Experienced and successful against good college programs
Makes big plays in the clutch
Thick frame to push defensive backs around
Ready to contribute immediately
Not a burner
Lacks deep speed
Could have separation issues from NFL corners
Summary: Under former head coach Hugh Freeze, the Ole Miss Rebels put together a lot of strong recruiting classes that produced a lot of early-round NFL talent. Among those players were Laremy Tunsil, Evan Engram, Laquon Treadwell, Robert Nkemdiche, Breeland Speaks and more. After Freeze was fired amid scandal, some of his talented recruits who interested NFL teams remained at Ole Miss. A.J. Brown is one of those players, and he is in the running to be the top wide receiver prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft.
In 2016, Brown had a strong debut as a freshman with 29 receptions for 412 yards with two touchdowns. He was even better as a sophomore, totaling 75 receptions for 1,252 yards and 11 touchdowns despite playing for a bad team that lost its starting quarterback to injury.
What really sets Brown apart is what he can do as a possessional receiver. Brown is a dangerous wideout who is not a burner with rare speed, but he makes up for it with polish and physicality. With good route-running and strong, reliable hands, Brown is a chain mover who does the dirty work in the short to intermediate part of the field.
Brown is very dangerous with the ball in his hands. He uses his well-built frame to break tackles and is very difficult for a lot of defensive backs to get on the ground. His strength to run through the defenders' hands makes it difficult for them to get a hold of him. While he isn't super elusive and is more straight line, Brown does have the feet to dodge some tacklers in the open field. For the NFL, Brown has tremendous yards-after-the-catch potential, and he could be a great fit in a west coast offense.
With his strength and ability to catch the ball in traffic, Brown is a nice weapon for the red zone. He tracks the ball well and uses late hands to make the reception. Brown also flashes his strength to make contested catches and win 50-50 passes. As a pro, Brown is going to have to win on contested catches because he won't be a receiver who generates separation. But, he has shown the ability win 50-50 passes and outfight defensive backs using his thick frame and strength to get the better of them.
Brown really helped himself at the NFL Scouting Combine by running the 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds. That was a great time for him because teams had concerns that he could run very slowly. In speaking with team sources, some of them ended up giving Brown a second-round grade.
Player Comparison: Kenny Britt. Brown's game is similar to Britt when Britt was playing well early in his career. They are similar in build, and Britt was a dangerous run-after-the-catch receiver. Britt was the 30th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft in part because of character concerns.
NFL Matches: New York Jets, Buffalo, Miami, New England, Baltimore, Arizona, Denver, Oakland
There could be a lot of teams in the market for an upgrade at wide receiver, so Brown should have plenty of teams hoping to land him in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Christian Kirk was a nice addition by the Cardinals, but they could use more receiving weapons for Kyler Murray/Josh Rosen. Adding a receiver with size would make sense for Arizona as Larry Fitzgerald is nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career.
The Redskins could consider adding more receiving weapons. Josh Doctson was a pick from the previous general manager and has been a disappointment. Brown would be a good fit in Jay Gruden's offense.
In the AFC East, Brown could land with any of those four teams. The Patriots could use some youth at wideout, and Brown could give them an outside receiver to work with their slot players. Miami needs more receiving weapons as do the Jets. New York has a poor receiving corps and needs to give Sam Darnold more play-makers. Buffalo needs more receiving threats for Josh Allen.
Baltimore could use more receiving talent for Lamar Jackson, and Brown would bring a reliable possessional receiver for the long term. He would be a nice pick for the Ravens in Round 2 of the 2019 NFL Draft.
The Broncos traded away Demaryius Thomas, and Brown would give them a receiver to go across from Courtland Sutton. The Raiders need some long-term weapons for Jon Gruden's offense, and Brown would be a nice scheme fit in Gruden's west coast system.