On December 29, Marquise Brown will lead the Oklahoma Sooners’ wide receiver group against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Orange Bowl. The 5-foot-10, 168-pound junior has been one of the most explosive WRs in the country this season. Thought to be a potential first-round draft pick if he declares for the draft, does Brown have the profile to match his lofty billing?
THE EARLY YEARS
Weighing around 130 pounds as a high school senior, Brown initially committed to Utah State but never played a snap for the Aggies. He eventually landed at College of the Canyons, a junior college in California. As a freshman in 2016, Brown put up a 50-754-10 receiving line while also chipping in on kick and punt returns with two TDs. Brown eventually committed to Oklahoma as the 13th-ranked JUCO prospect in the country.
2017 AND BEYOND
Catching passes from Baker Mayfield in 2017, Brown led the Sooners in receiving yards (1,095) while averaging a gaudy 19.2 yards per reception, 4th-best among all players with 50 or more receptions. He capped his first FBS season with a strong 8-114-1 receiving line in a losing effort against Georgia in the college football semifinal. Brown has boosted his production in 2018 with quarterback Kyler Murray at the helm posting a 75-1,318-10 receiving line in 12 games. As one of just eight WRs this decade averaging 18 yards per receptions on 130 or more receptions, Brown has flourished over the last two seasons in Lincoln Riley’s offensive scheme.
Brown’s raw statistics look great on paper but it’s important to incorporate market share into our analysis. While his career market share of receiving yards (0.27) misses the first and most important split in Kevin Cole’s WR Regression Tree, Brown’s final year stats and age (21.6) place him in a cohort with a 32 percent chance of finishing as a WR2 or better at least once in his first three seasons:
Another way to look at market share is the concept of a breakout season. Accounting for 30 percent or more of a team’s receiving yards and TDs in a season is an important benchmark when predicting future success. Unfortunately for Brown he’s never reached this mark, falling just short in 2018 (0.27). Anthony Amico showed that WRs drafted in the top-100 without a breakout season have finished with a 200-point PPR season in their first three years just 11 percent of the time:
|Split||Hits||Total||Hit %||Average Draft|
Draft age is another critical piece to the puzzle. Blair Andrews showed that WRs who play their rookie season at age-22 have gone on to have at least one WR2 about 20 percent of the time. This compares to more than 40 percent for 21-year-old rookies:
One variable we don’t yet know, draft position, is also extremely important. Scouts note Brown’s elite speed, quickness, and vertical receiving ability as reasons to believe he could be the next Desean Jackson. If NFL evaluators come to the same conclusions, Brown could easily sneak into the first round in April.
His age and lack of a true breakout season are real reasons to be concerned about Brown becoming an elite dynasty asset. His size is another potential obstacle to him achieving dominance at the next level. Despite his red flags I’d still be willing to draft Brown in the second round of most dynasty rookie drafts with the hopes he can parlay his speed into a high-leverage role powered by vertical routes.