Separation Quickness - Ability to go from zero to sixty is eye-popping. Full-speed cuts to separate on a consistent basis. Natural traits to separate are elite, but footwork is also fairly nuanced to maximize his burst. Only concern is getting hung up on contact down the field if he doesn’t separate early.
Ball Skills - Has dropped his fair share of balls over the past two seasons, sporting only 9-inch hands. Can catch away from his frame, but fastballs get through the wickets at times. Limited catch radius and can struggle to finish in tough adjustment spots. Track the ball well, finishing over his shoulder with regularity.
Speed/Burst - Elite speed and burst off the snap and at the top of his route to detach from coverage. True vertical threat who can run by any corner in the country. Good at selling vertically before breaking off post patterns at top speed. Would have run in at least the 4.3s in Indy if he were healthy.
Route-Running - Strong route runner with the ability to vary pace and explode away from man coverage at the top of his route. Can get a little wild with his break points and has the athleticism to freelance a bit and still get open. Sometimes takes a bit too long to setup opponents in man coverage, and at Oklahoma there was plenty of time to get open. He’ll need to speed up his process a bit in the NFL, but has plenty of flashes of timely patterns as well. Nightmare to cover on vertical patterns due to his ability to attack leverage and change direction in an instant. Good luck on mesh as well. Worked cornerbacks blind spots a lot better this season. Really good job of working back to the ball to keep defenders off his frame.
Contested Catch - This isn’t his bread-and-butter, but it doesn’t need to be in order to win in the NFL because of his trump cards in other areas. For corners that can match his speed, Brown struggles to finish in tight quarters and doesn’t have the strength or length to deter cornerbacks from competing with him physically. Defenders play the pocket on him and he struggles to finish through contact. Needs to do a better job of adjusting vertically to rise and pluck over an opponent when the ball isn’t out in front of him.
YAC - Discretion is the better part of valor in Brown’s eyes, as he’ll take the ball out of bounds with contact looming, even if the path to the boundary is a bit circuitous. Not a physical finisher at all, but he actually stays more balanced through glancing blows than I originally believed he would. Highly elusive and can cut on a dime to make defenders miss in space. Ready to make his first move before the ball is even secured, incredible awareness of oncoming defenders Home run speed for a house call with any underneath touch.
Releases - Surprisingly adept at breaking press coverage due to sudden, explosive feet. Hands work in unison, but aren’t going to overpower most corners. Fair to project more struggles in the NFL than he faced in college given Brown’s size and the significant uptick in competition, but this wasn’t a major issue for him in college.
Blocking - Shocking success given his size. Not asked to be a big contributor as a blocker, but when he was Brown squared up opponents with good technique and positioning. Physically there are some battles he won’t win. Works diligently to get involved on extended plays by hustling downfield to throw an extra block.
Competitive Toughness - Brown can fit in your pocket, so no he doesn’t want to get hit when he’s out there, but that might be a wise move on his part. He competes at a high level to get open and busts his tail to throw blocks way down the field for teammates. No question in my mind about his competitive nature.
Athleticism/Size - Barely over 5-foot-9 and 166 pounds would make him one of the 3-4 lightest and smallest receivers in the NFL. Athleticism isn’t a question, blazing speed and rare stop-start ability.
BEST TRAIT - Speed
WORST TRAIT - Contested Catch
RED FLAGS - Lisfranc injury suffered at the end of the season has held him out of the pre-draft process
Obviously Marquise Brown isn’t as well-rounded as some of the other top receivers in the class, but what he does well could be a real trump card in the NFL. As a vertical and post-catch threat, Brown may be the best in the class, showcasing unbelievable speed to run right by deep safeties and the elusiveness to make defenders look silly in space.
Still, he would be one of the smallest receivers in the NFL, he struggles to win in contested catch spots and his hands can be an issue. There are clear concerns with Brown’s translation to the NFL, especially nursing a fairly significant foot injury, that would give me pause in the range he has been rumored to come off the board (top 25). Ideally Brown fills a super important role in an offense rather than being an all-around no. 1 option in the passing game, but his trump card could make him a dangerous splash player in the NFL.
Round Grade: Second