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Who is John Brown?

Brown

Following AC Leonard, the sixth player featured in this series is also the first rookie wide receiver. The Arizona Cardinals used the 91st overall pick to select former Pittsburgh State (PSU) receiver John Brown in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Though many had Brown graded as a day three draft pick (between rounds four and seven), the fact Head Coach Bruce Arians and the Cardinals spent a valuable third round pick on him speaks volumes about what they believe about the young wide receiver’s potential in the NFL.

Starting his collegiate career at Mars Hill in 2008, Brown caught 27 passes for 619 yards and seven touchdowns, while also displaying electric open field abilities in the return game. He did not play in 2009 and redshirted at Coffeyville Community College in 2010 to get academic issues under control, then re-emerged with PSU in 2011. Returning a kickoff for an 84-yard touchdown on his first play with PSU set the tone for an excellent career for the Gorillas.

In his first year with the team, Brown caught 61 passes for 1,216 yards and 12 touchdowns while he contributed out of the backfield and on special teams on his way to 2,293 all-purpose yards. 2012 brought even more accolades as he broke the PSU record for receptions by the end of his second season. He rounded out his collegiate years with a third consecutive selection as an All-American. When all was said and done, Brown’s three seasons with PSU included 185 receptions for 3,380 yards and 32 touchdowns (all school records), which accounted for only 54% of his 6,244 all-purpose yards and 71% of his 45 total touchdowns. Brown put himself on the map for NFL teams after leading his team in receptions and as a three-year captain.

DLF & FanDuel bring you DLF Premium for free!Perhaps known best for his 4.34 40 yard dash at the Combine (which was second only to Brandin Cooks’ 4.33), Brown has much more to offer the Cardinals than speed. The 5’10”, 179 pound receiver accelerates well off the line to gain immediate separation and is excellent at starting and stopping on a dime. He’s a strong route runner with good hands, which has allowed him to excel as a deep threat, in the slot and as both kickoff and punt returner. Despite the academic eligibility issues prior to his time at PSU, Brown has a reputation of having a very high football IQ and is a well-respected leader with a strong work ethic.

A lean frame is the root cause for concerns about Brown. He is not a strong blocker, struggles to break tackles and defenders can break his rhythm by pushing him off his routes. Small hands and short arms limit his ability to overcome the bullying he takes on the field and created too much of a tendency for drops, an issue when his playing style may limit the number of targets he receives to begin with. Detractors also point to a lack of strong competition and age (Brown will be 24) as additional negatives associated with the rookie.

Considering which team and head coach drafted Brown, however, I am confident the offensive scheme will be designed to deemphasize these deficiencies as much as possible. Remember that Arians was key in selecting and developing both Antonio Brown in Pittsburgh and T.Y. Hilton in Indianapolis – John Brown is cut from the same mold as an undersized but electric receiver with versatility. He is also in a great position to step in as the third wide receiver behind Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, a role left vacant with the departure of Andre Roberts, with only first-round bust Ted Ginn, Jr. and undrafted free agent Jaron Brown as competition for the spot. Referred to by his Arizona coaches as “fearless over the middle,” he is likely to play both in the slot and outside depending on where Fitzgerald lines up in three-wide sets.

News out of training camp has been nothing but impressive. Starting off with a bang by catching an 80-yard touchdown pass in his first padded practice, he’s fast off the line to quickly create separation, is gaining solid yardage after the catch against his teammates in the secondary and has generally displayed a strong understanding of the offense. Putting in extra time with Carson Palmer has certainly helped Brown to get off on the right foot.

In dynasty, while it is high praise to compare John Brown to Antonio Brown of the Steelers, the two are almost exactly the same size with similar concerns coming out of college. The primary differences are likely connected and both in the rookie’s favor, with John having a faster 40 yard dash (4.34 to 4.56) and a much higher draft selection (third round to sixth round). Clearly, this NFL comparison is an optimistic projection for a player who has yet to play a down in the NFL, but if the rookie can prove durable when taking hits from NFL competition and his collegiate skills translate well to the NFL he has a high ceiling. Until Fitzgerald departs, however, Brown’s upside is capped as no better than the team’s third receiving option (and as of now fourth behind Andre Ellington as well).

In July mock drafts, Brown’s stock was consistent throughout the six leagues, averaging as the last pick in the sixteenth round (168th) and was between #162 and #178 in each draft. Among rookies, DLF rankers have him as the #23 wide receiver and #43 overall, putting him as a mid-fourth round pick. This valuation is consistent with my experience in rookie drafts over the past three months, though his stock has crept up to the mid-third round in my final rookie mock in late July (look out for Jacob Feldman’s article on this draft soon in DLF Premium). With the reports out of Arizona’s training camp and the further research (including game tape) completed for this article, I am absolutely buying Brown at the price of a third or fourth round rookie pick.

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Jaron Foster

A data analyst by profession, Jaron has been writing for DLF since 2012. Native New Englanders, Jaron and his wife are introducing their son (2010) and daughter (2014) to the Patriots. You can regularly find him on Twitter (@jlfoster10) and in the DLF Forum at odd hours.
Jaron Foster

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18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. cheddar

    August 6, 2014 at 6:00 am

    I got him in the 3rd in my draft last weekend. Pretty happy about it.

