NFL
October 22, 2020
BY Isaiah Freedman

Lights, Camera, Action: It’s Hollywood Brown’s Time To Shine

There’s no doubt about it: Marquise “Hollywood” Brown is on the verge of breaking out as one of the best receivers in the league.

Is that a wild declaration for a player who has yet to eclipse 1,000 career receiving yards? Does it seem a little farfetched that Brown, who has played just 20 career games, has shown enough to be an elite player at his position? Is it crazy to think that a 5-foot-9 receiver can be the lead passing option in one of the best offenses in the NFL?

The answer to all of those questions is, of course, no because Hollywood will live up to his star-studded name. 

He might be just 23, but from college to his first injury-riddled year, the speedster has displayed that rare game-breaking ability that so few players possess. 

And now, in his sophomore season, the bright lights are directly on him. It's time for Hollywood to become a star. 

How did the Ravens' best receiver go from a junior college football player working at Six Flags to starring in the most explosive offense in the league? 

We're glad you asked. 

Making a Spark in College

Brown was so lightly recruited out of high school that he settled for a junior college called College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, California. Upon arriving, Brown immediately applied for a job at Six Flags, where he made $700 a month operating the X2 roller coaster and ate mostly Ramen Noodles and frozen foods to make ends meet, as detailed in a piece by Bleacher Report’s Matt Hayes.

But with Brown’s speed, it didn't take long before people started to notice. After a fantastic freshman season, Brown received interest from a handful of prestigious programs before deciding on Oklahoma. Safe to say, despite his small frame, he thrived.

In two seasons with the Sooners, Brown put up a ridiculous 2,413 receiving yards on 132 receptions for 17 touchdowns. He couldn’t be stopped, with his next-level athleticism and ability to break tackles combining to make him the perfect target for Heisman Trophy winners Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.

Feast your eyes on these insane plays:

Brown, unfortunately, suffered a Lisfranc foot injury in Oklahoma’s Big 12 Championship Game in 2018. He never ran at the NFL Scouting Combine, but nobody needed to know his 40-yard dash time to realize he had game-breaking speed. Questions swirled about his health, but he ultimately was the first receiver selected in the 2019 NFL Draft, when the Ravens picked him 25th overall.

Rookie Year Promise

Hollywood’s career got off to a faster start than whatever his 40-yard dash time is. His first catch went for a 47-yard TD. His second catch? An 83-yard TD.

Hollywood cooled off after his first game. In fact, he never even had 100 receiving yards in a game for the rest of the season, but so much of that was based on his usage. Brown had just 71 targets last season, good for 82nd-most in the league. After the Ravens bowed out against the Titans, it was revealed Hollywood’s foot was still bothering him, and he eventually had to undergo offseason surgery to remove loose screws. 

Despite the usual ups and downs that naturally occur during a rookie season, Hollywood was able to make some absolutely explosive plays:

The rookie season stats speak for themselves:

  • Brown had the two best rookie receiving games, according to PFF, receiving a grade above 90.0
  • Of the 50 receivers who saw at least 15 deep targets in 2019, Brown had the sixth-highest separation rate, per PFF
  • On his 65 targets, Brown generated an NFL-high 134.4 passer rating, despite playing with a hurt foot 

Leveling Up in Year 2

Progress is rarely linear. Despite being fully recovered from his foot surgery, Brown hasn’t broken out quite yet. Through six games this season, Hollywood has 376 yards and only one touchdown. Those numbers aren't exactly Brown's fault, though. Hollywood and Jackson have just missed on multiple passes that would have easily gone for touchdowns. 

Brown is averaging 64 yards per game compared to 42 last year. While there have been fewer explosive plays — and, don't worry, those are coming — Hollywood has become more consistent. He ranks third in the league in air yards with 674. That means Brown is elite at stretching the defense. His average depth of target is 16.1 yards. Even if he’s personally yet to fully capitalize on his game-breaking ability, defenses have had to account for how he can stretch the field, which then opens up intermediate areas for tight end Mark Andrews, and leaves lighter boxes for the Ravens’ vaunted run game. Hollywood’s breathtaking speed is akin to a great NBA shooter like Klay Thompson. Defenses must key in on Thompson because if they let him loose, he’s going to light them up from deep. So even if Thompson doesn’t score as much, he has a gravitational pull that results in higher-quality looks for his teammates.

The Ravens sport a fantastic 17-3 record when Hollywood has played. He’s still so young, and as he adds more muscle and his foot continues to get healthier, he’s only going to get better.

We are witnessing the rise of the NFL’s next unguardable player. No, he doesn't have the build of a Julio Jones, or the footwork of a Keenan Allen. But he just might be the fastest and most efficient player in the league.

Now he just needs to show everyone he's a star. 

Photo: Getty Images/Lines Illustration