A. J. Brown 6’ 0 1/2” 226 lbs WR Ole Miss #1
A. J. Brown is a tough, possession type receiver with good hands, elusiveness, and enough speed to break off an occasional big play. He played primarily out of the slot at Ole Miss and had two prolific years playing in the SEC. He had 160 receptions for 2,582 yards and 17 TDs in the last 23 games. He did this while playing with two other primary weapons on the outside (Metcalf, Lodge). He is also a very smooth route runner who seems to glide along until he abruptly changes direction; usually in a good angle away from the DB.
He is shifty in the open field and adept at taking short throws and weaving through a defense for a big gain. He reads coverages very well and will always find the soft spot to sit in a zone. He is not overly big, but he is strong enough to break tackles always falling forward for extra yards. He is football smart and knows how to alter his speed and stride length to create separation against man coverage. He is a natural hands catcher who has very few concentration drops.
This is a pistol formation with Brown in the wide slot. He reads this as straight zone coverage, and the QB sees him break open behind the OLB. At the snap the fake handoff holds the LBs in place, and Brown moves to a spot directly in between the safety and the OLB.
This is pretty much a pitch and catch which is caused by Brown running the perfect route for this coverage. Where the ball is caught you couldn’t walk out on the field and hand the ball to Brown in a better spot against this particular defense.
You are going to see these types play of in many of these GIFs because, like I said Brown does a great job at reading defenses, even disguised trap defenses. Here he is playing against a off-man coverage on the outside and the LBs dropping into short zones underneath.
Again in a pistol formation the fake holds the LBs for a second while Brown races off the line. He does a good job of selling the vertical route as he eats up the cushion the DB had started with. The DB has no choice but to retreat, and that is when Brown breaks off his route in a open space. You see when he catches the ball there are 4 defenders around him but none within 5 yards. He placed himself perfectly between 4 players giving the QB an easy throw for a completion. He could just drop there, but he weaves his way around for an extra yard. In the end there are 5 players around him, and they barely touch him.
This next GIF is interesting because it is the same type of coverage as the last GIF, but the situation is different. It is 4th and 4 yards to go for a 1st down from the plus 38 yard line. The CB is again in off coverage and the LBs are dropping into short zones.
At the snap the CB creeps up in coverage meaning he is going to sit on the short route, it’s 4th and 4 so why shouldn’t he. Brown reads this immediately and gives a cursory lean to the post then just runs by he CB. All the other WRs are running stop routes, but the QB spies Brown breaking open and throws a pass with nice air under it and it floats down for a gift TD and the lead in the game. This is a game changing read of coverage by Brown that a lot of other WRs would have missed.
This next play is against Auburn who plays a trap type defense on the play. Brown again is in the slot and has to read that him man is going to fall off into the flat.
He has to slow down so he doesn’t run up to the safeties and bring them into the play. He catches the ball between 3 defenders and races across the field to pick up an additional 20+ yards. That is a nice hands catch and some decent YAC that Ole Miss needed badly.
You can see the whole play better from a different angle. The outside receiver’s DB is playing 10 yards off the ball. The defense is trying to get the QB to throw a 5 yard stop route to that receiver. At the snap the DB who is covering Brown races over to the flat to intercept the flat pass they expect the QB to throw; which would be a pick six.
The CB covering the outside receiver is supposed to drop down and cover Brown but is hesitant and late in coverage. Brown does a nice job of not running up to the coverage by instead sitting in the void in the defense. Brown does the rest on his own.
This next GIF is an easy read on some poor defense. The CB is in off coverage; 10 yards of off coverage and bailing at the snap. Brown does his job by racing hard off the snap; you see him with his shoulders over his knees which means he is pushing it.
This is a 13 yard dig route with no under coverage; it couldn’t get much easier. The CB who was bailing is still 4 yards further downfield which means he is 17 yards off the ball at the catch This is only the 2nd quarter. and this is almost a prevent type defense except the LBs are charging the line on a pass play which makes little sense. No defender is in the same zip code as the QB or the guy who caught the ball. Dear lord.
This next play is nothing special just a 5 yard out route that the defender is in an urgent bail technique to get under the outside receiver. The left safety is supposed to cover for the corner but drops way too far downfield.
This isn’t really special. I just like the fact that Brown came off the ball quickly and got to his spot in less than 2 seconds. He didn’t run himself to close to the sideline, giving himself plenty of room to make a play with the ball in his hands. He turns back to the QB and gives him a big target. Once he makes the catch it is all over.
The last GIF is almost the same play (actually a 5 yard hitch) that is a little more exciting. Some in the Draft community believe that Brown has poor long speed, this is my averment to that statement as wrong.
Brown may not be the guy who will take the top of a defense, but he has enough speed to take a short throw and make a splash with it. Speed is nice, but you have to know how to use it to make a difference.
Brown has good hands, but he is not great at contested balls. He is rarely in a position where he has to high point a ball in college but would need work if he is needed to do this in the NFL. He is not a terrific blocker but does a good job of walling off defenders from the play. Playing in the slot almost exclusively Brown has not had the opportunity to play against much press coverage. Although he should have the requisite strength to beat the press his footwork will need an adjustment to get him out into his route on schedule. He is not what would be classified as a home run threat, but Brown has adequate speed to run by defenders. He is sneaky fast and you see defenders take bad angles against him.
A. J. Brown is a big slot receiver who has the speed, hands, toughness, and intelligence to be a quality receiver in the NFL. He would fit the mold of a JuJu Smith-Schuster type player who could terrorize defenses from the slot. He is especially good on skinny posts and deep dig routes where he can catch in stride and use his elusiveness to make a big play. He has excellent field vision and he can exploit open areas in zone coverage like a veteran. He can be a safety blanket for a QB and a high volume possession receiver if needed to be.
I have a low 2nd-high 3rd round grade on Brown. He has an unique skill set, but you don’t know what kind of player he would be if he had to exclusively play on the outside. He has been kind of pigeonholed as a slot receiver which reduces his grade. I like the fact he catches the ball away from his body. and his football IQ is high as well which increases his grade.
He would be a quality addition to any team...
What do you think.