Photo By: Ole Miss Athletics
It’s a historic crop of Mississippi guys in the NFL Draft. Our NFL insider ‘Iso’ Joe Simeone takes on the challenge of predicting where the best players will land. Part Two: Mississippi State DE Montez Sweat
By Joe Simeone
Where Will They Land: A.J. Brown
All eyes are still on the N.W.O. (Nasty WideOuts). While A.J. Brown may not be as high on draft boards as his teammate D.K. Metcalf, he should still come off the board late in round one or early in round two. He had a solid combine performance, running a 4.49 40- yard dash and just all around a solid day. The Starkville high product and former San Diego Padres draft pick put up gaudy numbers at Ole Miss with 2,984 yards and 19 touchdowns in three seasons. He stepped up every time Metcalf went down and proved to be the most reliable and crisp route runner for the Rebels. One concern for Brown is that he did primarily play in the slot, and most teams will draft the physical 6’1 230-pound receiver to play on the outside. While Brown excels in his route running ability, the simplistic Ole Miss offense may not have prepared their wide receivers for the full demands they will see in the NFL. Brown is still considered a top five wide receiver on most draft boards. It is possible the first two receivers off the board both come from the Rebels N.W.O. corps. Let’s check out where he might land.
Cool moment between Ole Miss WR A.J. Brown and Steve Smith during on-field Combine drills. pic.twitter.com/wWVyGdLbma
— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) March 15, 2019
Indianapolis Colts Round 1 No. 26, Round 2 No.34
The end of a rebuild. The Colts spent the last two years rebuilding their roster under new general manager Chris Ballard. After they surprised the league with a deep playoff run last season, they go into this off-season with one goal: become a Super Bowl contender. The Colts are a potential landing spot for Brown with a late first round pick and an early second round pick, doubling the window for Brown to end up in Indy. The Colts tried an Ole Miss receiver back in 2014 when they took Donte Moncrief in the third round. “Feed Moncrief” never quite fully ate or became the second guy to T.Y. Hilton they had hoped for. Since then, the Colts have tried a stable of receivers but no one has been able to be a reliable No.2 target for Andrew Luck. With the size and catching ability that Brown brings, he would complement the 5’9 Hilton and 6’4 Devin Funchess perfectly. Colts GM Chris Ballard is a firm believer in taking the best player available in the draft. If Brown falls to No.34 he would be that, and there is a real chance the Colts will snatch him up.
New England Patriots Round 1 Pick 32
The end of a dynasty. The whispers were flying last year that the Patriots were on their way out. With WR Julian Edelman at 32 years old and TE Rob Gronkowski looking less and less like himself, it seemed like there was no way this Patriots offense could sustain success. Then they won another Super Bowl, and you would think that talk would have stopped. Instead, this off-season was rocked by the news of Tom Brady’s favorite target Gronkowski retiring. Call me foolish for listening to the whispers, but if the Patriots want to make another Super Bowl push before Brady retires, I think they will need to add some offensive firepower to help him out. There may not be a team a ready-to-go wideout would rather land on than the Patriots. Catching passes from Brady and learning under Bill Belichick sounds like the perfect way to kick off your career. With a need at TE and WR, the Patriots could go either way with pick No. 32. The choice will likely be between Noah Fant, TJ Hockenson and Brown.
Arizona Cardinals Round 2 Pick 33
Finding the fountain of youth. If the Patriots don’t jump on Brown, the Cardinals might get a gift. Larry Fitzgerald, despite still putting up solid numbers, is nearing the end of his road. The Cardinals will be looking to replace the Canton-bound legend and get some help on the offensive side of the ball to help their young QB (Josh Rosen or perhaps Kyler Murray). Brown fits the Cardinals nicely as they are beginning to and get younger and retool their offense. The first step was to get a young head coach in Kliff Kingsbury, who will likely be running something closer to a college offense with a young quarterback. This would make the transition to the NFL a little bit easier for Brown, as he would be running an offense he is more familiar with. He would also get a chance to learn from a legend and future Hall of Famer in Fitzgerald. This is a win/win situation for both Arizona and Brown: the Cardinals bolster their offense with a real weapon and Brown goes to a system built for him to succeed.
San Fransisco 49ers Round 2 Pick 36
Don’t forget about Jimmy G! Lots of teams that pick early in the first round will pass on a wide receiver, with the chance to still get a game-changer like Brown early in the second round. Some people may have forgotten, but the 49ers still have Jimmy Garapolo coming back, who is 6 – 2 as a starter in San Francisco and has shown a lot of promise. Tight end George Kittle exploded onto the scene last year but outside of him, the 49ers really lack offensive firepower. Head Coach Kyle Shanahan is regarded as an offensive guru, and may be pulling hard for the front office to provide him with another playmaker. Brown can come in and immediately become the best receiving threat on this team. Jimmy G will need a reliable, formidable target like Brown if the 49ers want to take a big step forward this year.
Detroit Lions Round 2 Pick 43
Setup for a steal? To some, it may be crazy to think that someone as talented and productive as Brown will still be on the board at this point. But every year players fall down the draft who we don’t expect, and Brown is not immune to that possibility. Here he falls to the middle of the second round where he finds himself being picked by Detroit. With the departure of star TE Eric Ebron before last season and now losing veteran Golden Tate, the Lions are going to need to replenish this offense before it is too late for quarterback Matthew Stafford. With Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay on the outside, the Lions need to replace Tate in the slot. As I noted before Brown primarily played in the slot at Ole Miss, and it’s not out of the question for him to be effective there in the NFL. The Lions may end up being the best fit for the Ole Miss product, not to mention he gets to play with a top ten QB in Stafford. Slot or not, the Lions would be insane to pass up on Brown if he makes it to the 43rd pick of the draft.
It almost feels as if Brown has been overshadowed by Metcalf since their time in Oxford ended. Metcalf’s insane forty time at the NFL combine that went viral certainly contributed. But I think this draft and the difficult transition to the NFL will be the perfect opportunity for Brown to really show the type of player he is. As a late-round pick, Brown would likely go to a team that already has an established quarterback. This should boost his immediate transition to the NFL and help turn him into the beast on the field he was in college.
Catch the next installment of ‘Where Will They Land’ where I break down potential landing spots for Mississippi State star safety Johnathan Abram.
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