    His hype will explode next off-season if Fitz leaves. No way Fitz gets paid 23 million next year. Then Brown will be the no. 2 passing option with a coach perfectly suited to him. Yes, please. My only concern in that scenario is whether or not old man Palmer will still have the arm for Arian’s scheme.

  2. Gus Bazan

    August 6, 2014 at 6:18 am

    These are such good articles. Used them to pick up a player or two under the radar in my league which helps a lot since this is my first foray into dynasty leagues. I have WR stead man bailey which from what I’m hearing is doing well in camp. I know he’s suspended for 4 weeks and i have some good receivers already in c johnson, r white, edelman, hartine and decker plus a couple of young guys like m lee, josh huff, daldwin, , sanu and tavares king. I have been offered straight up deal for stead man where i would get cecil shorts in return Should i take it or pass?

    • Luke

      August 6, 2014 at 7:01 am

      Shorts and Stedman have similar value in my opinion. Shorts is obviously more proven and St. Louis is a wasteland for WRs. I might take that trade.

      Speaking of Tavarres King, he just doesn’t live up to any of the hype he gets. Haven’t heard one mention about him in Carolina, which is an ideal place for him since their depth chart is wide open.

    • Ty Miller

      August 6, 2014 at 5:18 pm

      I would hold onto Bailey. There’s a very good chance he is the WR3 on that roster by the end of this year and still has upside.

    • leehwgoc

      August 7, 2014 at 12:55 am

      It would be Shorts by a landslide for me if not for his persistent health issues. That red flag, taken together with the recent infusion of talent on his depth-chart, makes him a dicey dynasty asset now.

      I don’t know that I really like Bailey either, to be honest, but Shorts is definitely a sell right now, not a buy.

    • Jaron Foster

      August 7, 2014 at 5:22 am

      If I can afford the roster spot, I’d keep Bailey

  3. shanker

    August 6, 2014 at 7:57 am

    Good writeup. Was hoping to nab him mid-4th but it’s looking like I’ll need to take him earlier now.

    This Pittsburg does not have an “h” on the end of it.

    • Jaron Foster

      August 7, 2014 at 5:24 am

      Thanks Shanker. The “h” was added in the editing process, which is understandable given the Steeler references and the unique spelling.

  4. MOxford

    August 6, 2014 at 8:28 am

    There has been almost daily buzz about him on the local radio stations. The most interesting thing about him to me is the horrible cap situation the cards find themselves in. Fitz’s contract is awful and I wouldn’t be surprised if his days in AZ are limited. Here is a write-up from a few weeks ago explaining Brown and the Cardinals situation: http://bit.ly/1qBt6Wp

  5. JohnnyD

    August 6, 2014 at 10:37 am

    Excellent, excellent article and great timing. Of course there are obvious durability concerns with Brown and concerns about how long Carson Palmer will be there, but I’ve had my on JB ever since the glowing reports began flowing out of training camp. He just has that feel of the next TY or Antonio Brown to me, and he couldn’t have landed in a more perfect situation for that.

    I’m currently drafting in a highly competitive 16 team start up draft, and was hoping nobody saw this article before I picked. 🙂 Thankfully, I landed JB at 12.05, which I think is a total steal for my WR5. Please keep these type of articles coming!

    • Jaron Foster

      August 7, 2014 at 5:26 am

      Thanks Johnny! Feel free to send suggestions for future articles here or on Twitter (@jlfoster10). I have several in the queue but am prioritizing by reader requests

  6. Ty Miller

    August 6, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    Good artice, Jaron! Really enjoying these.

  7. johnnd

    August 6, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    BTW, it’s interesting that the current DLF rookie rankings have John Brown ranked as the #23 WR in this year’s crop. Just behind Quincy somebody-I’ve-never-heard-of.

    • Jacob Feldman

      August 6, 2014 at 9:31 pm

      I have him 14th on my rankings. But him being left off the board by three people hurts a bit. Likely an oversight.

  8. leehwgoc

    August 7, 2014 at 1:06 am

    It took me awhile, but I finally found about half an hour of college tape of Brown.

    This guy has SERIOUS potential. He’s about as good a prospect as a 5’10’ receiver can possibly be.

    Sharp route-running, fantastic speed, fearless over the middle, smoothly and reliably makes catches out of frame (particularly essential for a smaller receiver)… Antonio Brown comparisons are definitely not unwarranted. Hell, John could be better than Antonio.

    John Brown is basically a drastically cheaper rookie draft clone of Brandin Cooks, who can be had for a pick two or three rounds later. Buy, buy, buy.

    • Jaron Foster

      August 7, 2014 at 5:31 am

      We probably watched some of the same tape. I allude to John being a better prospect than Antonio, and he seems to have the same intangibles that helped escalate Antonio to WR1 material. As Cheddar suggests in the first comment, talented teammates may be all that hold JB back over the next couple years.

  9. DJ

    August 9, 2014 at 10:14 am

    Great article! I was able to grab JB in the 6th round of my dynasty IDP rookie draft (12 team, 35 man roster) held at the conclusion of the actual draft. His ADP has been climbing ever since.

  10. Acid Head

    September 3, 2014 at 7:53 am

    Loving JB, he’s been on the field for 90 percent of the 1st team offensive snaps this preseason which bodes well for his usage starting the season. I ended up getting Brown in a trade along with Justin Hunter. I’d love to see an article on Cody Latimer or Paul Richardson in Seattle. I think Richardson has some similar skills to J. Brown as well.

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