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Amon-Ra St. Brown
Detroit Lions

All Aboard the Amon-Ra St. Brown Hype Train

  • Jack McKessy
  • June 3, 2022
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Of all the rookie receivers during the 2021 season, it was the Detroit Lions’ Amon-Ra St. Brown who had the most surprising burst onto the scene. After last year’s late-season breakout, St. Brown heads into 2022 with high expectations and the potential to be the most productive second-year receiver out of the 2021 draft class.

For the first half of 2021, there wasn’t anything in particular that stood out about St. Brown. He was a fourth-round receiver, got some decent playing time on a bad team but only started a couple of games. By the end of Week 11, St. Brown had 329 receiving yards and no touchdowns on 35 catches. The Lions were 0-9-1.

That’s right around the time when things began to change for both the receiver and his team. St. Brown began to get more playing time. Suddenly, he was a starting receiver every week and saw the field for at least 70 percent of Detroit’s offensive snaps in nearly every game.

St. Brown’s targets jumped from under five per game to more than 10. His yardage increased. He was scoring touchdowns. In his last four games, he tallied at least 90 yards and scored a touchdown in each one. By the end of the season, St. Brown had broken franchise rookie records in receptions (90) and receiving yards (912).

Importantly, along with St. Brown’s breakout was the start of winning football in Detroit. After 12 weeks without a Lions win, the team finished their final, six-game stretch 3-3. St. Brown scored in all three wins.

Even after a slow first half of the season, St. Brown’s breakout back half pushed him to the top of the team’s producers in the pass game. In 2021, he led the Lions in receptions, yards, receiving touchdowns (5) and receptions of 20 or more yards (11).

Along with tight end T.J. Hockenson and running back D’Andre Swift, St. Brown is clearly going to be a big part of the Lions’ offense going forward. What will make him one of the best in his draft class in year two is how well his skill set puts him in positions to succeed and the lack of competition for targets, at least early on.

When you think of the top rookie receivers in the 2021 class, it’s easy to immediately point to someone like Ja’Marr Chase, the Offensive Rookie of the Year winner. He was the rookie receiving leader—and one of the NFL’s overall top receivers—last year, after all.

But a large part of why he thrived was his ability to generate yards after the catch. Chase finished third behind only Cooper Kupp and Deebo Samuel in such yardage in 2021. Now that teams have seen more of what Chase can do with the ball in his hands, he likely won’t get as much room to work in year two. His production won’t decline sharply—he’s too good for that—but that YAC number will likely dip in 2022.

St. Brown, on the other hand, didn’t rely nearly as heavily on creating yards once he caught a pass. His top traits are his route-running and the ability to create separation. Though he can generate extra yardage after the catch, the bulk of St. Brown’s yards came from getting open downfield.

Also from that draft class are guys like Miami’s Jaylen Waddle, who, like Chase, tallied more than 1,000 yards as a rookie. There’s also Philadelphia’s DeVonta Smith, who finished with four more yards than St. Brown did in 2021. Those two former first-round receivers each had very strong seasons to build off of as well, but they’re both going to have to fight for targets with other star receivers joining the Eagles and Dolphins.

Tyreek Hill has joined up with the Dolphins and A.J. Brown headed to Philadelphia on draft night, so Waddle and Smith are going to have to fight for targets, something they didn’t have to worry about as rookies. Though the Lions also added a receiver, rookie Jameson Williams, in the draft, he likely won’t be available for at least a couple of games as he returns from an ACL injury suffered in January.

St. Brown has the track record of success, skill set and lack of competition for targets to be one of—if not the—most productive second-year receivers in 2022. At the very least, he’ll be a big part of the Lions’ rebuild and staple of their passing game for the foreseeable future.

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Jack McKessy