The definition of a hidden gem in a draft has become a phrase that is just thrown out these days and has had its meaning diminished over time. The meaning of hidden gem repeats as this: “Something possessing a value of beauty that is not immediately apparent, which therefore has received far less recognition than it deserves.” Or in a shorter meaning it’s describing Lions star wide receiver Amon-Ra St Brown.
St Brown attended Mater Dei, highschool in Santa Ana, California. This is where he would have his outstanding senior season where he managed to obtain 72 receptions, 1,320 yards, and 20 touchdowns.These absurd numbers managed to land him as a five star recruit and the number two wide receiver in his 2018 recruiting class. He would gain offers from many D1 colleges but would eventually sign his letter of content to the University of South California. USC would become the college that St. Brown called home for his entire collegiate career. St. Brown would have a good freshman and sophomore college season where he racked up a combined 1,792 yards and 9 touchdowns. Unfortunately St. Brown never got to play out his full junior season which limited his ability to boost his draft stock. In his junior season he was only able to play six games due to covid shortening the season.
St. Brown declared for the NFL draft after his junior season in USC hoping to land an early draft pick and the ability to prove himself in the big leagues. Unfortunately this had not gone as St. Brown was hoping. In the 2021 NFL draft St. Brown fell to the fourth round and was the seventeenth overall wide receiver taken in the draft. When St. Brown fell to the Lions in the fourth round, they swooped on the opportunity and it has turned out to be one of the best hidden gems in that 2021 NFL draft.
Amon-Ra St Brown went into the 2021 NFL season high on the Lions depth chart which gave him the best chance to grow and breakout as a player. The Lions wide receiver room consisted of Amon-Ra St Brown, Tyrell Williams, Kalif Raymond, Quintez Cephus, and T.J. Hockenson. None of these players at the start of the season were truly a wide receiver, one a true receiving threat, besides tight end T.J. Hockenson. Because of this Jared Goff had to always be looking for the open guy since there was no wide receiver he could truly depend on. Which is why Goff and Amon-Ra were able to build such a strong bond. St. Brown became one of the most sure wide receivers not only on the Lions but also in the league. His outstanding skill set of route running, high-pointing footballs, and his amazing set of hands made for nothing more than a game changing weapon.
Amon-Ra struggled early on during his rookie season; he was only able to accumulate 43 yards in his first three games in the league. He also wasn’t able to record a receiving touchdown until their week 12 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. Even with his slow start to the season he was still able to reach 912 yards, and 5 touchdowns. He ended his rookie campaign with four straight games of 90 or more receiving yards and a touchdown in each of his last four. The Lions may not have ended the season on a good note, they may not have proved any haters wrong. But one person on that team did and that’s Amon-Ra St Brown.
After Amon-Ra St Brown had an outstanding rookie season he became one of the few players fans looked forward to seeing during the 2022 season. Expectations became mixed, some thinking he would boom into a top five receiver in the NFL, others saying he would bust under the Lions offensive scheme. The Lions 2022 season proved a few offensive things true:
- Dan Campbell took knee caps from all over the league
- Jamaal Williams is a stud
- St. Brown is a top 8 wide receiver in the NFL.
St Brown had an amazing rebound season to what already was an amazing rookie season. St. Brown had 1161 yards, 106 receptions, and 6 touchdowns. St. Brown ranked fifth in receptions, tenth in receiving yards, and tied nineteenth in receiving touchdowns. He was nominated for his first ever pro bowl where he would dominate and win the best catch award.
The understanding that St. Brown broke all expectations needs to be understood. When the Lions first drafted him they looked at him as a project, a long term project. Although the Lions have already stated they saw the talent in him, so did everyone else but teams just did not want to take a risk. But the Lions did. St. Brown took off in his career with a chip on his shoulder being the 17th overall wide receiver taken in the draft. He exceeded any expectations that was set and was one of the key pieces of the Lions 2022 success.