In 2009, Tim Brown had a season for the record books, setting a school highmark for touchdowns. Duce was good for big play after big play on the year, averaging a staggering 20.9 yards a catch. His 1,150 yards and 9 touchdowns are even more impressive considering that an ankle injury limited him against West Virginia, and Rutgers had absolutely no intention of passing the ball against Maryland. There were doubts entering the year about whether the former slot receiver could hold up as a starter, and he more than held up his end of the bargain. It's not like he came out of nowhere, as Brown regularly saw playing time as an underclassman; his production increasing with each subsequent season
In fact, it's fair to say that Tim could have started for a lot of teams over the past few years, and was only limited to reserve duty because of the presence of Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood above him on the Scarlet Knight depth chart. Brown wasn't as good as Britt, but he's probably a few notches above Underwood as a player. Kenny was a first round pick, and Ti went in the seventh. Logic would then seemingly dictate that Brown ought to go in the fifth or sixth round, right?
That'd be a fair outcome if it the equation was solely based on talent and production, but it may not be that simple. For one thing, Brown is listed on the roster at 5'8 and 165 lbs, and there's been rampant speculation that he may be even shorter. There are receivers in the 5'8 - 5'9 range in the NFL, but not many smaller than that, and I think his tiny frame will be an even bigger concern to NFL talent evaluators. Sure, Brown is an explosive playmaker, but can he hold up on the next level, when the competition is even bigger and faster than what he regularly saw in college? One silver lining to his limited amount of touches in college is that he hasn't taken that many hits.
Are there any comparable prospects that have made an impact recently in the NFL? Santana and Sinorice Moss aren't great examples. Both are (likely in Sinorice's case) taller than Brown, and more importantly, they weigh in at 190 and 185 lbs respectively. Roscoe Parrish is listed at 5'9, 170 lbs, and was a second round pick of the Bills four years ago. Looking at the combine measurements from the past three years, you don't see too many players with similar measurables to what Tim's listed as being. DeSean Jackson was pretty close to Brown's listing, but given that most heights on college rosters are exaggerated, Brown could end up being closer to 5'6 or so.
Parrish wasn't nearly as productive as a regular as Brown was in college, but he made up for it somewhat with his prowess as a returner, where Brown surprisingly hasn't seen all that much action. Rutgers had a great return game this year, and that was Windmill Willie's thing in '06, but it's a bit perplexing why Brown didn't return more kicks and punts in 2007 and 2008. From memory, I remember him being fairly effective when given a chance there two years ago, and being surprised that he never received more looks as a returner. This could be big, because a player of Brown's stature will have to earn his keep as pro initially on special teams.
Now, I don't pay much heed to what the echo chamber of internet draft analysis is saying, but it'd be a surprise if Brown receives an invite to February's Combine in Indianapolis (Davis and McCourty will, and Haslam/Johnson are probably 50/50). He'll have to make by on his senior film, looking good in workouts, and registering a good time in the various speed drills at the school's Pro Day. Specifically, speedy receivers live and die on the 40-yard dash. Brown is likely to register a time under 4.40 seconds in that event. Considering the fast track, I'd actually peg him for an unadjusted 4.30 to 4.35 (scouts in attendance will add one or two tenths of a second to the hand-recorded times). What's critical is to see exactly how far below that magic 4.4 rubric he scores.
I've spent the past few paragraphs detailing why pro evaluators will knock Brown, and indeed, nitpick they shall. The danger in that level of criticism is in losing the forest for the trees, and letting a potential diamond in the rough get by unnoticed. Anyone who puts too much focus on what he can't do will lose sight of all of those thrilling touchdowns. Brown matured as a senior - developing into a team leader, being a long-distance father to his six-year old son, and mourning the lost of his childhood friend Jasper Howard. Duce Brown is undoubtedly a dynamic playmaker, averaging 41.9 yards on his touchdown receptions this season. Put the ball in his hands, and there's a fairly good chance that he's going to take it to the house and throw up six.
One thing's for sure:Rutgers fans won't forget his breath-taking, miracle reception and in the closing seconds of the UConn game any time soon.
It's hard to say if Brown will get drafted, although it wouldn't be a surprise to see him build some buzz over the coming months and go at some point during the draft's second day. Gary Brackett, Shaun O'Hara, Eric Foster, and a littany of other recent undrafted Scarlet Knights have shown that there's more than one path to the NFL from the banks. If he can get into a training camp next fall, it'd be a mistake to bet against him.