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Amon-Ra St. Brown Has Suddenly Become Critical Piece In Lions Rebuild

  • The Draft Network
  • December 8, 2021
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Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown was considered one of the best value picks at the conclusion of the 2021 NFL Draft. The former USC standout was expected to be drafted at some point on Day 2 but instead slipped to the Lions in the fourth round at pick No. 112. It was quite the slide for St. Brown, who, prior to the shortened COVID-19 season of 2020, enjoyed a breakout 2019 campaign with more than 1,000 yards and six scores for the Trojans.

St. Brown was a relatively easy pre-draft study. He profiled as the classic ‘running back playing wide receiver’ because of his natural feel in space with the ball in his hands. He compared favorably to Golden Tate, a former Lions pass-catcher who had several seasons of success in the NFL—Tate was a second-round pick. Other players with that profile include Deebo Samuel (San Francisco 49ers), who was also a second-rounder. Go back a handful of years and a player like Anquan Boldin comes to mind. He, too, was a second-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals. Granted, both Samuel and Boldin are physically bigger than St. Brown, but their style of play and impact on a passing game felt like something St. Brown would be capable of accomplishing.

The Draft Network’s team of scouts had St. Brown ranked 53rd overall in last year’s class and gave him a second-round grade. 

Players with St. Brown’s skill set usually don’t hang around until Day 3, and the Lions are beginning to reap the rewards of that draft-weekend bargain. In fact, St. Brown was one of the biggest reasons why Detroit finally secured their first win of the season in Week 13. He totaled 10 catches for 86 yards and had the game-winning touchdown, which was also the first score of his career.

"My first NFL touchdown, first NFL win, I’m going to remember this day for a long time." St. Brown said after the game. "The way it happened, the way it unfolded was—I mean it was just—it couldn’t be any better.”

Of the wide receivers who’ve played the majority of the 2021 season for the Lions, St. Brown has the highest grade from Pro Football Focus. He has the third-most receptions (49) and second-most receiving yards (438) for Detroit despite totaling only nine targets through the first three games of the season. His ascent to the top of the wide receiver pecking order has been remarkable but not totally unpredictable.

"He’s a stud," quarterback Jared Goff said on Sunday. "He’s a stud and will be a stud for as long as he wants to be in this league. He’s been on our mind and I’m sure Dan (Campbell) would say it, too, of trying to get him the ball for the last probably six weeks now. I think today it showed up, just trying to get him involved and get him the ball in space and what he can do in space. ... He’s a freak and he did some things."

St. Brown’s performance on Sunday is indicative of what the Lions can expect from one of the most exciting young players on their roster. As Goff pointed out, he’s going to continue getting opportunities to make plays as the 2021 season comes to a close, and if he produces at or near the level he did against the Minnesota Vikings, he’ll come close to totaling 1,000 receiving yards as a rookie. That’d be quite the accomplishment even with a 17th game factored in.

St. Brown is a great example of how bad teams can rebuild faster than predicted. Hitting on fourth-round picks—any Day 3 picks, really—expedites success and builds a roster’s foundation. In some ways, landing players like St. Brown in the middle rounds is as important as finding QB-next, which Detroit is certain to be looking for over the next few months.

Regardless of who that quarterback ends up being, one thing is for sure: he’ll have a quality wide receiver at his disposal in St. Brown, who now ranks alongside D’Andre Swift and T.J. Hockenson as one of the most important skill players in the Motor City.

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