North Carolina wide receiver Dyami Brown (6' 5/8", 189 lbs) posted back to back 1000-yard seasons in a Tarheel offense that was absolutely loaded with playmakers. He functioned primarily as a deep threat and excelled in that role, but can he do more? Below are my notes on Brown's tape, and an assessment of his likely career outcomes.
Takeaways from the Tape
First Things First: Brown is an Excellent Deep Threat
Flip on the tape and most of what you'll see is Brown winning deep. He is fast and capable of tracking high-arcing rainbow throws—the two quintessential "deep threat" skills. Both show up on this this play against Miami. (This is the very first play of the game, which feels appropriate; UNC had Brown going deep as soon as the game clock started ticking.) (Top of the screen.)
Wins Hand Fighting Battles to Create Separation at the Catch Point
Lots of field-stretchers are small and fast, and struggle to play through contact (think Andy Isabella, Tre'Quan Smith, or Ted Ginn Jr.). Brown is not. He is a strong, physical player that is comfortable playing through contact.
On this play he uses a stiff arm late in the route to maintain separation. While it drew a flag because the CB lost his footing, this sort of hand fighting is critical to winning contested catches. Offensive players are rarely penalized for it, and I wouldn't tell Brown to change anything about his approach here; initiating this sort of contact will work out in his favor far more often than not.
Here's another clip that illustrates Brown's comfort playing through contact both within the route and at the catch point.
Gets Open Deep in Multiple Ways
Because the North Carolina coaching staff had Brown running deep so frequently over the past two years, it's not surprising that he developed lots of ways to get open. Brown has shown the ability to add lots wrinkles to standard deep routes: a stutter and go, a fake post that leads into a vertical, a subtle outside fake on an actual post, etc. He's fairly advanced at generating separation down the field, and is doing more than simply running by DBs.
Not an Aerialist
Despite Brown's tape being filled with contested catch wins, I didn't come across a single example of him high-pointing the ball. He's an on-the-ground receiver.
Despite the Many Positives, He's Not a Perfect Deep Threat
There is a lot to like about Brown's downfield ability, but he's not without flaws. Physical DBs have had success squeezing him to the sideline, where it is really challenging to complete passes (top of the screen).
He's also liable to drop a few easy ones (bottom of the screen):
Shows the Change of Direction Skills Necessary for Running a Full Route Tree
Even though the UNC coaches mostly asked him to go deep, Brown managed to put some extremely encouraging reps on tape that showcase his ability to separate in the shallow and intermediate areas of the field. In some of the following examples he wasn't targeted because Brown simply didn't run many of these routes, but here he is generating about as much separation as is possible on a slant (top of the screen).
He gets the CB to bite on an outside fake before cutting hard back inside with a really nice, sharp angle.
Perhaps he dances too much on this next play, but the flat angle and suddenness of the cut are impressive (bottom of the screen).
And finally, here he is generating lots of separation on an arrow route.
While less explosive than the slant and out routes in the above plays, all three of these reps demonstrate that Brown has the footwork and body control to get in and out of breaks in a tight space—an excellent indicator that there is more to Brown's game than simply going deep.
An Instinct for Finding Space
I also like Brown's instincts for finding space, whether it's after a play breaks down or against zone coverage. As an example, check out how he creates and fills space against Virginia's quarters zone look. He runs off both deep defenders on his half of the field by aggressively selling the deep route, then breaks down hard and comes all the way back under the dropping LB to make the reception. The instinct to carry his route past the LB instead of trying to sit behind him is excellent (top of the screen).
Can Create Yards After the Catch
This area of Brown's game is hard to assess because so many of his receptions come down the field (and it's hard to force missed tackles on deep balls). That being said, I was impressed with his ability to create yards after the catch. This is an impressive blend of power and contact balance (begins the play off-screen, split out wide on the left):
He's not in this position often, but Brown was pretty consistently able to run through tackle attempts when squared up with defenders (top of the screen).
Lined Up in One Spot
Brown lined up almost exclusively on the left side of the formation in 2020. I've said it before: this doesn't necessarily mean he'll be unable to transition to other alignments, but seeing a WR take nearly all his reps from a single spot on the field gives me unpleasant Kevin White vibes.
Probable Career Outcomes
Humans can't predict the future, but with some good scouting (or statistical modeling) it's possible to sketch a fuzzy outline of probable outcomes. Below I've mapped what I assess to be the likelihood of career outcomes for Brown. I think he's mostly likely to be a strong starter. This isn't an algorithm-generated projection, but is instead based on my individual assessment of Brown.
Dyami Brown Career Outcome Probability Distribution
Open Questions That Will Shape Brown's Career
The answers to the following questions will determine where Brown ultimately lands on the spectrum of possible career outcomes:
Brown flashed the ability to win on short and intermediate routes. Will that success translate to a bigger sample size, against NFL-caliber DBs?
How will the team that drafts Brown plan to use him? Will he once again be pigeonholed as a deep threat, or will he have the opportunity to grow into a more complete receiver?
Will Brown be able to transition from left split end to other alignments?
You might also wonder if Brown will learn to attack the ball in the air, clean up his drops, or get even better at keeping a sideline cushion on his downfield routes. Improving in these areas would make him an even better deep threat, but would not move the needle very much in terms of his career outcomes. He's already an advanced vertical threat. The bigger questions that will determine how his career plays out have to do with whether he can succeed in an expanded role. To that point, his physicality, change of direction skills, and success playing outside of his usual role are all encouraging signs.