Between now and preseason, we’ll be breaking down the New York Jets undrafted rookies. Today, we break down former Southern Miss wideout Jason Brownlee in detail.
The 24-year old Brownlee is listed at 6’2” and 198 pounds and caught 135 passes in three seasons at Southern Miss for over 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns. He had played at the Junior College level prior to joining the Golden Eagles.
Brownlee was a three-star high school recruit and tried to get a D1 scholarship, but ultimately had to settle for playing at the Junior College level with the East Mississippi CC Lions.
Having caught just 13 passes for 113 yards and a score in his first season, Brownlee broke out with 75 catches for 1,055 yards and 12 touchdowns in his second year with the Lions. He then set about finding a D1 school to enroll with and ended up at Southern Miss.
Brownlee had an immediate impact with the Golden Eagles, as he averaged 18 yards per catch on 34 catches and scored five times to earn honorable mention all-Conference USA honors.
In 2021, he was an all-CUSA second teamer as he caught 46 passes for 643 yards and eight scores. His stats were even better in his final season (55 catches, 891 yards, eight scores) but he was only named as a third-team selection in 2022.
Brownlee was invited to the scouting combine and played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl where he caught three passes for 70 yards. Many draft analysts had him ranked as a potential mid-to-late round pick but he went undrafted.
Out of all the undrafted free agents signed by the Jets, Brownlee has the most guaranteed money with $216K of guaranteed salary and a $30K signing bonus.
Now let’s take a look at what Brownlee brings to the table, divided into categories.
Brownlee has long arms and a massive catch radius, although he’s very lanky so could perhaps benefit from adding some weight.
At his pro day, his 40-yard dash was slower than expected at 4.59 but his explosiveness numbers were excellent with a 39.5-inch vertical. He had a solid 16 bench press reps and his pro day agility numbers were about average for the position, but that 40-time obviously hurt him even though he displays speed on film.
Brownlee has been primarily an outside receiver with the Golden Eagles, only typically playing a handful of snaps in the slot each game.
He also played on the other side of the ball in high school.
Brownlee is a legitimate deep threat who has had a lot of success on downfield throws. He is quick off the line, which gives him a good chance to get behind the defense and his catch radius allows him to keep defensive players on his hip and still reach for the ball.
Since he gets off the line so well, this also enables him to locate and track the ball early and he is excellent at adjusting to the football when it’s in the air so he can be an effective downfield threat on jump balls too.
Scouts are divided on how good Brownlee is as a route runner, so let’s call him a work in progress. His contested catch numbers are high and there’s a suggestion that he is so confident in his ability to compete for the ball that he isn’t always focused on getting separation.
He does show some promise though. His releases are clean, he’s fast coming off the line and impressed scouts in practice at the NFLPA all-star game with his craftiness. On this play he makes a sharp break underneath and turns it upfield for a huge play.
Against press coverage, he uses his hands to help him release cleanly and this can give him a leverage advantage so he can come back to the ball aggressively.
Brownlee’s hands were on show already with the Jets as he had one of the highlights of OTA’s on this play.
At Southern Miss, he shows good abilities to go up to get it, dive for the ball, scoop up low throws and hold on in traffic. He also has good awareness to stay inbounds on sideline catches.
Drops haven’t been a major issue, with just three per season on average. However, his catch rate was below 50 percent at Southern Miss and there were contested catches he perhaps should have come up with.
With 34 touchdowns in his career, Brownlee has showcased his abilities to go up and over defenders as an excellent fade option down in the red zone.
His ability to release quickly off the line is also an asset in these red zone situations.
After the catch
Despite his timed speed being slow, Brownlee has the speed to run away from defenders and can break tackles and battle for yardage.
He’s been effective on screens at Southern Miss with 87 yards on 16 screen passes over his three seasons there.
He fumbled twice during his three seasons with the Golden Eagles.
Brownlee’s blocking grades were inconsistent in college and scouting reports indicate he could do more.
On this play he battles well and eventually overpowers the defensive player but his technique is sloppy and he is lucky that the official didn’t determine that he had committed a holding penalty, so he’ll need to clean that up.
He had one holding penalty last season.
Brownlee seems to relish opportunities to go up and grab a jump ball over defensive players and displays good strength at the catch point.
As noted, he could probably benefit from adding a few pounds to help him with his blocking and carrying the ball but his play strength is generally solid.
He had one offensive pass interference penalty called on him in 2022, but also drew multiple flags.
Brownlee only has limited experience on special teams. He hasn’t returned kicks at the college level and has only played a few snaps on kick coverage units or as a blocker. The most action he’s seen has been on the punt return units, either rushing kicks or in the vice role.
He hasn’t made any significant contributions other than committing one penalty in his career.
Instincts and Intelligence
Unlike a lot of players who went through the junior college route, there is no concern with Brownlee’s academics. He ended up playing at that level due to a lack of offers from D1 schools.
On the field, he’s played in some simplistic systems at times and doesn’t necessarily come back to the football or look for space when plays are extended, perhaps because he feels his ability to go up and get it means he’s already open.
He had a couple of false starts last season.
Brownlee has had a hard-work attitude from an early age and ramped that up over the last year or two as he sought to make it to the league. He has always taken football seriously and been motivated to succeed and will focus on the smallest details to improve his game.
Coming out of the JUCO program, he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder that will make him more determined to succeed at this level.
On the field, his discipline has been reasonable with 10 penalties in his career. He did have one personal foul for taunting after a touchdown though.
Brownlee hasn’t missed any games due to injury but was dealing with issues in the lead-up to the last two season-openers. He was briefly on crutches with a minor knee injury in 2021 and hurt his foot on a non-contact injury in 2022.
As noted, Brownlee will fit on the outside and doesn’t really contribute on special teams so it will probably be tough for him to break into the Jets’ rotation any time soon. With $246K in guarantees, he is virtually certain to get a practice squad spot, though.
Brownlee has already made a positive impact, with Aaron Rodgers having singled him out for praise after the organized team activities.
The chances of him making any kind of impact in 2023 seems slim but he has an interesting skill set so it will be interesting to see how he fares in preseason and whether he looks like someone who could feature on 2024’s Jets team and beyond.