Houston Texans: The biggest concern about drafting A.J. Brown

Ole Miss wide receiver A.J. Brown, a player of interest for the Houston Texans (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)
Ole Miss wide receiver A.J. Brown, a player of interest for the Houston Texans (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images) /

The Houston Texans brought A.J. Brown in for a private workout yesterday as the team prepares for the draft. What does this signal? Let’s look closely.

The Houston Texans continue to edge closer to the NFL Draft and these visit rumors are getting just as exciting as the upcoming draft itself.  Many of us are wondering what direction the Houston Texans will go in the earlier rounds of the draft and have a general idea of how are they going to do it.

Adding talent to the offensive line should be the ultimate of priorities in this season’s draft along with filling a major hole at the cornerback position and adding depth to the safeties unit.  I honestly feel that they will address all three in this draft but it remains to be seen which way general manager Brian Gaine will go.  Regardless, it’s going to make for some interesting headlines along the way.

What if I told you that the Houston Texans want to improve their wide receiving stable even more?  That’s apparently what they’re considering doing with Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network recently reporting that the team brought in Ole Miss wide receiver A.J. Brown for a private workout.

The talented 6-foot-1, 230-pound receiver with 31.9-inch arms and 9.75-inch hands are in demand as the NFL Network’s James Palmer reported that he also has visits scheduled with the Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, Washington Redkins and the Buffalo Bills.

It’s definite that Brown will be a busy traveling man over the weeks leading into the draft but certainly attests to the impressive body of work that he’s put together at Ole Miss.

How did he do?  Let’s get on with it, shall we?

According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Brown had an 80.0 overall grade in 2018 through 728 snaps.  He ranked 14th among receivers in yards per route run (3.01), 12th in slot receptions (59) and 13th in slot yards (800).

He had five drops for 2018, which is an improvement from seven in 2017 for a rate of 5.6 percent.  This number does have a high degree of concern but the same concerns about Will Fuller were prevalent in 2016 and he’s turned out just fine with heavy doses of development in that area.  In fact, Brown was ranked 62nd among receivers in this statistic.

Besides that, PFF has him graded as an above-average receiver, especially with his blocking and yards per route, the among of missed tackles that he creates with his speed.  Speaking of that, he can run a 4.49 40-yarder with confidence — that was his NFL combine time —  and that’s something that would make this important unit of the Houston Texans nearly unstoppable.

Brown, a four-star recruit who is actually from Starkville, Miss. where Ole Miss is located was selected to the All-SEC first team and was third-team All-America.  At 2,984 yards racked up over his three seasons, he is all-time receiving yards leader for Ole Miss.  He was also drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 19th round in 2016 as an outfielder as he played both football and baseball at Starkville High.

Here’s what the experts are saying:

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com:

"“Slot bully with rare combination of brawn and quickness that allows him to separate with both power and foot quickness. Brown has the size and demeanor to take on a relatively heavy workload as a safety blanket for a young quarterback in a ball-control passing attack. He’ll see an upgrade in athlete across from him, but he has the feet and body control to uncover and create windows as a premium route-runner.”"

Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball.com:

"“Team sources said Brown really helped himself at the combine, running faster than expected in the 40-yard dash. That was a huge time for him because teams had concerns about him having enough speed for the NFL.  In 2018, Brown totaled 85 receptions for 1,320 yards and six scores on the year. He played well, showing his speed, strength, and run-after-the-catch skills. Brown would fit best in a West Coast offense using his route-running and yards-after-the-catch – YAC – skills to hurt defenses in the short to intermediate part of the field.”"

What’s the bottom line?

All in all, the receiving corps of DeAndre Hopkins, Fuller and Keke Coutee would rival most of the teams in this league.  But with injuries being of concern with the latter two, the Houston Texans may be looking to supplement with additional depth so that they don’t miss a beat if one of those guys were to get hurt. His drops can be shored up with proper coaching.

DeAndre Carter also re-signed this offseason and he filled in wonderfully on the outside when

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called upon but his bread-and-butter is in the slot and on special teams back this past season.

Brown provides a ton of versatility, speed, agility and has the right type of I.Q. to be successful in this league and Zierlein compares him to Juju Smith-Schuster which is extremely complimentary of this guy’s potential.

Green should be available in the second-round when the Houston Texans pick and I’d be surprised if they didn’t take him if the opportunity were to arise, even if the cornerback position wasn’t addressed quite yet.  Since they have two second-rounders as a result of the Duane Brown trade, I don’t see any harm in the team snagging this guy off the board.

My optimism is high for this guy but he’s likely to be gone when it’s time for the Texans to pick again.  Let’s keep our eyes peeled.

Brown caught 85 balls for 1,320 yards — 15.5 yards per catch — along with six touchdowns through 12 games for the Rebels in 2018.

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