples-Jones said, “I did what I could do when I had the opportunity. It honestly doesn’t matter now — I’m looking at how to get better. I’m looking to do everything I can for the Browns’ offense and help the team in general.” Sounds like someone just trying to move forward and make the best of the opportunity in front of him. With players like Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, and Rashard Higgins on the roster, why were Peoples-Jones taken?

Pure talent. Peoples -Jones brings a 6-2 frame with long arms and a 44.5 in vertical according to NFL.com’s combine numbers. He also has 4.5 speed to go with that big frame and can be more than a jump ball guy. He also has strong footwork getting in and out of breaks.

Peoples-Jones also brings return ability with 89 punt returns for 743 yards(8.3 yards per return) and two touchdowns. Certainly, a spot the Browns could use a weapon. Last season the team used multiple players in the return game without much success. Dontrell Hilliard was the primary returner with 15 returns and a 7.1 average. That is not good enough. Could winning the return job be a step towards becoming a legit option at wide receiver? For a sixth-rounder, it could be the only way to the top.

Will Peoples-Jones have an impact in 2020?

Donovan Peoples-Jones
Donovan Peoples-Jones returned 40 punts during the 2017 season, averaging 8.0 yards per return. He returned one for a touchdown. (Mike Mulholland | MLive.com)

If he can win the punt return job, sure. As a wide receiver, likely not. While he has all the talent you want, Peoples-Jones needs work on his route running, release from the line, among other fundamentals. He will undoubtedly see some action based on the limited competition beyond the OBJ, Landry, and Higgins, which could increase if injuries take place.

The best scenario right now is to get Peoples-Jones coached up, let him compete, and see what happens. If he doesn’t beat out Higgins, he at least gets the experience needed to take over if/when Higgins leaves next offseason potentially. The Browns have the luxury to groom a player and get him ready to fill a potential void in the future, and that is what perennial contenders do.

Might want to watch out for him in the return game, though. He can be explosive.

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