For a player like Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, it would be perfectly acceptable for him to just continue on the trajectory he’s currently on. He’s coming off a Pro Bowl year, and he’s already considered one of the best slot receivers in the game. In fact, he may be considered one of the best receivers in the game.
But we all know St. Brown. He is never going to be complacent. He’ll always be looking for the next step, the next area of growth.
So where can St. Brown go from here? And more importantly, where does he want to go from here?
Let’s take a closer look in our 2023 Detroit Lions roster preview.
Previous roster previews: Aidan Hutchinson, Jameson Williams, Josh Paschal, Kerby Joseph, James Mitchell, Malcolm Rodriguez, James Houston, Chase Lucas, Obinna Eze, Greg Bell, Penei Sewell, Levi Onwuzurike, Alim McNeill, Ifeatu Melifonwu
Amon-Ra St. Brown
Expectations heading into 2022
St. Brown ended 2021 on an absolute hot streak, earning Rookie of the Month honors in December and streaking together six straight games with at least eight catches. Heading into Year 2, there was some belief that his production may drop off from that frenetic rate, since Detroit improved their receiver room with DJ Chark and Jameson Williams.
“I think the hope is that we’ve got enough weapons and enough arsenal here that we’re able to spread this around and the production gets spread out even,” Dan Campbell said that offseason.
However, given how much St. Brown flashed for his attitude, work ethic, and grit, it’s fair to say St. Brown was expected to have an impressive follow-up to his rookie season. As a collective, we ranked him as the fourth-best Lions player going into 2022.
Actual role in 2022
16 games (16 starts): 832 offensive snaps played (72.9%)
Stats: 106 catches, 1,161 yards, 6 TDs; 9 carries, 95 yards
PFF offensive grade: 90.7 (2nd out of 97 WRs with at least 40 targets)
PFF receiving grade: 90.4 (3rd out of 97)
PFF run blocking grade: 77.1 (3rd out of 126 WRs with at least 100 run blocking snaps)
St. Brown didn’t just excel in Year 2 as a receiver, he excelled as a football player. Sure, he ranked seventh in the NFL in receptions, fifth in first-downs gained via reception, and tied for first among slot receivers in yards per route run, but St. Brown was the absolute nucleus of the entire offensive operation.
They put him in motion to keep defenses on their heels and give them some distracting eye candy. But perhaps his most underrated trait—as the PFF grades above show—St. Brown is also essential to Detroit’s run game, often acting as the lead blocker at the second level:
Right side of your screen. Literally one of the first running plays of the season. St. Brown’s block and Swift making one guy miss leads to a big play. pic.twitter.com/fTU6TSb32b— Boorish (@Boorish_Sports) February 25, 2023
And as far as St. Brown as a decoy, remember that he was the guy everyone was watching on Detroit’s game-winning fourth down conversion against the New York Jets:
That’s not to take away from St. Brown as a receiver, because his game got more and more polished. His route running got closer and closer to perfection, as he focused on eliminating any false steps and minimizing any wasted movement.
“He can get in and out of cuts so easily, he doesn’t have to do all that extra stuff, because he can get out of it so fast,” wide receivers coach Antwaan Randle-El said this offseason. “So I just go, ‘Run that smooth route. You don’t need anything extra at the top of it, just bap, bap, come on out of it.’ He’s been doing that in OTAs, so that’s been a growth for him. No extra movement, just get in the route and come out of it, because he comes out of it so fast.”
Outlook for 2023
There’s no reason to believe St. Brown will slow down. His drive won’t let him. So at the very least, expectations for the third-year receiver is to replicate the efficiency of his 2022 season. A 1,000-yard season is the very floor of his projected production for 2023.
But where can his actual play grow when he’s become such a polished route runner with incredibly reliable hands?
If you ask the man himself, he wants to become a bigger deep threat.
“I don’t really get the ball thrown to me too much down the field. So, I’m not getting some of these opportunities some of the other players are getting. That’s something I want to get more opportunities to do going forward,” St. Brown told the Detroit News after the 2022 season concluded. “Having the ball thrown down the field, and not just catching it after 5 yards and making guys miss. I want to catch it 25, 30 yards down the field. You watch my tape this year, I really haven’t had any of those. I haven’t had anything over the shoulder, really.”
Randle-El believes that’s something that could work for the offense. St. Brown has become such a short-to-intermediate threat, that the offense can use those tendencies to fool opposing defenses.
“Maybe they’re not extending to the sticks or they’re sitting on shorter routes, now we can go over the top with him,” Randle-El explained. “Some of that has showed up in these OTAs that we’ve had. It’s just a matter of getting it done, working at it and getting it dialed up in the game.”
But beyond that, St. Brown has another goal: Become a leader. We’ve already seen some of his work ethic rub off on his teammates with the jugs competition with him and Kalif Raymond. However, St. Brown sees himself as someone who could help lead the entire team.
“I’m going to take care of myself, I already know that, but making sure this team is where it needs to be, which I know we can do,” St. Brown said. “I’m excited for that. Trying to become more of a leader.”