Every year I get a feeling about one or two players that will make it big-time. These are players that are identified through gut-instinct (and a bit of analysis) and it shows once they reach the NFL. Over the past few years, these have included Kerryon Johnson, Leighton Vander Esch and Jaire Alexandre. This year the two top-end talents that seemed steals were Devin Bush and AJ Brown. AJ Brown dropped in the draft due to an infactuation with DK Metcalf and and the speed of Holywood Brown. It was seen as Brown was average in every department, didn’t have the insane phyique of Metcalf and the field was opened up with Damarkus Lodge, Metcalf and Dawson Knox at Ole Miss. Brown was a “good” player that would make it in the NFL but he is actually so much more. He can play inside or outside, with 4.49 40 yard which quashed the theory of his lack of speed. He had 2 seasons with over 1000yds with his Junior (final) season reaching 1,320yds on 85rec and a second first-team all SEC pick.
The tape showed that this guy was a first round pick and better than Metcalf, N’Keal Harry and Hollywood Brown. This is why when pick 32 popped onto screen with the Pats needing a WR, I fully expected to hear the name AJ Brown. A smart WR that could play inside or outside, that had sneaky speed and was undervalued for his “lack” of something special. The Pats went for N’Keal Harry instead as an insurance policy (which turns out was needed) for Josh Gordon as an effective jump-ball specialist. Their loss would be another teams gain. that turned out to be the Titans (or New England South) with pick 51.
With Mariota and Tannehill at QB, I honestly though that Brown’s career was over before it started, but it wasn’t. The checkdown king of Tennesse lit it up on the opening Sunday with the brand new rookie out there. Brown caught 3rec (4 targets) for 100yds with a long of 51yds which displayed all that speed some doubted he had. Over the first 8 games Brown is averaging 43.5yds a game with Mariota, who was then benched for Tannehill, a guy who wasn’t even able to start for the Dolphins-the worst team in football (to be fair, it’s probably he was deemed to good, he might win games). The defenses of the NFL are respecting him. Knowing that Corey Davis hasn’t yet blossomed into the 1st round WR he is and Delanie Walker is declining (if only through injuries). His cushion is an average of 5.3yds, more than the deep threat of Taylor Gabriel. Where he really makes his mark is on the medium routes, displayed by his 10.8 air yds per target (Next Gen Stats) which is more than DeAndre Hopkins, Paul Richrdson and Cooper Kupp. Despite only getting an average of 2.3yds seperation (not a long time to get open with the Titans O-Line) he has a catch rate of 64.71% which is better than Alshon Jeffrey (63.8%) and Robert Woods (63.3%). To add to this he is getting an average of 6 YAC which is almost double his expected 3.3 YAC (Next Gen Stats). Overall, he is a WR who was undervalued on draft day. Got drafted to a team with no QB. Yet is producing averages (in a system where he is the NO.2 to NO.3 option) which are on par and better than some of the big names. He has deep threat speed, sure hands that are better than any other rookie WR and a YAC threat. Brown is the complete receiver. His skill is that he is good at everything rather than a specific. Currently he is being wasted on a Tennesse team that is without a competent QB.
However, the Titans have a strong RB core, complementary receivers to Brown (when he becomes the NO.1) and a stingy defense with a terrific coach in Mike Vrabel. They need a young TE (can get late in drafts, just like Dawson Knox), an interio of the O-Line and a QB. O-Line can be picked up in free agancy which just leaves the matter of a QB. Washington are a good trade partner at the top of the draft (pick 2 or 3) as they already have a QB in Haskins. As a result, the Titans should look to trade up. Personnely, I like Burrows this year (always cautious of Bama QBs) and Tennesse should trade up to get him, or try and find value in the mid rounds (like Russell Wilson). Brown is the future at WR for the Titans, they got a steal. Now they need a QB and they will be a true Superbowl contender, this time lets hope they aren’t 1 yard short.