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Amon-Ra St. Brown
NFL

Amon-Ra St. Brown Becoming One Of NFL’s Top WRs

  • Jack McKessy
  • December 7, 2022
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Amon-Ra St. Brown never doubted himself.

As his name stayed on the board for all of the first day of the 2021 NFL Draft, then all of the second day, St. Brown took note of all of the receivers taken before him. There were 16 of them in all, and the second-year receiver can still name all of them today, in order, and tell you where they went to college.

All 32 teams passed on him at least once, but once the fourth round rolled around with the Detroit Lions on their fifth pick in that draft, No. 112 overall, St. Brown’s name finally came off of the board. It’s a decision that the Lions certainly don’t regret but one that many of the 31 other teams—at least 13 of the 16 that took another receiver—probably do. 

Through 20 starts and 28 career games, St. Brown has established himself as not only the engine of the Detroit offense but as one of the most productive young receivers in the NFL over the last two seasons. Here’s a chart comparing St. Brown to every receiver drafted before him in the 2021 NFL Draft:

If we did a do-over of the 2021 NFL Draft now, St. Brown would not fall so far. Among the top 17 receivers taken in his draft class, the USC product ranks first in receptions, third in receiving yards, and third in receiving touchdowns despite being fourth in games started. He’s been by far the most reliable Lions wide receiver after former Lion Kenny Golladay departed in free agency. St. Brown’s production and chemistry with quarterback Jared Goff is a large part of why Detroit ranks among the best offenses in the NFL and why it’s 4-1 over the last five weeks.

What has made St. Brown so special and reliable is his ability to, well, catch the football, especially over the Lions’ last four games. The second-year receiver has caught all but four of his 41 targets over that span—he had one target not caught in each game—and not a single dropped pass for a catch percentage over 90%.

St. Brown is tied with the Raiders’ Davante Adams for the NFL lead in receptions over the last four weeks despite seeing 17 fewer targets (though Adams has the edge in yards). It should be no surprise that Goff is looking St. Brown’s way so often when the Lions’ second-most productive pass-catcher is still tight end T.J. Hockenson, who hasn’t been on the team in five weeks. It’s even less surprising considering how good St. Brown is at winning and maintaining possession on contested catches to keep offensive drives going, even when he takes big hits.

St. Brown might not just be one of the NFL’s most reliable receivers right now; he’s on pace to be one of the most reliable receivers ever. If he gets 31 more receptions in his final five games this season, the receiver will have the most receptions of any pass-catcher over his first two seasons in NFL history, surpassing the Saints’ Michael Thomas (2016-17) and the Vikings’ Justin Jefferson (2020-21).

The man who was once a day-three pick and the 17th receiver taken in the draft has to be considered one of the NFL’s best receivers right now. He’s not doing it with his overwhelming speed like other top receivers in his class—Chase, Waddle, and Smith were all sub-4.5 guys in the 40, while St. Brown clocked in a tick over 4.6—but with the work he puts in as a fantastic route-runner with even better hands. So even as rookie receiver Jameson Williams gets more and more integrated into Detroit’s offense in the coming weeks, Amon-Ra St. Brown will still get plenty of looks and touches as the established No. 1 receiver. He’s earned them.

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Jack McKessy