Former Ohio State wide receiver Michael Thomas was selected with a second round pick by the New Orleans Saints in the 2016 draft. Thomas had at least 90 receptions and over 1,000 yards in each of his first four seasons. He led the league in receptions in 2018 and 2019, setting an NFL single-season record with 149 receptions in 2019.
Thomas' domination of NFL defensive backs was put on pause in 2020, when he suffered a severe ankle injury during the season opener. The injury forced him to miss nine games and severely limited his effectiveness when he did play. Without the best wide receiver in the league, the New Orleans passing attack struggled with consistency in 2020.
Veteran WR Emmanuel Sanders stepped into the role of top wideout option for the team. Former undrafted receivers Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harris also had to take on more prominent roles. While Callaway and Harris each showed promise for expanded duties in 2021, Sanders was released this offseason.
The Saints will also open the season with a new starting quarterback for the first time since 2005. Drew Brees retired, likely leaving 2015 1st overall pick Jameis Winston to take over the job. Even with a healthy Thomas back in the lineup, the Saints may want to give Winston another receiving target through the draft.
New Orleans has other, more pressing, needs that they could address with their early round choices. However, don't be surprised if the team uses a Day 2 pick on one of several talented receivers who will be available. Today's draft spotlight looks at a player who would definitely stretch the field for the new Saints quarterback.
DYAMI BROWN, WIDE RECEIVER (NORTH CAROLINA)
- 6’0” 189-Lbs.
- Pro Day 40 = 4.46 sec
- Pro Day Vertical Jump = 35.5”
NFL.com Comparison (Lance Zierlein):
Paul Richardson (free agent)
A four-star recruit out of West Mecklenburg High School at nearby Charlotte, NC, Brown caught 17 passes for 173 yards and a score as a true freshman at North Carolina. His production exploded as a sophomore in 2019, leading the ACC in yards per reception (20.3) and ranking second in touchdown receptions. He had 51 receptions for the Tar Heels, picking up a team-high 1,034 yards and scoring 12 touchdowns.
Brown followed that up with another productive campaign in 2020. He led North Carolina with 55 receptions, led the entire ACC with 1,099 receiving yards, and caught 8 touchdowns. After a 3rd team all-conference selection in 2019, Brown earned 1st team ALL-ACC in 2020 along with 3rd team All-American recognition.
Brown wasn't asked to run a wide array of routes for the Tar Heels, who instead took advantage of his deep ball skills. He often drifted into his breaks on shorter patterns, allowing defensive backs to get a better play on the ball. Despite his gamebreaking production, Brown lacks the short area quickness and fluid change-of-direction to gain separation without much sharper routes.
Doesn't show natural pass-catching skills and was extremely unreliable in traffic. He isn't very elusive in the open field after a reception and often looks to turn upfield before securing the catch. Needs to create more vertical push off the snap to create a cushion underneath against cornerbacks who are confident in their deep coverage ability.
Brown was one of the most feared deep threats in the NCAA. He has good movement at the line to slip past press coverage. Once in the open, he has tremendous build-up speed and a long stride that makes it difficult for corners to make up a step.
Using clever fakes and subtle moves, Brown often freezes aggressive defensive backs to get by them. He has elite ball-tracking skills on deep throws and the body control to make a spectacular catch down the field. His best shorter routes are slants, where he’s an instant home-run threat if he catches the ball in stride.
Brown’s leaping ability gives him an advantage on jump balls. He is fearless against safeties in the deep middle of the field and has the toughness to absorb punishment. His ability to take the top off a defense creates extra space underneath for teammates.
Dyami Brown will have an immediate home in the NFL because of his incredible deep abilities. To have a long-term role, he’ll have to improve his shorter routes and prove that he can be a reliable pass catcher. If he can add just a few routes to his skill set, Brown has the upside of a number 2 wideout and an every down scoring threat.