The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Oklahoma wide receiver Justin Brown in the sixth-round of the 2013 NFL draft and below is my breakdown and grade of the pick.
Measurables: Combine Invite: No, Height: 6031, Weight: 207, 40 Yrd Dash: 4.60, 20 Yrd Dash: 2.65, 10 Yrd Dash: 1.55, 225 Lb. Bench Reps: 08, Vertical Jump: 30 1/2, Broad Jump: 09\’09”, 20 Yrd Shuttle: 4.31, 3-Cone Drill: 6.96
Breakdown: Brown is a very long wide receiver and very raw. In the two games that I watched he lined up out wide exclusively on right side and usually on the numbers or just outside of them.
While Brown has a long stride, his 4.6 speed shows up on tape as he is not a player that will take the top off of coverages or consistently deliver explosive plays. You can see this in his stats as he only registered 12.0 yards per catch on 73 catches.
As far as Brown\’s route running goes, the best way to describe it is clunky. He doesn\’t look smooth off of the line of scrimmage or out of his breaks, and often times rounds them off at that top. Against off coverage, he seems to make most of his catches via shallow crossing routes over the middle or via outs or comebacks near the sideline. I did observe an occasional back shoulder catch, but just a few. I like his body control near the sidelines as he adjust well to balls behind him or off target. He does appear to be able to use his body to shield well on the quick slants.
Brown is not afraid to go over the middle to make the big catch, but never seems to be able to turn those up the field for additional yardage. Against press coverage, Brown is physical when trying to get separation, but his lack of explosiveness and poor footwork never allow for him to get much, if any, separation. On some quick throws, Brown isn\’t out of his routes quick enough at the top of them to give himself a good enough chance to make the catch. More than a few times I saw him being late getting his head around when the ball was on him.
Brown appears to have strong hands and he is no doubt a big target. He will surprise with a great one-handed catch, but he has to because defenders are usually always right on top of him when the ball arrives. Despite his size, Brown does not appear to have a huge catch radius and from the games that I saw, and he never really wowed with his receptions.
Brown is a willing blocker, a good stalker, and physical in the run game. I hate to say it, but it is the best part of his game. Even as good as he is at blocking, he doesn\’t go all-in on every blocking opportunity.
As far as stats go, four of Brown\’s five receiving touchdowns came inside the red zone and only 10 of his 73 catches came on third down. Brown was targeted a total of 117 times and caught 61.5% of the passes thrown his way. That was the lowest catch percentage on his team of the players targeted more than 40 times. He only had three 100 yard receiving games last season and in nine out of 13 games he was held under 74 yards receiving.
Brown returned 22 punts for 299 yards and a touchdown last season, but his lack of speed hampers him in that part of his game.
Grade & Summation: New wide receivers coach Richard Mann really has his work cut out for him with Brown. You can\’t teach speed and Brown lacks it. I came away from the two games that I watched of Brown very unimpressed, outside of his ability to block. After Brown was selected only four more receivers were drafted as the talent pool was drained outside of the troublesome Da\’Rick Rogers. With the position that drained, I feel like the Steelers should have addressed another position instead and hoped that Brown went undrafted if they were that in love with him. Personally, I would be shocked if Brown makes the Steelers 53 man roster based on what I have seen of him and I really think that he will have a tough time making the practice squad as well. He is a big receiver and that is it. Upside? Yes, he has it as he is already at the floor. Unless he tapes a cheetah to his back, his ceiling is very low. I grade this pick a D plus and that is only because he blocks well.