From Huskie's deep threat to possible NFL slot receiver with questionable speed. That's how big of a jump it can be athletically for guys trying to transition from college to the NFL. NIU's Da'ron Brown was considered the fastest wide receiver on the NIU squad, but if he's going to make it in the NFL it's going to be his hands that get him there. Not his feet.
Brown had starred as the Huskies deep threat and big playmaker over the last two seasons. In 2014, he hauled in 68 catches for 1,065 yards and 6 touchdowns. In 2013, he posted 46 catches, 752 yards, and 9 touchdowns while missing the better part of three games late in the season with a toe injury. While his 2014 totals were career highs in catches and yards, they might have been even higher had it not been for the learning curve of first year starter Drew Hare at quarterback.
While the redshirt sophomore Hare was more than adequate, and at times impressive, he did struggle with accuracy on his deep ball. That most likely contributed to a shorter, quick passing scheme. So while Brown did catch more balls, his average yards per catch and touchdown totals declined.
Recently Da'ron Brown was a late addition to the annual East-West Shrine game. His production in that game was limited by a dysfunctional offense. His West team quarterbacks were only 10 of 25 passing for 75 yards.
Like many all-star games, the actual contest is secondary to the week of practice leading up to it. Scouts from the NFL get an extended look at players competing hard while showing their technique and skills. Brown was one of the players who shined during practice.
NFL media analyst Charles Davis noted that "he didn't observe Northern Illinois WR Da'ron Brown drop a ball at East-West Game practices".
Brown's future in the NFL will hinge on him becoming a tough, possession receiver running precise routes. Brown has already shown the ability to run in traffic, as well as maintain his blocks. It's just a matter of proving he can be a dynamic underneath type of receiver. The player I think he should most try to emulate is Miami Dolphin's first year slot receiver Jarvis Landry.
Landry stands 5 foot 11 inches, weighs 200 pounds and runs a pedestrian 4.6 forty yard dash. Very similar to Brown at 6 foot, 199 pounds and so far a reported 4.64 forty(NFLdraftscout.com). Landry had similar criticism about his athleticism as Brown is hearing now. He lacks separation speed and lacks size. What Landry didn't lack was a successful resume against top competition as he played in the SEC.
Landry finished his rookie season with 84 catches, primarily because of his good hands and route running. If Brown can continue to show he can be this type of receiver as he did in the East-West practices, maybe he can find a spot on an NFL roster.
In all likely hood Da'ron will be a training camp invite as an undrafted free agent. An impressive pro day could help get him there much like it helped former NIU wide receiver Nathan Palmer in 2012. Palmer is still a practice squad player, but he has what any UDFA wants, an opportunity. That's what Brown needs, an opportunity and the right situation.