Mississippi Rebels wide receiver A.J. Brown has officially declared for the 2019 NFL Draft. The decision, an expected one, is a welcomed addition to a talented wide receiver talent pool for this year's class. Brown, who logged career highs in receptions (85) and yards (1320) this season, joins fellow Mississippi WR D.K. Metcalf as an early entrant.
Brown is a physical pass catcher who makes himself available to his quarterback with crisp routes breaking into the middle of the field and provides consistency at the catch point thanks to his size and plucky hands. My personal assessment of Brown favored his contested catch skills as his best trait:
"Has hauled in some impressive catches with defenders draped off of his frame. Concentration in said situations is impressive, as is his ability to re-work into a position to challenge the ball if he's lost leverage once the ball is in the air."
Brown isn't going to test as the fastest or most explosive receiver in this year's talent pool, but don't let that be a deterrent from desiring his skills...if your team needs his type.
Brown isn't necessarily a universal prospect, he'd thrive in the middle of the field as a "big slot" receiver, much in the same way Larry Fitzgerald has extended his career with the Arizona Cardinals in recent seasons. Brown's athleticism may be a barrier from creating consistent separation on the boundary against longer, more physical corners.
Instead, Brown's ideal role at the NFL level will showcase his strength against press coverage, physicality after the catch and contested catch skills.
Where does he land in this year's class? Well, variety is the spice of life. For yours truly, fellow Rebel WR D.K. Metcalf is the cream of the crop, he's an athletic freak with size, length and room to grow. Behind him lies a crowded group of anywhere from 5-7 wide receivers, including Brown. Team preference, offensive philosophy and other dividing factors will dictate what order this group comes off the board.
A team enamored with Brown's physical brand of football could certainly consider him in the first round, although a more conservative projection would place him in the top-50 prospects.
Brown's declaration is a hit to the Rebels, who are already experiencing a great deal of turnover on their offensive depth chart. Seniors DaMarkus Lodge (WR) and Jordan Ta'amu (QB) are also on the way out, as are Metcalf and Brown. Junior offensive tackle Greg Little is a favorite to join them as well, a promising but raw talent on the blind side.
The Rebels just missed a bowl game this season at 5-7 and if they hope to return to the post-season next year they'll have to seriously retool their passing game over the offseason.