When evaluating players the most important thing is to be open-minded and only pay attention to what is in front of you. You need to be able to clear your head of any previous judgments or perceptions anyone else or yourself has of that given player and focus solely on their abilities. This is a line many people started to blur when talking about Ole Miss standout wide receiver A.J. Brown.
Don’t get me wrong, Brown is a good player and should be a high draft pick come April. The main problem with this is where he is selected. Entering this season Brown was projected by many as the best receiver and first off the board, neither of which should be true. Brown has some strengths that will carry him to being a high overall pick but his weaknesses also point to a guy who has more limitations than many have talked about.
That’s what needs to be looked at before crowning him a top wide receiver. When evaluating this year’s wide receiver crop it looks to be a deep class. There are a number of guys who will make it in many people’s top 50 big board. Not only that but many of these guys will be first or second round picks, Brown included.
The Real Draft Stock of A.J. Brown
Where Brown Excels at
Let’s start this off by examining the strengths Brown has shown during his time at Ole Miss. the first thing that you see is his production. While production can be misleading, it is a good reference point to look at. In 2017, Brown posted 75 catches for 1,252 yards and 11 touchdowns. He added to this finishing this year with 85 catches for 1,320 yards and six touchdowns.
Moving from production to on-field traits is the most important part of his evaluation. Brown possesses good size, listed at 6’1” 225 pounds, and will probably slide into a big slot receiver role.
In terms of his route running skills, he is very good and pays attention to detail throughout the route stem. He can consistently find zones and specs to show the quarterback his numbers. He is elusive after the catch and can make oncoming defenders miss with his moves in the open field.
Where He Struggles
Now for what Brown needs to improve on. While he might not have a lot he can physically improve on there certainly are questions that need to be answered.
This quote by AJ Brown in a great interview by @JustinM_NFL is very telling about the Ole Miss offense
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) December 5, 2018
As stated in the tweet above, Brown was sometimes tasked with running around freely to get open. This is something that you will never do in the NFL.
Coming out of the slot Brown isn’t faced with many strong press corners. Because of this, he is often let on free releases causing many to question his ability to push press corners. In the NFL he will often be faced with stronger corners and if you can’t beat them on the release it will set off the timing of the whole route. In the little reps, he has seen from the outside he has not looked to have the necessary footwork to beat press.
Brown is by no means is a slow receiver but he does look to lack the necessary long speed wanted for the position. This is an area where the Combine will be huge for him and could greatly help (or hurt) his stock. He seems to lack great explosiveness out of his breaks as well.
Ball skills are an area you would expect for him to be better at because of his size. He doesn’t have the body control to manipulate defenders and make catches with a high degree of difficulty.
While it may sound like I am down on Brown as a prospect this certainly is not the case. Brown is a good receiver who will definitely have a defined role at the next level. The problem lies where a receiver is without elite speed or athleticism and whom has played mostly in the slot. Because of this teams may hesitate to pull the trigger on him early, especially on the first round.
At the moment he looks to be a solid choice in the second round. He may not be the top receiver many talk him up to be but he does have the skill set to succeed at the next level. His versatility and expanded route tree experience should heavily favor him.
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