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Marquise Brown Enters Year 3: A Bizarre Career Explained

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More than almost any player in the NFL, Marquise Brown is subject to a phenomenon known as “goal post moving.” Few players span the spectrum from objective trash to best player in an NFL game as seamlessly as the man known as Hollywood. Brown is a unique physical specimen in a unique offense. He has the tools to be a premier deep threat, but he plays in the best running offense in NFL history.

Objectively Trash (The Ugly)

MIAMI, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 08: Marquise Brown #15 of the Baltimore Ravens catches a pass for a touchdown in the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on September 08, 2019, in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Brown has 10 drops in two seasons including seven in 2020. He had three different games in 2020 that he earned a 28.0 or worse PFF grade for drops. While it is a fair point to mention that Brown rarely has the volume to offset a drop in his grade, it is still a concern.

Brown had multiple drops against the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns (Week 14). While Brown made up for his two errors in the Browns game by catching a go-ahead touchdown in the dying moments, the Chiefs game is a stain on the season as a whole for the Baltimore Ravens.

Many will begin to point to Brown’s erratic production in the regular season now. Across 30 games, Brown has just 1,353 yards. He has more games with single-digit receiving yards than triple-digit receiving yards. Brown even had a game with negative receiving yards in 2019.

However, context is required here. Baltimore is the only team to have fewer than 1,000 pass attempts over the last two seasons (including playoffs). If Brown was drafted by any other team, he would have more consistent production.

For as much ire as Brown’s yardage totals can draw, he ranks 14th in receiving touchdowns since being drafted. He is one of 11 players to catch seven touchdowns in both seasons.

Perfectly Balanced (As All Things Should Be)

Brown, naturally, has one of the most unique games in the last two years. He is one of 25 pass-catchers to post 147 or more receiving yards and a pair of receiving touchdowns. Five players have done it twice with Mike Evans leading the way with three different games.

However, of the 31 total games that meet the criteria, Brown did it on the fewest snaps played (14), fewest targets (five), and fewest receptions (four). 12 of the games had 14 or more targets, and three of the games came with 14 catches. The efficiency in Brown’s game is there, regardless of the inconsistency that Brown deals with from Lamar Jackson and Greg Roman.

Despite not having many opportunities to flash his exceptional speed, Brown has found his way to the end zone for four 40-yard touchdowns. While, yes, two of them came in the same game mentioned early, only five players have had more such touchdowns since 2019. Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, and A.J. Brown are top-10 receivers. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Mecole Hardman are catching passes from Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes. Both Terry McLaurin and D.K. Metcalf has four such touchdowns.

Hollywood (The Good)

Throughout his career, Brown often fails to live up to his nickname. However, on the rare occasion, he does it comes in big moments.

Over the last eight games in 2020 (including the two playoff games), Brown was on pace for 1,068 receiving yards and 12 receiving touchdowns. In those eight games, he scored a touchdown in five of them. In the other three games, Brown had 98 yards, 109 yards, and 87 yards.

Seven of the eight games qualified as a must-win game for Baltimore. Had Baltimore lost any of their final five regular-season games, they would have missed out on the playoffs. Brown was one of the stars of the run. While his raw yardage is not as impressive as it would have been for other teams, Brown came up huge when it mattered.

Brown in the AFC North

OWINGS MILLS, MARYLAND – AUGUST 17: wide receiver Marquise Brown #15 of the Baltimore Ravens looks on during the Baltimore Ravens Training Camp at Under Armour Performance Center Baltimore Ravens on August 17, 2020, in Owings Mills, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

While AFC North fans are usually the first to criticize Brown (and the Ravens for picking Brown), Brown has routinely played his most productive football against the AFC North. In three games against the Cincinnati Bengals, Brown has racked up 198 yards and a quartet of touchdowns.

In his 2020 games against the Browns, Brown totaled 151 yards and a touchdown. These games require extra context as Brown had 101 yards in one half in Week 1, and his Week 14 performance saw a cameo from Trace McSorley for a segment.

Pittsburgh fans tend to be the loudest in their criticism for Brown. However, Brown has scored in three of four games against the Steelers. He also demolished a Minkah Fitzpatrick-led secondary in his NFL debut against the Miami Dolphins.

The Brightest Lights

Brown ranks seventh all-time with 322 receiving yards across his first two postseasons. He is in the company of Randy Moss and several future Hall of Famers in Rob Gronkowski and Julio Jones. Perhaps the most telling stat is that Brown ranks third in yards per game in the group. Brown is doing the most even though the Ravens have fallen short in both playoff runs.

In the Jackson era, the Ravens have developed a reputation of being playoff choke artists. Brown is the exception to the rule. He has been the best player on the field for Baltimore in all three of his career playoff games. Opening the competition to his opponents, only the 2019 version of Derrick Henry tops Brown.

Verdict

Depending on the lens you view Brown through, you can come to three wildly different conclusions. If you are mesmerized by gaudy yardage totals, Brown is a disappointment relative to his draft spot. Prefer touchdowns or explosiveness? Brown is a solid option with flashes in both of his seasons. Do you hold playoff performances to the ultimate standard? In that case, Brown is historically relevant.

As a deep threat in a run-heavy offense, the true value of Brown is impossible to determine through stats alone. Secondaries must always be cognizant of Brown’s game-breaking speed, so his presence helps his fellow receivers as well as the running game.

BALTIMORE – SEPTEMBER 11: An overall view of the opening kickoff of a game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on September 11, 2005, in Baltimore, Maryland. The Colts defeated the Ravens 24-7. (Photo by Nick Wass/Getty Images)

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Ryan Potts is an avid football and baseball fan. He covers the NFL and Major League Baseball, focusing on the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Braves.