Former Oklahoma WR Marquise Brown is an interesting case study for evaluating prospects. Brown has more than the requisite college production at a big school and exciting tape that showcases him as a dynamic, game-changing player. There are legitimately worrying concerns due to his slight frame and Lisfranc injury, both of which are not good indicators of future success. But his mouth watering skills on the field make him a fascinating receiving prospect.
Brown stands just 5’9” and weighs 166 pounds; there aren’t many high-level receivers in the NFL that are that diminutive. T.Y. Hilton is the same height, but outweighs Brown by 17 pounds. Antonio Brown, who is Marquise’s cousin, is over a half-inch taller and weighs a whole 20 pounds more. Former Carolina Panthers star Steve Smith Sr. was shorter than the Oklahoma product, but he weighed 18 pounds more than him. I’d like to believe that Brown can put on the weight over the next few years, but all of those numbers mentioned for the above players were taken from their combine weigh-ins.
The concerns about his size are wholly discarded when you watch Brown in action. He is an outstanding route runner, and he uses his shiftiness and speed to separate against cornerbacks at any level of the field. He is explosive and agile when running routes and when the ball is in his hands. Brown was frequently used on screens at Oklahoma, but he’s at his best when running right at cornerbacks who are giving him a substantial cushion or running away from them on drag routes. He’s impossible to defend on deep comebacks and can still beat you deep with borderline elite long speed even given a 10-plus-yard cushion. In this past year’s Big 12 Championship game against Texas, Brown was so tough to cover that he drew two defensive pass interference penalties in the FIRST quarter, one of which prevented a potential 40-yard touchdown grab.
He isn’t without his flaws, though. This is where his aforementioned small stature comes back to haunt him and leaves people wondering whether he can truly be a team’s No. 1 receiver. In contested catch situations, Brown struggles to come down with the ball, a lot of the times due to not being strong enough with his hands to secure passes through contact. He also doesn’t have a great feel for over-the-shoulder or basket catches. When he has the ball in his hands and is trying to make a play, he’s certainly dynamic both laterally and upfield, but when he gets hit you brace yourself. Every time a defender lays a decent hit on him, Brown looks prone to lose the ball or get hurt. Somehow, he didn’t fumble the ball once in college, but NFL players are an entirely different animal; they are bigger, stronger and faster, and they hit with a tremendous amount of power.
The only other concern is the level of talent that was around him during his two years at Oklahoma. Brown was blessed with the ability to play in a high-octane offense that featured 2018 first overall pick Baker Mayfield during the 2017 season and likely 2019 first overall pick Kyler Murray during the 2018 season, both of whom won the Heisman Trophy. It’s hard to knock Brown for producing in a high-level offense, though, as that was literally his job and he accomplished it.
If I had to come up with a comp for Brown, it would be Emmanuel Sanders for a variety of reasons. He plays like him and wins like him against defenses. His size may render him a second option in a lot of offenses, he still has a very bright future.
Brown’s college stats
Best Fantasy Fits
- Pittsburgh Steelers: This one is too easy, right? Antonio Brown is gone, so why not just replace him with his cousin? AB and Marquise are not the same exact player, but they win in very similar ways, and the Steelers need an outside receiver who can take the top off the defense in order for JuJu Smith-Schuster to continue feasting in the middle of the field. Big Ben may not have too many years left, but he can still throw deep. Brown can also be a factor in the screen game, which the Steelers used plenty of with AB.
- Kansas City Chiefs: Tyreek Hill’s situation is currently up in the air, but given his past, the Chiefs can’t just blindly depend on Hill being in Kansas City. Getting Brown would be insurance for Hill and/or add yet another electric piece to the best offense in the league. Mahomes’ play style and ridiculous arm line up perfectly with Brown’s game. If Hill is there, with Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce accompanying him, Brown would feast on lesser corners and make the Chiefs an unstoppable juggernaut.
- Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens’ wide receiver depth chart is putrid right now. It’s not a secret that they’re going to draft a receiver, and Brown will likely be one of their targets. He doesn’t quite fit the ground-and-pound style of offense they want to draw up, but Lamar Jackson showed off a decent deep ball last season and arm strength has never been a concern for him. Brown could take over John Brown’s role from last year and expand on it, and he would slot in as the Ravens’ No. 1 receiver right away, which would be great for his first-year fantasy outlook.
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