Brown suited up for 15 games last year, but he was a shell of his former self, dealing with a preseason concussion and fatigue and soreness from a spinal cyst that wasn't discovered and removed until the offseason. At press time, Brown had his usual energy back, and he's going through his usual offseason activities, something he says he couldn't have done in the state he played last year. At 5-11, 179, Brown is small, but he runs a blazing 4.34 40 and can take the top off of defenses -- six catches of 40- plus yards on 101 targets, with 15.4 YPC and 9.9 YPT in 2015. Brown isn't especially physical, but he's got good ball skills and excellent hands. Brown finds himself in a good situation with Michael Floyd gone and only veteran Larry Fitzgerald, who rarely sees targets down the field these days, above him on the depth chart. While Fitzgerald led the league in receptions last year, he'll be 34 in August, and his 6.8 YPT was among the worst in the league. The Cardinals desperately need a go-to wideout for intermediate and deep routes, and the 161-pound speedster J.J. Nelson probably isn't it. Arizona is similarly thin at tight end, and while star RB David Johnson will see plenty of short looks, that shouldn't affect Brown's role. Brown has always had the skills, and this year -- health permitting -- he finally has the opportunity.
Brown did a lot with his 101 targets last year, turning them into 1,003 yards, a 9.9 YPT clip, good for second among the league's 32 100-target receivers. At 5-11, 179 and running a blazing 4.34 40, Brown is the team's field-stretcher, forcing the safeties to play deep and opening the middle of the field. Even so, Brown saw a surprising amount of red-zone work – 17 targets in 15 games – despite having the far-larger Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd around. That said, Brown will probably have to wait another year before he sees a major workload increase. Even at 33, Fitzgerald seems to have something left in the tank, and after a miserable 2014, Floyd bounced back and looked like the player who broke out in 2013. The other variable is 36-year-old quarterback Carson Palmer, who played at a high level a year ago, but has taken a beating over his long career. Assuming Palmer stays healthy, Brown should continue to be one of the most productive per-target wideouts in the league, and there's some upside should Fitzgerald or Floyd go down.
The speedy (4.34 40) Brown was drafted to take the top off the defense while Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald operated underneath. But despite making a couple big plays in the middle of the year, including a 75-yard TD catch with 81 seconds left in Week 8 to beat the Eagles, Brown averaged a meager 6.8 YPT and only two of his 103 targets went for 40 or more yards. In fairness, the Cardinals were playing much of the year with a backup quarterback, and some of it with third-stringer Ryan Lindley, and Brown was a rookie third-round pick getting his first exposure to NFL defenses. But with Larry Fitzgerald returning for another year, and Michael Floyd offering nearly as much speed with much more size, it's hard to see Brown eclipsing last year's target total. Moreover, few of those targets are likely to come in the red zone — at 5-11, 179, Brown's dwarfed by Arizona's other top wideouts.
Brown, who was picked 91st overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, is a burner in the vein of teammate Ted Ginn, boasting 4.34 speed in a 5-10, 179 frame. The Cardinals' vaunted defensive backfield has been unable to contain Brown during the opening practices of training camp, but until his production is evident in preseason contests, he's at best a speculative late-round dart in drafts. Nonetheless, if he keeps up the pace, he could very well usurp Ginn in three-wide sets, which would ensure viability in numerous formats behind stalwarts Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.