Our first two draft profiles featured the two players who were responsible for one half of UNC’s offensive resurgence the past two years, thanks to their dominance in the ground game. But where UNC has really broken program records (besides the Miami game) the past two years has been through the air, and while the guy on the throwing end isn’t draft-eligible for another year, both of his top receivers the past two years are. The first of them is wide receiver Dyami Brown, widely considered the more NFL-ready of the two (more on the other in a day or two), and who we’ve seen rapidly rise up draft boards as the scouting process has gone on to the point where he’s entrenched himself firmly in the conversation to be within the 2nd tier of wide receivers after the big names like DeVonta Smith, Ja’Marr Chase, Elijah Moore, and Kadarius Toney. He’s been listed anywhere from WR5 in some extremely favorable reviews to WR12 or so in others, but receivers go quickly in the draft, so he’s being looked at as a solidly Day 2, top-75 or so prospect. Let’s take a look at how he stacks up as a potential NFL player:
The 6’1, 190-pound Brown was a 4-star recruit out of Charlotte, North Carolina as a wide receiver in 2018 and started seeing playing time immediately, though he didn’t have much opportunity to show what he could do in the context of an anemic passing attack that was, in the context of its quarterback’s limitations, reduced to screens, swing passes, and generally not letting the ball travel more than 5 yards forward in the air. Brown played in most games, but only caught 17 passes for 172 yards and a single score, obviously hampered by his quarterback. One year later, with a coaching change to an Air Raid scheme and a quarterback who immediately proved to have one of the best deep balls in the country, Brown exploded onto the scene, catching 51 passes for 1034 yards and 12 touchdowns as UNC’s primary deep threat. He didn’t slow down in his next year, catching 55 balls for 1099 yards and 8 touchdowns as a junior, winning First Team All-ACC honors (the only unanimous selection) before declaring for the NFL Draft and opting out of the Heels’ bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft. Here’s his spider chart:
- Deep Ball Receiver: Brown doesn’t have game-breaking speed, recording a 4.45-second 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, but he’s plenty fast enough to be an excellent deep threat when you combine his speed with his other skills. He’s excellent at eating up defensive backs’ cushion when they play off him and at using an inside release to get past press coverage, and then stacks defensive backs so they can’t make a play on a well-thrown deep ball. Among his best attributes is his ball-tracking ability. He’s an expert at finding deep balls coming over either shoulder and catching them in stride, flashing his hands late whether the ball is coming out in front or into his chest so that a trailing defender doesn’t know where to swipe to try and make a play. He’s also a well-polished deep route runner who gets open on posts, corners, go routes, and with a filthy double-move that famously burned 2020 first-round pick A.J. Terrell. I don’t think he’s a one-trick pony, as we’ll get to, but his excellence at every level of a deep route and reception is what’s gotten him to this point and it’s easily his greatest skill.
- Strength at the Catch Point: While a Pro Football Focus tweet telling us that Dyami Brown has never dropped a contested target has been justifiably roasted, the point remains that Brown is very good at fighting defenders for the ball. We on Tar Heel Blog Slack have had fun with the joke that Brown routinely makes the hard catches and hardly makes the routine catches (or something to that effect), because his tape is littered with plays where he successfully takes the ball away from a defender when both have a reasonable shot at the ball. Sometimes he Mosses them, sometimes it’s just a matter of good hand placement, and once, against Wake Forest, it was simply him ripping a sure interception out of a cornerback’s hands, but in all respects, Brown is a competitor at the catch point — I can only think of one example where he’s let a defender beat him to a 50/50 ball throughout his career.
- Dominates the Line of Scrimmage: This trait is most pronounced with his footwork on releases, as I mentioned in the first section. Brown has good ability to get upfield against press coverage thanks to great footwork and hand placement on his releases, and can get physical when necessary as well. The other place this shows up is in his run blocking, where he seems to take special pride in knocking down a DB or two. He has a few lackadaisical reps in his tape (no receiver doesn’t), but overall is totally willing to mix it up to help his teammates get extra yardage on the outside, and Benjamin Solak at The Draft Network named him as one of the receivers in this year’s class who takes blocking most seriously.
- Hands: Brown dropped 15% of catchable targets in 2019, making his hands a real point of concern—honestly, his only real point of concern from a UNC fan’s perspective—coming into the 2020 season. The good news was that he did get better in 2020, and while PFF’s claim that he only had 3 drops all season doesn’t really pass the eye test, I suspect he got the number under 10%, which isn’t going to put him on an all-hands team but is certainly passable. Brown’s drops are almost invariably of the concentration variety, which is probably better than having a problem with his catch technique or having weak hands, but it’s something he’s going to have to continue working on in the NFL — and hope that his coaches let him play through some mistakes. He does show consistent hands-catching and, as I said before, doesn’t often lose at the catch point, so at least those markers for good hands are there.
- Short/Intermediate game: Brown’s sharpened up his slant routes, particularly, a lot since 2019: they used to be rounded and fairly lackadaisical, and he’s made them crisp and a real weaponizable part of his game in the past season. This gives me hope that he can pretty easily learn to run more short/intermediate routes, but as of now, those parts of his game (flat digs, angles/whip routes, comebacks) are pretty underdeveloped. He has occasional reps where he gets open on them just because of his speed threat and physicality, but he doesn’t win in these areas with technique nearly as often as he does going deep. A lot (but not all) of his drops also come in these areas, suggesting that he’s still working to make these routes natural rather than fighting them. Playing the D.K. Metcalf role in Phil Longo’s offense rather than the A.J. Brown one doesn’t help matters here — he didn’t have that varied of a route tree (not that it hurt the offense). He is surprisingly useful, though, on goal-line fades, where his physicality and athleticism take over and give him a good shot of coming down with it. Coaches can do with that what they will (they shouldn’t be calling goal-line fades).
- After the catch: Brown’s sole positive attribute after the catch is his speed. For all his physicality when blocking or getting off press coverage, Brown isn’t much of a tackle-breaker and tends to go down fairly easily with the ball in his hands, and he’s mainly a straight-line athlete without a ton of in-game shiftiness or ability to make others miss. He flashed a little of this in 2020 more so than 2019, and he surprised with a sub-7 second 3-cone drill, so maybe there’s some latent ability there, but for now, he shouldn’t really be trusted as a consistent screen or swing pass threat who can create yardage in a crowd.
Dyami Brown has been an exciting player to watch for the past two years, the primary beneficiary of a deep ball-friendly scheme that has been some of the most fun a UNC offense has been in at least a generation. He’s gotten comparisons to a watered-down Stefon Diggs, and I honestly don’t think that’s unfair to him: he’s that good at what he does as a “just throw it up and he’ll go get it” deep ball threat. He wins with technique on script and he’ll beat a defender to the ball on a prayer that’s remotely in his area. He’s not a do-it-all receiver, but he has a valuable skillset that would make any team better. His hands aren’t amazing but they won’t be debilitating and I’m confident he’d produce a lot more opportunities than he’d lose. Receivers are of less and less value in the NFL as it gets saturated with the position thanks to pass-first offense being more and more the norm college, but Brown’s strength against press coverage and deep ball polish aren’t everyday skills and I think that makes him valuable. I’d place his stock right around Michael Carter’s: If you’re getting him past pick ~70 or so, I think you’re getting a steal.