Prospect Matchup Review: A.J. Brown vs. Justus Parker

Photo: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Tuesday after Labor Day is, in a word, a nightmare. The day back at work after a long weekend while summer is coming to an end is like having the Sunday scaries for an entire week.

We just got our beaks wet with Week 1 of college football, and now we have to wait a whole 5 days until the next CFB Saturday, a downright daunting task. This morning had a feeling not unlike when the crew from Varsity Blues left the club Friday morning in the hot Texas sun.

I encourage the reader not to fret, because I am here to review film from this past weekend with a unique look. One that focuses on a singular wide receiver and defensive back matchup between two Draft-eligible potential NFL players. A game that NFL evaluators will surely look at when the Draft cycle comes around.

Welcome, reader, to A.J. Brown vs Justus Parker.

The Background

A.J. Brown entered the season as the top ranked draft-eligible wide receiver prospect according to multiple outlets. The evaluators on this website ranked A.J. Brown as the #4 draft-eligible wide receiver, according to the All-Draft Eligible team.

At 6’1 and now listed at 230 pounds, Brown operates almost exclusively in the slot. Using his broad frame and body control to win above the rim against mismatches, Brown produced to the tune of 1,252 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2017.

Justus Parker was seemingly built in a lab to stop A.J. Brown. A 6’0 and 205 pound hybrid defensive back, his projection for the next level will have to include shutting down “Big Slot” receivers, tight ends, and running backs. A former Division 3 transfer and walk-on, the intense underdog mentality that Parker plays with was supposed to match up perfectly with Brown’s physicality. However, like many players on Texas Tech’s much improved defense, there were struggles slowing down the Ole Miss attack.

The Beginning

Brown and Parker found themselves matched up early on in the slot. On this rep, Brown does a great job of threatening vertically in his initial stem. Parker takes a retreat step as a result, and when Brown hits a speed cut towards the sideline he has the necessary separation to make a play. Additionally, Brown is able to fend off Parker’s tackle as he picks up some YAC.

Brown "In the Zone"

Later on, Parker was again aligned over Brown in the slot. This time however, Parker had the deep zone responsibility. Parker ends up retreating so deep that it allows Brown to find space in the intermediate. Notice the diamond of Texas Tech defenders around Brown as he makes the catch -- now that’s how you manipulate space and find throwing windows. Brown is once again able to pick up a couple of yards after the catch.

The Back-Breaker

With Ole Miss jumping out to an early lead in the game and Texas Tech trying to fight back in the 4th quarter, the Rebels were in need of a scoring drive. That’s when they found Brown and Parker once again lined up against each other in the slot. Brown runs a "Sluggo" route (Slant + Go), and the fake allows him to get on top of Parker vertically. Brown stacked Parker and kept his break skinny to avoid the high safety.

The touchdown essentially sealed the game for the Rebels, and the matchup win for A.J. Brown. Both players will have plenty of opportunity to improve their draft stock this season, but A.J. Brown is unquestionably off to the hotter start. 

Written By:

Brad Kelly

NFL Draft Analyst

NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Wide Receivers Coach at Salve Regina University. Salve Regina Football ‘15.