The draft clock ticked into the late afternoon as Bruce Arians burned nervous energy inside the Pittsburgh Steelers’ war room.
Before the team submitted selection No. 195, head coach Mike Tomlin asked the question Arians wanted to hear.
“You like your little one-cut guy here?” Tomlin asked Arians, then Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator and now the Arizona Cardinals’ head coach.
Before Antonio Brown was keeping business boomin’, twerking in the end zone and contorting defensive backs 100-plus times per season, he was known as a “one-cut player.” That’s how Arians referenced the 5-foot-10 Brown in meeting rooms back in 2010, fueling discussions Cheap Jerseys that changed the Steelers’ offense for seven seasons and counting.
Brown could punish grass with his open-field cuts at Central Michigan. But no one except Brown — not even Arians — expected this: arguably the modern era’s best late-round success story, save Tom Brady.
The 21 receivers selected before Antonio Brown in 2010 have had varying levels of success. Here is the list.
“You never know how hard a worker someone is until you get them in the building,” Arians said. “Nobody works harder than Antonio Brown — to this day.”
Part of the NFL’s on-field charm lies with the dozens of late-round picks or undrafted free agents who turn team fliers into Pro Bowl aviation. But Brown’s tale, perhaps more than any other in the past decade, highlights what teams miss when they fixate on buzz words such as “small” and “slow.”
Common themes from Brown’s draft report sound familiar to many late-round playmakers: lacks size, raw route runner, not physical enough, catches into his body. Brown overcoming those stigmas is all the more impressive considering the curious lack of production by the 2010 receiver class.
Twenty-one wideouts were drafted before Brown. Thirteen of them, including the last 11 picked ahead of Brown, are out of the league. Eight of Cheap nfl Jerseys those 11 failed to play an NFL snap beyond 2013. For every Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, there’s David Reed and Mardy Gilyard.
Even now, the NFL’s receiver hierarchy accentuates Brown’s steep climb. On Pro Football Focus’ recent rankings of the best receivers against one-on-one coverage, Brown is sandwiched between a No. 6 overall pick (Julio Jones) and four first-rounders (Odell Beckham Jr., A.J. Green, DeAndre Hopkins and Mike Evans).
“One of the big head-scratchers of my career,” said Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, who has represented hundreds of NFL players over two-plus decades.
Many evaluators who studied Brown acknowledge the NFL truism here: Some just play faster than their 40 time, which, in Brown’s case (4.56 seconds), wasn’t considered fast enough.
“Classic tweener,” former Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage said. “Now no one can cover him.”
That most of the NFL missed on Brown is well-worn terrain. What the misses say about the process — and Brown’s process — helps explain this unusual star turn. With insight from nearly a dozen people who guided, evaluated or observed Brown in 2010, here is “The Brown 21” — one draft lesson for every receiver selected ahead of the Steelers star.
In 2007, Brown arrived at Central Michigan as a 160-pound introvert with a hesitant smile. Head coach Butch Jones knew that Brown came from a Customized Jerseys nontraditional family environment, with many people helping raise him in South Florida. Academic issues had forced Brown into a year of North Carolina prep school. Brown Rule No. 1: Perceived character issues aren’t always a bad thing (more on that later).
Many who care about Brown are protective of all the details, but they knew trust had to be earned with him.
Eventually, Jones learned that Brown could take a hitch 80 yards or run post-practice sprints through snow. Brown’s internal drive proved more expansive than that.
“Coach, have you seen Antonio’s apartment?” a group of players asked Jones. Brown Rule No. 2: Look in a prospect’s apartment.
Upon arrival, Jones saw two laptops on which Brown studied videos of NFL receivers such as Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson. Then he noticed duct tape on Pittsburgh Steelers Jerseys the stairs. Brown had built a makeshift speed ladder for before-bed footwork sessions.
Jones hadn’t seen anything like it.
“He’s a self-made man — that’s always been his edge,” said Jones, now Tennessee’s head coach. “One of the most competitive people I’ve ever coached.”
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