One of the biggest stories in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft was a significant trade move executed by the Cardinals. In what some viewed as an “overpay”, the Cards traded the 23rd pick in the first round for former Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown.
High expectations have followed Brown since the Ravens selected him in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He is coming off his best season, but inconsistency has been an issue for Brown despite some real flashes of promise. He will now be under a hot spotlight in Arizona too, after what the Cardinals gave up to acquire him, and the projected need for him to play a large role in the passing game while DeAndre Hopkins serves a six-game suspension.
Are the Cardinals Expecting Too Much From Marquise Brown?
Brown Has Not Shown That He Can Be Relied On As A No. 1 WR
The Cardinals are obviously looking to Brown to operate as their No. 1 wide receiver for the first six games of the 2022 season. But that may be a lot to ask when you consider he was not successful enough in that regard with the Ravens. Baltimore has long been searching for a true No. 1 wideout. Brown had the opportunity to become the clear alpha WR for a team that really needed it, and never quite delivered as hoped.
Brown is a big-play type who can certainly find the end zone, as evidenced by his 15 TD receptions in his first two pro seasons. But he only caught 104 balls in those first two years with just over 1.350 yards. He did improve to catch 91 passes for 1,008 yards in 2021, although his TD total dropped to six.
Catching 91 passes is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but barely reaching the 1,000-yard mark and scoring just six TDs are not what a team ideally wants from its No. 1 wide receiver. Brown had three 100-yard games, all in the first half of the schedule, and did not have a TD reception in his final nine games of the season. Sure, the Ravens are known as a run-heavy team, but better numbers are expected from an offense’s top wide receiver, regardless.
Brown has shown the ability to rise to the occasion in the postseason, though. In his rookie season, he had seven catches for 126 yards in a first-round loss to Tennessee. In a Wild Card win over the Titans the next year, Brown had seven catches for 109 yards. Ultimately, though, Brown never developed as the true No. 1 WR the Ravens were hoping he would become, despite playing with a strong-armed QB.
Brown continually challenged defenses with his downfield gears and potential to find the end zone. But he never became a consistent possession receiver or a guy who the Ravens could count on when they needed a key reception. Drops were also an issue, as he tied for third in the NFL with six last season.
A Kyler Murray Reunion And a DeAndre Hopkins Return Will Stir Optimism
The Cardinals are hoping that a reunion with Brown’s college quarterback can spur both him and Kyler Murray to greater heights of production. In two seasons working with Murray at Oklahoma State, Brown had 2,413 receiving yards and 17 TD receptions. It was his performances with Murray that led to Brown becoming a first-round pick and a reason why the Cardinals parted with one to bring him to Arizona.
Brown’s skills as a big-play threat and TD producer fit well in the high-flying Cardinals’ passing attack and better than they did in Baltimore. But we may not see Brown settle in comfortably with the Cards until Hopkins returns. He has already demonstrated that he cannot inspire a heavy level of confidence to be a real No. 1 wide receiver for an NFL team.
When Hopkins is out, Brown will likely draw the most attention as a top wide receiver from opposing secondaries. He should notch some big gainers and a few TDs working with Murray again, but the Cardinals will have to ask other wideouts to step forward and contribute a lot while Brown is occupied with a heavier amount of defensive focus. A.J. Green and Rondale Moore will play very important roles in the passing game in the first six games of the season.
Once Hopkins returns, though, we will see the true benefit of the trade. Brown can slide over to the No. 2 WR role, and that is where he can realistically fit better into the Arizona passing game. Brown was miscast as a No. 1 WR in Baltimore and will be for six games with the Cardinals this season. But he will be much more effective and less hindered by heavy defensive attention when he is working as a complement to Hopkins. Brown appears to fit the mold of a true No. 2 NFL wideout rather than being asked to function as the prime playmaker at the position.
Brown was a second target overall behind Mark Andrews in Baltimore, but there were still expectations that he would produce better as the No. 1 guy at wide receiver. Now the role will change once Hopkins is back in the WR mix, as Brown will be benefiting from playing alongside a real NFL superstar wideout.
Over the course of the 2022 season, Brown should emerge as a comfortable No. 2 wide receiver for the Cardinals and can only make the passing game better. Maybe a first-round pick was too much to give up for a No. 2 wideout. But if the Cardinals can make a deep playoff run with a very strong WR crew of Hopkins, Brown, Green, and Moore, then they can be content with the price that was paid.