After a promising freshman season at Mississippi, AJ Brown broke out his sophomore year and followed it up another impressive season in 2018.
Brown had two straight seasons with 1,250 receiving yards or more in the hardest conference in college football, the SEC. Here is a list of successful SEC WR’s who didn’t accomplish this task: Amari Cooper, Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk, Laquon Treadwell, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr, Jarvis Landry, Alshon Jeffery, AJ Green, and Julio Jones. Unfortunately for Brown and teammate DK Metcalf, they suffered from poor quarterback play throughout their last two years in Oxford from Shea Patterson and Jordan Ta’amu. Imagine the statistics and accomplishments from even average QB play!
Brown is a very strong WR. He weighs 226 lbs and plays with an edge. He’ll stiff arm a defender aggressively, give a little extra after the whistle, or lay a huge block. When targeted deep down the field, he has learned the subtle push off move to gain separation. After the reception, Brown is difficult to tackle in the open field. He has the strength to run through tackle attempts and weighs more than most defensive backs on the field.
Quickly transitioning from receiver to runner, Brown has an aggressive mentality after the reception to gain extra yards. He’s a very underrated athlete overall. Brown has a smooth nature to his movements on the field, which doesn’t lead him to being viewed as uber athletic. But he shows very good burst for his size and quickly gets into his routes. This same burst is what helps him beat defenders after the reception too. Brown shows good flexibility in his hips, which allows him to not only get in and out of his breaks well, but also adjust to the football and still control his body. He isn’t going to wow many with his speed, but it’s underrated on the field. Many times he looks like a player who will get caught and still gets more yards than initially anticipated.
Brown was timed in the 4.49 range at the combine. He shows good agility to make defenders miss and vision to take the best path to gain yards. Brown maintains good balance while on the field and even after contact with defenders.
He tracks the football very well through the air, which gives him more time to adjust and shows very strong, reliable hands. He has had the occasional drop where he’s trying to do too much, but the most concerning thing for a strong player with good hands is contested targets. Brown doesn’t win as many contested targets as I anticipated. They get knocked out of his hands or he isn’t able to complete the reception. Now, he still wins some contested receptions, but I expected more to be completed based on the rest of his game and traits. He shows the timing and jumping ability to high point the football over a defender.
One area of concern is Brown played primarily in the slot, while at Mississippi. However, when fellow Ole Miss WR DK Metcalf was lost for the season due to an injury, Brown was moved from the slot to the outside. He showed success in this role through hitches, comebacks, digs and short area crossers. Different than Metcalf, Brown didn’t have the speed to stack the cornerback and couldn’t win in the same way down the field. He tracks the football very well and gets his body into good position on deep targets. Can Brown play on the outside in the NFL? Yes. Is he better in the slot? Yes. Brown is a mismatch in the slot due to his athletic ability, size, and especially route running. He recognizes zone coverage and will settle into an area to make himself open.
Brown shows inconsistency in his effort on the field. Most of the time this is shown through his route running. He shows good burst getting into his route and stems the defender by threatening their leverage to create separation. Brown does a great job of getting separation from defenders. However, he doesn’t always show the same burst or effort on the field. Brown will vary up the speed at which he runs routes to manipulate defenders, which could account for some of my concern. One of my other theories on this difference in effort is stamina based. Brown can be a good blocker on the outside, but other times he doesn’t show the same effort with run blocking. If Brown was 100% effort on his route running, I would have less hesitation with his evaluation. F
Top end speed
Experience at X or Z
Draft Grade: Day 1 Comp: More Explosive Anquan Boldin
Brown’s a very complete WR who could be a PPR machine in your FF leagues. His route running, physicality, hands, and ability after the catch give him a high floor, but inconsistent effort, top end speed, and his role in the NFL will hold him back. Brown can play both in the slot and on the outside, but he will need to be paired with a good coordinator who believes in him to play outside. Brown is a safe player to be in the WR2-3 range for FF leagues.