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Amon Ra St. Brown could be a second-round steal

The Ravens don’t have to use their first-round pick to find a stud with star potential at wide receiver.

USC vs OREGON Football Photo by Scott Varley/MediaNews Group/Torrance Daily Breeze via Getty Images

Talented wide receivers can be found throughout the draft. In recent years, the second round has produced several of the league’s young stars who hit the ground running as rookies.

Players like Michael Thomas (2016), Davante Adams (2014), Juju Smith Schuster (2017), A.J. Brown (2019), and D.K. Metcalf (2019) were all selected in the second round of their respective drafts and are considered among the best in the business. All five of the aforementioned players have at least one career Pro Bowl selection and one or more seasons of 1,000 or more yards receiving.

Since their 2020 season ended, many of the mock drafts have projected the Ravens to spend their first-round pick on a wide receiver. The two most popular prospects at the position linked to them in round one are Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman and LSU’s Terrace Marshall Jr.

However, if General Manager Eric DeCosta opts to address one of the team’s other top needs with the 27th overall pick, he could still land a dynamic playmaker at wide receiver if he selects USC’s Amon Ra St. Brown in the second round with the 58th overall pick.

The former Trojan has the potential to be the next second-round sleeper who outplays his draft status. He would provide former league MVP Lamar Jackson with another dynamic weapon in the passing game to go along with an ascending Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown, veteran free-agent newcomer Sammy Watkins, and Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews.

St. Brown comes from an uber-athletic family. His father, John Brown, is a former professional bodybuilder who was named Mr. Universe twice and Mr. World three times. His older brother Equanimeous St. Brown was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the sixth round of the 2018 draft and has been on the receiving end of several chunk plays from three-time league MVP Aaron Rodgers. He also has another brother, Osiris St. Brown, that plays at Stanford.

While geneticists say that strength and athleticism can’t be passed on from parents to offspring, St. Brown’s physicality and strength with the ball in his hands as well as a blocker in the run game would lead one to believe otherwise.

He has a chiseled physique and at 5-foot-11.5 and around 200 pounds, he is not quite undersized but plays a lot bigger than his dimensions. He is not a speedster but can still threaten vertically and has the acceleration to break away. Amon-Ra is both electric and elusive after the catch. St. Brown can also go up for and come down with 50/50 balls as well as make tough grabs over the middle in traffic.

USC has produced several receivers that have been drafted high over the last decade including Smith-Schuster, Nelson Agholor (2015), and Michael Pittman Jr. (2020). However, none of those pros are as versatile as St. Brown, who was used in a multitude of different ways during his time as a Trojan.

He was utilized as a perimeter and slot receiver, received the ball on jet sweeps and end arounds, and even lined up in the backfield at running back and received handoffs. His vision and lateral agility make it hard to key in on him in the open field and his hard-nosed mentality as a ball carrier makes bringing him down an even tougher task.

Athleticism aside, one of his best traits as a prospect is arguably the second most important intangible for a receiver to have, after catching of course, and that is his ability to create separation. Sometimes Jackson can be a bit of a sight thrower who doesn’t always trust his targets outside of Brown and Andrews to get open right away or separate late.

St. Brown’s ability to separate almost instantly off the line at times with his release and quickness as well as at the top of his route with good change of direction would be a much-welcomed addition to the Ravens’ offensive arsenal and be a tremendous asset to a young passer still working on improving his anticipation.

He is just as tenacious and violent when blocking as he is running routes and catching passes, which is an appealing quality and requirement to play in Greg Roman’s offense. He not only isn’t afraid to block, he embraces it and is technically sound with the way he squares up defenders, gets them on their heels, and drives them into the turf or out of bounds.

St. Brown recorded 178 receptions, 2,270 yards receiving, averaged 12.8 yards per catch, and scored 17 touchdowns from scrimmage in three years at USC. As a junior, he earned First Team All-Pac-12 honors and led the Trojans in both receptions and receiving touchdowns with 41 catches and seven scores in six games.

His most productive season came as a sophomore when he finished second behind Pittman in receptions and receiving yards with 77 for 1,042 and tied for the second-most receiving touchdowns (6) and total scores from scrimmage (7).

He impressed scouts at his Pro Day not with his respectable 40-yard dash time of 4.51, but with his performance in the on-field drills and other athletic tests that are better indicators of explosion and burst than running in a straight line unimpeded.

His 38.5-inch vertical leap was impressive and displayed his ability to go up for contested catches and his nearly 11-foot broad jump raised some eyebrows as well, further showing off his ability to explode from his stance.

After initially not wanting to participate in the three-cone drill, he exhibited his change of direction skills and recorded a mark of 6.81. He also put up 20 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, which would’ve been tied with current Raven James Proche for the fourth-best at last year’s scouting combine.

Blazing 40 times can sometimes vault players with second round grades into the back half or even middle of the first. Bateman might be one such player after clocking an unofficial 4.34 at his Pro Day back in early March. However, pedestrian times in the glorified sprint often don’t move the needle or sometimes even hurt the stock of others, especially when they play premium positions like wide receiver.

Fun Fact: The average 40-yard dash time coming out of college for the NFL’s reception leaders last season was 4.52. The list included notable receivers such as Adams, DeAndre Hopkins, and Stephon Diggs who led the league in both receptions and receiving yards.

While St. Brown’s time wasn’t slow, it also wasn’t fast enough to likely get him picked higher than range where the Ravens are slated to pick in the second. This unfortunate development for him could actually end up working in DeCosta’s favor since they’d likely be able to land another playmaker at wideout without having to use their first-round pick or trade-up top the top of the second.

Some years, like 2020, there can be an early surprise run on wide receivers whereas, in other years like 2019, teams may opt to wait until day two and three to pick some up. With incredible depth in this year’s crop, I believe there is a good chance that St. Brown will be available when the Ravens are on the clock in round two.

If he winds up being the pick at 58, he’d be an absolute steal and round out a diverse and promising wide receiver room for the Ravens in 2021. In Baltimore, St. Brown could be a consistent contributor with stud-to-star potential.

He was excellent in the slot at USC but he shouldn’t be labeled as ‘slot guy’. Everything he does well inside, he can do equally as well outwide. Many “true No. 1” receivers in today’s NFL are increasingly lining up more in the slot or end up running in-breaking routes at every level of the field so the only label that should matter is ‘playmaker’ which St. Brown is unequivocally.