2018 First Look  

 

Scouting A.J. Brown: Ole Miss WR possesses underrated quality

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NFL.com analyst and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah takes a "first look" at some of college football's top players for 2018. This is the 10th and final scouting report in a series that has run throughout the offseason. Click through the tabs below to see all of them.

Ole Miss is going to be a very intriguing team to watch this fall. Its star quarterback (Shea Patterson) transferred to Michigan, but there is still plenty of NFL talent on this roster. In fact, they might have the best wide receiving corps in college football. The leader of the group is A.J. Brown. Here's my First Look scouting report:

A.J. Brown, junior wide receiver, Ole Miss

Height, weight: 6-foot-1, 225 pounds (school measurements).

2017 statistics: 75 receptions for 1,252 yards and 11 TDs.

Game tape watched: Every passing target in 2017 season.

What I liked: Brown has outstanding size. He played at 225 pounds last fall and is extremely physical to combat cornerbacks before and after the catch. He lines up in the slot in this offense, excelling on quick slants, pivot routes and working down the seam. He is surprisingly sudden in and out of the break point and has strong hands to finish catches in traffic.

He is at his best after the catch. He lacks elite burst, but has some wiggle to make defenders miss and breaks a lot of tackles because of his power. He is extremely competitive with the ball in his hands.

Where he needs to improve: I wish he was given the opportunity to take more reps on the outside. He has the skill set to excel in any area, but it's easier to sell in the draft room when there are examples on tape. Also, he piled up huge numbers against some of the weaker opponents on the schedule and struggled versus talented secondaries like Alabama and LSU. (In his defense, he was outstanding against Auburn.)

Biggest takeaway: When I go back and study the successful wide receivers at the NFL level, I'm always reminded of the most underrated quality they all have in common: toughness. That is the best aspect of Brown's game. He plays physical from snap to whistle and isn't afraid to work in the middle of the field. He can continue to learn and develop the craft of being a successful route runner and pass catcher, but you can't coach toughness. He's got it.

He reminds me of: JuJu Smith-Schuster. They both have outstanding size, play strength and competitiveness. I think Brown might be a little faster, but neither player relies on raw explosion to win one-on-one battles. They use their strength and craftiness to create space, and once they get the ball in their hands, they refuse to be tackled.

I can't wait to watch him play: Alabama on Sept. 15. This is the opportunity to make a huge statement to NFL evaluators. That will be the first tape they watch at the end of season. He will have several other opportunities against elite competition, but it doesn't get any better than 'Bama.

Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.

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