Over the past few drafts the Cleveland Browns have done a great job of pleasantly surprising us with selections that we haven’t heard much about but have eye-popping college highlights. TJ Ward was the first to impress me with his monstrous hits as an Oregon DB. Greg Little, was the second. This guy is a freakish athlete, with some serious play making ability (He ran a 4.5 40 yard dash to go with his 40.5” vertical at the combine). He has impressive size at 6’3” 220, and is built like a college linebacker. According to his UNC player bio, he was hailed as one of the most versatile players in the country coming out of high school, and played running back his first two years with the Tarheels. His college highlight tape is filled with some awesome spin moves and devastating downfield stiff arms, but the play that impressed me the most…was a block. With his team on the 10 yard line going in, the camera focuses on Little as he drives his man the full ten yards into the endzone and plants him into the ground. The guy ends up lying motionless on the turf as Little towers over him with a swagger that you rarely see from a receiver after a block.
Unfortunately for the Browns, the few great plays that he did have this year were eclipsed by patches of inexcusable drops. He caught 61 passes for 709 yards and 2 touchdowns, even though he was targeted a team-high 121 times. To put that into perspective, that’s almost double the amount that Josh Cribbs had, the next highest in targets. Due to the lack of talent and depth at the receiver position, his athleticism and big-play potential vaulted him to the top of the depth chart. The Browns hoped to rely on him this season, and he failed to live up to the challenge.
On the plus side, Little was only a rookie and wasn’t ready for a full workload as an NFL wide receiver; It happens. He seemed rusty at times, probably due to sitting out his senior season. He’ll have next year to prove himself, and a full offseason to prepare and learn should help him progress. Obviously the Browns saw him as one of their best offensive weapons, and I understand trying to get your best athlete the ball, but why not get creative when you have such an athlete? He’s not a pure receiver, and the play calling should reflect that. A lot of his production came on slant and in/out routes, which allowed him to use his size and strength as an advantage. I know that’s part of the west coast system, but they guy made plays in college after the catch, with his feet and hands. Too often this year he was hit immediately after the catch, putting a serious damper on his skill set. Hopefully the Browns can get this guy the ball in space next year, and give him a better chance at living up to his playmaking potential.