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Dyami Brown is going to be better than you think

NFL: Washington Football Team Rookie Minicamp Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

I really liked the choice to take Dyami Brown in the third round of the 2021 draft. Before the draft, I was thinking he was probably a second round talent, but, more importantly, that his skill set was a great fit for Washington’s receiving needs. He’s a fast, deep threat capable of lining up outside opposite Terry McLaurin to help open up the field.

“Steal of the draft” was a common refrain, from a variety of sources, regarding Brown’s selection in the days after the draft. But, as the post-draft hangover wore off, attention turned to other players and other topics. In the past week or so, however, I’ve begun to get excited about Brown’s potential again.

Ben Standig’s conversation with an NFL scout in The Athletic this week is one of his better pieces this offseason, and, on its own, may contain enough Dyami Brown hype to reinvigorate your enthusiasm for the young WR. Nevertheless, with this article, I intend to pile on.

Good Roots

So many top wide receivers in the NFL at this point seem focused on shameless self-promotion that it’s always a breath of fresh air when a guy like Terry McLaurin comes along - a low-ego, quiet leader who is far more interested in showing you his greatness on the field than he is in telling you about it. In his short time in DC, Brown seems cut from a similar cloth. He’s a player of relatively few words, and his focus seems to be on effort and the skills he can bring to the team.

Most of what we “know” about these players, to the extent we actually know anything about them, is derived from their play on the field, press conferences, and, if we’re unlucky, social media. So, it’s pretty cool when we get any sort of window into their personal lives. In Brown’s case, we’re provided such a glimpse in a video of his mother reading a heartfelt letter to her son in the lead up to the draft. It’s about seven minutes long, so I’ll understand if you pass, but I guarantee it’s one of the more endearing things you’d see today.

In any case, we learn a few things from the video about Brown. He was actually born pre-maturely, and had to stay in the hospital for a time after his birth in 1999. He has several siblings, and his devout mother has had chronic health issues leading to multiple kidney transplants. We also find out that, not only is Brown a great athlete, but that he’s been a student of the game for a very long time, even at the youthful age of 22:

“My first moment of knowing you were destined to play football....was when you entered that football field at a very young age - under the 7/8 year old age group - with a passion in your eyes and a willingness of your own to study the sport of football. To not only play the sport of football, but actually study the sport of football.”

To me, this, paired with his athletic ability, and with his mother’s clear guidance - which, presumably, has been lifelong - to her son to keep his head on straight, and to avoid the inevitable pitfalls coming his way, bodes extremely well for Brown’s long-term success in the NFL and beyond.

We’ve seen, far too often, how the absence of this last element can quickly derail even the most promising of NFL careers.

Making a Strong Impression

We haven’t even begun training camp yet, and already Brown is showing his teammates and head coach what he needs to in order to earn their trust. The young Terry McLaurin is already the team’s undisputed WR1, but he’s taken notice:

“First of all with him, I think he’s a guy who has a really good feel for the game,” McLaurin said in an interview this week. “I think I could really tell by a receiver coming in how they have a feel for the game, where the throttle and down and zone routes, how to run away from man. So naturally, he has a really good feel for the game.”

Head coach Ron Rivera has been similarly impressed during mini-camp:

“We got some nice balls thrown by the quarterbacks today, especially some of the deep balls — I think you guys got a good sense and flavor for the speed thats out there on the offense in the receiver positions,” Rivera said this week at minicamp.” You know, Dyami [Brown] showed some real dynamic ability today. And those are some of the positives that we can take from it, as far as our offense is concerned too.”

“You don’t want a receiver to only be able to play the X. You want him to be able to play the Z, the X, and the F. That’s important, and that’s why we make sure guys can do more than one thing, because if they're only a one-hole player, and one of your best players is playing the same spot, that guy will never get another opportunity. He can play the different positions. We’ll find a way to get him on the field.”

I’ve said it elsewhere, but I think that after Washington signed Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries before the draft, Rivera basically believed he had his WRs 1-3 in hand. Sure, he might acquire depth in the draft, but I think he was genuinely shocked that he grabbed another starting quality talent in the third round. My own sense now is, I wouldn’t be surprised in Brown ends up as WR2 by the end of the 2021 season, or certainly by the beginning of 2022.

The Surprise that Shouldn’t

Brown’s third round pedigree will surely temper the excitement of some portion of the fanbase, convinced that if he was genuinely a top talent, someone else would have grabbed him earlier. Of course, our own McLaurin is Counterexample A to that claim, but it’s still somewhat understandable.

Regardless of his actual draft status, there were plenty of pre-draft assessments of Brown predicting a sky-high ceiling for the Tar Heel, including this one from the NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks:

He might be the best big-play specialist in this draft and we don’t talk about him,” Brooks said on the NFL’s Move the Sticks podcast. “He’s a guy that can run all the things you want to see on the vertical part of the route tree. He gets deep consistently and often. Does a great job of putting the ball in the paint.

“If you’re a team that’s looking to fill out your wide receiver corps and you need a big-play specialist on the back side of a talented No. 1, Dyami Brown is the guy to call because his ability to get past a defense consistently is something that’s really remarkable when you watch the tape.”

The following analysis from “Draft ID Sports” compares him favorably to one of my top WR draft targets - Terrace Marshall - and adds a gem about his secondary skillset that should arouse even the most jaded observer:

He is a big play threat, but also has the potential to become a volume receiver in the league. UNC’s offense was rather simplistic from a receiving standpoint and he was limited to many vertical routes, but the agility and athleticism he showed when creating space is very encouraging. I am not worried in the slightest regarding his route tree due to his ability to play with a high IQ. He is also an elite run blocker for his position, something that jumps out on tape immediately and a core reason why Williams and Carter had such efficient seasons. He had 4 drops, but 2 of those coming on back to back plays early in the season against VT on short hitches. He was dynamic deep and had the second most deep yards in college football (543 coming off of 12 receptions). Terrace Marshall may have a higher ceiling, but Dyami Brown has a much higher floor and is a much more complete and ready NFL prospect.

Finally, regular readers know I have a soft spot for analytics, so when I came across the following assessment, I was over the moon. The author uses a combination of athleticism data and college production metrics to create a blended index (WRAPS) that he uses to predict NFL success.

He absolutely nailed Justin Jefferson and our own Antonio Gibson (as well as several others) in 2020, so it’s going to be fascinating to see how his 2021 evaluations, including the one below, hold up:

Brown’s production is unquestioned as he finished 14th in WROPS in 2019, and upped his game to finish 5th in 2020. There is no better route-runner in this class as Brown gets in and out of his breaks seamlessly across the entire route tree. He will occasionally drop an easy throw, and he is a bit on the small size at just under 6-1 and 190 pounds, but Brown will enter the league with elite soft skills already developed.

The question with Brown was always his athletic profile, and while he’s not the best athlete in his class, his 8.38 RAS is nothing to sneeze at.

His 3-cone and explosion are very good, and he should be able to succeed outside, and in the slot. In fact, given his advanced release technique and his route running (along with occasional drops), a Davante Adams comp isn’t out of the question.

Given what most of us knew of Brown, the expectations were already relatively high for him this year. For instance, I think most fans are probably expecting him to be a starter. Given what I know now, I think we should be placing those expectations even higher.


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