- The Washington Times - Monday, May 3, 2021

As Dyami Brown’s name was called in the third round, NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah gave out a player comparison that caught the attention of plenty of Washington fans.

“You see the comparison there is Terry McLaurin,” Jeremiah said. “Very interesting seeing where he ends up going.”

Brown, of course, went to Washington — where he’ll now be teammates with McLaurin, the team’s star receiver. The franchise used the 82nd overall pick on Brown, a vertical threat with serious speed on the outside. Sound familiar? And coincidentally,  McLaurin was also picked in the third round, albeit six picks before at No. 76.

McLaurin turned out to be a giant steal for Washington. So did running back Antonio Gibson, the team’s third-round pick last year who led Washington in rushing yards. Now, Washington is hoping it continues its recent track record of finding gems in the third with Brown — or cornerback Benjamin St-Juste, taken by Washington at No. 74. 

Brown’s selection, in particular, was heavily praised. Pro Football Focus labeled the pick as one of the steals of the draft — touting that Brown was the 45th player ranked on their board. ESPN’s Mel Kiper also had the North Carolina product projected going much earlier, somewhere in the 40s. 

Coach Ron Rivera did little to temper expectations, saying he was glad Brown fell.

“I’m very excited about it because in the third round, if you let the board do its job, if you believe in the way it’s been set … you’re going to get the steal,” Rivera said. “Your grade may not reflect others. He’s the guy you believe in.”

There are several stats that jump out when looking at Brown. He was one of 23 receivers in the nation to average more than 19 yards per catch last season — and he had more total yards than anyone on the list. His total 1,099 receiving yards also ranked sixth in the nation in 2020.

But what caught Rivera’s eye was the sturdiness of Brown’s hands. The 21-year-old dealt with drops at North Carolina, but Rivera said they were “concentration drops” due to a lack of focus. According to Pro Football Focus, Brown never dropped a contested target in three years with the Tar Heels. 

“Man, when he competed for it, he went out and got it,” Rivera said. “I like the way he runs his routes and gets off the line of scrimmage and is able to stack the defender right away and use his speed to keep his body and keep the ball between himself and the defender.”

Brown will need time to develop. He told reporters he had a limited route in college, not running many of the intermediate routes — curls, digs, slants. Brown spent the last few months working on his technique for those concepts, as well as getting adjusted to playing on the right side of the field. At North Carolina, Brown mostly lined up on the left as the “X” receiver. 

“I feel like a whole lot of my game hasn’t been shown throughout the past few years just because of how our offense was, I feel like I’m an all-around receiver that can do it all,” Brown said. “Speed isn’t the only thing that I can do.”

Washington, meanwhile, is also high on St-Juste. At 6-foot-3, St-Juste plays with physicality on the outside and cam jam receivers at the line of scrimmage. St-Juste, who’s originally from Canada, can also play free safety in certain packages as he switched there in college at Minnesota. Most of his six career interceptions came as a safety, he said. 

Rivera was tight-lipped when asked if Washington saw St-Juste more as a cornerback or safety. The team will try him at both spots, he said. 

But with St-Juste and Brown, Rivera said the two will have a chance to come in and contribute right away. The question, of course, becomes if either can blow past expectations as McLaurin and Gibson did. 

“We had two guys that we liked,” Rivera said. “You set the board for a reason and you trust in it and you’re going to make (a) good decision.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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