The 2021 NFL Draft wide receiver class is strong. Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, Rashod Bateman, and Rondale Moore are among those in the first-round conversation. However, one receiver who also deserves that kind of NFL Draft recognition is USC wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. St. Brown has a similarly enticing skill set, one that should enable him to produce in the NFL for a long time.
Amon-Ra St. Brown NFL Draft Profile
Weight: 195 pounds
Position: Wide Receiver
Current Year: Junior
St. Brown was a five-star receiver prospect in the 2018 recruiting class. On 247 Sports’ board, he was rated as the second overall receiver behind Justin Shorter. He was also the class’ 11th overall player. Teams lined up to stake claims to his potential, and a vertical jump over 38 inches only compounded that interest. St. Brown had offers from Alabama, Oklahoma, LSU, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Georgia, among others.
Nevertheless, for the Anaheim, California native, proximity to home was an important factor in his decision. The USC Trojans provided the proper compromise. Situated just over a half-hour from St. Brown’s place of residence, they provided him with a professional development opportunity on his doorstep.
Amon-Ra St. Brown’s career as a USC wide receiver
Right out of the gates, St. Brown was a revelation for the Trojans’ offense. Although he was only a true freshman, St. Brown served a substantial role in 2018. He caught 60 passes for 750 yards and 3 touchdowns in 11 games, and also logged a few attempts on the ground.
In just his first year, at the age of 19, St. Brown accounted for over 25% of his team’s receiving production. He was an honorable mention in the race for Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year and attracted nationwide interest for his early production.
In 2019, St. Brown came back as a key piece in the Trojans’ passing attack. With Graham Harrell calling plays and Kedon Slovis giving life to the passing offense, St. Brown exceeded his previous career marks. The USC wide receiver broke the 1,000-yard mark, going for 1,042 yards and 6 touchdowns on 77 catches. He also put up 60 yards and a score on 7 carries.
St. Brown was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention for his play, and he also emerged as a leader for the USC offensive attack.
St. Brown’s final season in Pasadena
The 2020 Pac-12 season was shortened, but regardless, St. Brown played a key role in helping his Trojans contend for a conference title.
St. Brown logged 41 catches for 478 yards and 7 touchdowns in just 6 games, including a monster game against the Washington State Cougars with 4 TDs. St. Brown’s impact was recognized by the Pac-12 coaches, who gave him first-team all-conference honors at the end of the year. He joined his teammates Drake London and Tyler Vaughns on the all-conference team and ended his career on a high note.
Near year’s end, Amon-Ra St. Brown officially declared for the 2021 NFL Draft, utilizing his eligibility to his advantage. Now, he’ll look to take the next step and become a fixture for one lucky NFL offense.
Brown’s NFL profile
For as long as a year, Amon-Ra St. Brown has been recognized as a high-caliber, but not top-tier, wide receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft. He’s been hovering around the boundary between the first and the second round. For my money, he deserves to be unequivocally in the first-round conversation, even more so now with Chris Olave returning to school.
St. Brown is an entertaining player to watch. Of the NFL-caliber trio of USC wide receivers, St. Brown is the most dynamic and versatile. Standing at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, St. Brown is a sudden, twitchy player who brings immense potential at all phases. As a route runner, he’s detailed, dynamic, and deceptive. At the catch point, he’s acrobatic and adept at contorting for passes. And after the catch, he’s incredibly tough and slippery when seeking additional yards.
I was a fan of St. Brown earlier in the summer, but I think I underrated his ability at the catch point in my initial evaluation. St. Brown’s size isn’t dominant, as we’ll expand on in a bit. Nevertheless, St. Brown has immaculate body control down the field, and he also brings excellent focus, toughness, and ball tracking ability.
In the red zone, St. Brown is just as effective. His size is a bit more of an issue in close quarters, but again, his vertical ability, alpha mentality, and body control allow him to win those battles.
What are the concerns with St. Brown?
Amon-Ra St. Brown’s draft profile is surprisingly complete. Both analytically and diagnostically, he’s a solid prospect. The only potential issues stem from his athletic ceiling, and even these are fairly minor. St. Brown has an exceptional athletic makeup, with effective explosiveness, speed, and agility.
Having said that, I don’t think his speed is top-tier. He looks like a mid-to-late 4.4 guy to me. That’s not a bad thing, but it does emphasize that he won’t always win on speed alone. Luckily, he brings much more than speed to the table.
Additionally, St. Brown’s size is notable. Although his height/weight parameters are solid, his length is just average, and his frame is somewhat lean. He has the toughness and contortion ability at the catch point to compensate, but his length may naturally limit him in battles against larger, more physical defensive backs.
Among other things, St. Brown can also be a bit more consistent with his timing as a route runner. But overall, he’s a complete wide receiver with a tenacious attitude that also shows up on run blocking reps.
Amon-Ra St. Brown’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
To this point, Amon-Ra St. Brown’s mitigating factors have kept him from entering the proximity of the WR1 conversation. He’s not quite an elite athlete, and he’s not big enough to be a cheat code in contested situations. Nevertheless, St. Brown brings solid athleticism and explosiveness, exceptional route running ability, natural catching skills, and some dynamic potential after the catch.
St. Brown is a complete receiver, and he’s also just 21 years old. Young pass catchers with a high floor and a high ceiling are rare. Thus, on the NFL Draft stage, St. Brown’s amalgamation of traits, combined with his clear alpha mentality, will earn him some fans in the NFL. The USC wide receiver has all the tools necessary to be a starter early and maintain that role for years.
Which teams might be interested in St. Brown at his price?
Having said all this, I still think St. Brown’s range is late-first to early-second round. I would be open to using a first-round pick on St. Brown. However, for NFL teams, it depends on how his size and athletic ceiling are perceived. In that range, teams like the Ravens, Packers, Colts, Jets, and Lions would all greatly benefit from his addition.
Stuck behind the highest echelon of receivers in the 2021 NFL Draft, St. Brown doesn’t always get the recognition he deserves. He may not have quite as much athletic upside as some receivers. Nevertheless, he still has an enticing combination of refinement and withstanding potential, and he can be a scheme-versatile starter with multi-phase playmaking ability. Those are the best kinds of investments.