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What the Lions are getting in slot WR Amon-Ra St. Brown

St. Brown should immediately compete for the starting slot receiver job.

USC v Arizona State Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions finally drafted a wide receiver, grabbing Amon-Ra St. Brown from USC with pick No. 112 in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. St. Brown, 5-foot-11 12 and 197 pounds, is quick and explosive, and should be in the mix for a starting role in the slot—if not the outright favorite to land the job.

St. Brown started at USC as a freshman at the WR-X position, but he would routinely split time both inside and out during his career with the Trojans. Over his three years in L.A. he earned Freshman All-American and first-team All-Pac-12 honors, and was voted as a team captain in 2020 by his teammates.

An every-down competitor, St. Brown’s runs his routes the exact same whether the ball is designed to come his way or not. If a play breaks down, his ability to read what's happening around him and adjust his path puts him in favorable positions to help his quarterback.

St. Brown's lack of long speed will likely keep him in the slot in the NFL where he can deploy his plethora of releases to gain separation off the line of scrimmage. When afforded the opportunity to line up off the line of scrimmage—which he will typically get inside—he exhibits effective quickness to get early separation in his routes. When pressed, it’s a harder task for him to get open immediately.

When in phase, St. Brown’s situational intelligence and body control allow him to find holes in zones, as well as manipulate defenders with his body/head/eye movements, while his foot quickness gives him a chance to find space. His feel for where he is on the field, and his intelligence to feel what's happening around him, help him adjust his routes to the down marker on a consistent basis.

When the ball is in the air, St. Brown tracks it with elite awareness and has the chops to maintain speed while pursuing and often winning the 50/50 ball. Excellent body control, solid hands, and a desire to outwork his opponent make him one of the best contested-catch playmakers in this class.

Finally, his ability to be physical will give him several opportunities to contribute at the next level. He is not afraid to go over the middle and won’t shy away from passes, even with defenders around him. His ability to be physical in the run game will keep him on the field on any down, including fourth downs where he can be a core special teams player—including as a potential kick returner.

St. Brown is a pro-ready receiver and tailor-made for the slot. Don’t be surprised if he’s the starter by the end of training camp—if not before.