A.J. Brown: New England Patriots 2019 NFL Draft Targets

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A.J. Brown
COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 10: Mississippi Rebels wide receiver A.J. Brown (1) runs the ball during a game between the Ole Miss Rebels and the Texas A&M Aggies on November 10, 2018 at Kyle Field in College Station, TX. (Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Ole Miss wide receiver A.J. Brown is one of the top wide receivers in the 2019 NFL Draft class, and the New England Patriots have already shown interest in the 21-year old. Bill Belichick has never selected a wide receiver in the first round, but that could change with New England’s current need at the position. Should Brown find his way to the Patriots, what should New England expect out of the Mississippi native?

Irv Smith Jr.: New England Patriots 2019 NFL Draft Targets

New England Patriots 2019 NFL Draft Targets: A.J. Brown

Brown finished an impressive college career on a remarkably high note. Starring in an offense that also featured D.K. Metcalf, Brown finished his 2018 season with 85 receptions for 1,320 yards and six touchdowns. His impressive play earned him First-Team All-SEC honors for the second straight season.

Brown is everything the New England Patriots love in a wide receiver. The Ole Miss product does most of his damage out of the slot but boasts the size and physicality to line up wide. He’s a fantastic athlete with elite quickness and lateral agility. While he’s not a traditional burner, he’s fantastic in the short and intermediate portions of the field. The Patriots love guys who can line up across the formation and get open quick, and Brown fits that description.

Brown is similar to Julian Edelman in that he’s more than just a slot receiver. Brown and Edelman can both co-exist in an offense and even play off the others’ strengths. The Patriots made it work with Edelman and Danny Amendola in the same offense, and Brown is a significantly more versatile weapon than Amendola.

The Downside

Every NFL Draft prospect carries some form of risk, especially at the wide receiver position. Wide receiver is one of the hardest positions to project, as these players not only need to match the increased NFL competition but also understand a complex playbook and develop chemistry with their quarterback. Anyone could bust, and nobody is a safe bet.

That said, A.J. Brown is about as safe a selection as possible. Most of Brown’s apparent weaknesses are non-issues that can be masked in New England’s scheme. The biggest problem with Brown is that he doesn’t have the elite speed required to beat defenses deep. Additionally, Brown doesn’t have the most impressive catch radius.

These traits could be deal breakers in some offensive schemes, but the Patriots can easily mask Brown’s deficiencies. Deep speed isn’t an issue, as the Patriots offense primarily operates on quick passes in the short and intermediate portions of the field. Additionally, Tom Brady is still one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the league, so Brown’s subpar catch radius won’t be that big of an issue.

Last Word on A.J. Brown

The New England Patriots appear to be in the market for one of the draft’s top wide receivers, and A.J. Brown should be one of New England’s top targets. The team already took him in for a pre-draft visit and the Ole Miss product has the tools to seamlessly fit in New England’s offense.

Brown spends most of his time in the slot, but he’s a lot more than just a slot receiver. The 21-year old can align all over the formation and get open in the short and intermediate parts of the field. He starred in an offense which also featured D.K. Metcalf and won First-Team All-SEC honors two years in a row.

There’s no such thing as a perfect prospect, and Brown does come with his share of risks. However, Brown’s shortcomings shouldn’t dramatically affect his ability to perform in New England’s offense. The Patriots prefer to win with a quick-passing attack, so Brown’s lack of deep speed won’t be an issue. On top of that, quarterback Tom Brady is still a pinpoint passer, so Brown’s subpar catch radius shouldn’t be a problem. Brown can immediately start alongside Edelman and help bring even more consistency to one of the best passing attacks in the league.

Irv Smith Jr.: New England Patriots 2019 NFL Draft Targets

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