Durability; only a few NFL receivers have played at even
175 pounds over the last 10 seasons. Of the group, only Marvin
Harrison and DeSean Jackson have enjoyed notable/long NFL careers.
How much will the Lisfranc injury in his last game as a college
player (and the subsequent surgery) hold him back as a rookie
(if at all)? What are the odds of a reoccurrence? Foot injuries
are typically difficult for receivers to overcome.
Route tree somewhat limited to a handful of routes in college,
most of which are down the field or short and keep him on the
move (go, post corner, corner post, drag, screen, whip).
While refreshing to see a small-framed receiver willing to
work over the middle, his inside routes may be limited to drags
in the NFL because they are one of the few inside routes that
make him a moving target; it is bad news when he gets squared
Although he gives good effort as a run blocker, it's hard
to imagine he'll be able to serve as much of an impediment to
an NFL defensive back.
Any discussion about Brown probably should begin with his speed.
While he has essentially been on ice after undergoing surgery
for the Lisfranc injury he suffered in the Big 12 Championship,
it has been documented he ran a 4.33 in an audition one day after
getting off work at Six Flags during his junior college days.
Considering his time at Oklahoma was the first time in his life
he was able to eat right and train, it's probably safe to say
he's faster now than he was then - something that shows up on
tape game after game. Even in a conference like the Big 12 where
defense sometimes seems optional, Brown routinely has at least
two steps on his defender on downfield throws.
The biggest problem with small receivers like Brown is that coaches
don't want to send a lightweight into the hornets' nest any more
than most of them want to go in there. Brown doesn't have an aversion
to running in between the hashes like Jackson seems to, but it's
difficult for any play-caller to ask someone of his size to take
unnecessary hits. The best big-play receivers - something Brown
has a chance to become - tend to make too much money to risk their
health on plays that might only move the sticks. Furthermore,
Brown isn't going to be asked to win too many contested-ball situations
in the NFL or post up defenders in the red zone. If it isn't already
clear by now, Brown will either need a high-end quarterback who
trusts him implicitly (like Hilton has with Andrew Luck) or to
rely on the big play (like Jackson) in order to find the end zone.
To what degree Brown is able to either convince his new coaches
he doesn't need to be protected and/or develop routes that work
the intermediate part of the field will ultimately determine if
he can be a Pro Bowl receiver. For example, Hilton can work out
of all three receiver spots (flanker, split end or slot), while
Jackson is limited mostly to the same routes Brown ran in college.
What is not in question is the fact he is a legitimate threat
to score anytime the ball is in his hands. His speed will put
defenders on their heels for the next 10 years, although John
Ross should serve as a cautionary tale for anyone who believes
speed is all he needs. (Ross was a more complete receiver - not
to mention a more highly regarded prospect - coming out of Washington
in 2017, albeit one with a much more extensive injury history.)
Brown's work ethic will ultimately determine if he is more Hilton
than Jackson, but the safe bet for teams would be to assume the
latter and hope for the former, which tells me he should come
off the board early on Day 2.
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.