The Los Angeles Rams will be looking to get more out of the tight end position in 2019. Outside of Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee there is plenty of opportunity for someone to separate as the No. 3 guy. After the NFL Draft, the Rams went out and signed Texas State tight end Keenan Brown with the hope that he can develop into another receiving threat.
Brown committed to Oklahoma State out of high school as a wide receiver, but after being red-shirted as a freshman and a foot injury sidelining him as a sophomore, he switched to a tight-end /fullback hybrid. He caught just six passes for 103 yards over the next two years and transferred to Texas State.
The former Cowboy flourished with the Bobcats. Brown would end up leading the Bobcats with 47 receptions for 556 yards and five touchdowns. Despite it being his first season with Texas State, he led the team in targets and finished the 2018 season ranked first in forced missed tackles (24), third in total yards after the catch (427) and sixth in yards after contact (107) among qualifying tight ends.
It’s a small sample size, but there’s little doubt that Brown has the talent. He’s that prototypical “tweener” tight end that is built like a wide receiver. Due to his wide-receiver like frame, he’s much faster than most tight ends and is able too fast for most linebackers and excels with the ball in space.
He needs to improve as a blocker, but as an undrafted free agent, this was a low-risk, high-reward signing.
It’s hard to say how many tight ends the Rams will keep. Everett and Higbee will have the top-2 spots on lockdown, but Johnny Mundt, Kendall Blanton, and Brown will all compete for the potential third and fourth spots.
Mundt excels as a blocker but doesn’t add a lot in the passing game and he’s also going into his third year with the team. Blanton meanwhile is in the exact same position as Brown as he comes in as an undrafted free agent from Missouri.
The Rams have liked having that developmental “tweener” tight end on their roster. In McVay’s first year that player was Temarrick Hemingway. Brown and Blanton will be competing for that role.
Three Plays on Tape
Texas State TE Keenan Brown is a real nice mid round prospect. Quick, strong, and smart, this dude has the makings of a solid TE who will have a long career. Fantastic blocker as well as a competent receiver. #DraftTwitter pic.twitter.com/KymRSKmLjG
— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) December 29, 2018
This play perfectly displays Keenan Brown’s ability in the open field as well as his speed. He catches the tight end screen on the backside of the play and sheds the initial tackler. Instead of a one-yard loss, this turns into a 25-yard gain.
As a receiving TE, no one moves better in the open field this year than Keenan Brown, yes, not even Noah Fant. Dude is so fluid and a pretty good route runner honestly. He uses his frame to go up and box guys out consistently, and he can block. He’s going to be a stud. pic.twitter.com/izGn3cnjYk
— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) February 12, 2019
Here you can see more of his ability and athleticism as a receiver. He lines up out wide in the slot and goes up and makes the grab over the defensive back. Not many receivers can make this play, let alone a tight end. Brown’s experience as a wide receiver makes him a unique weapon for an NFL offense.
It’s just casual for Keenan Brown to run guys right on over. pic.twitter.com/5gUBP1JDRr
— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) February 16, 2019
On this play, you get a sense of Brown’s ability as a blocker. It’s subtle, but would be a 3-4 yard run, turns into a 10-yard gain because of Brown making a clean block on the incoming linebacker.
Can Keenan Brown make an early impact and make the roster?
It’s hard to put expectations on an undrafted free agent outside of just making the roster. Brown could become a favorite target of John Wolford or Brandon Allen in the preseason on the second and third-team offenses.
However, while Brown will need to make an impact on offense, it’s special teams that he’ll also need to contribute on to make the roster.
2019 Outlook and Role
Brown’s goal needs to be just to make the roster or get on the practice squad. The Rams have the contract of Tyler Higbee expiring at the end of the year. If he can get with a team like the Rams that has a high-powered offense with a good offensive coach like the Rams, he may have a future with the team beyond 2019.
Chances of Making the Final Roster
Brown was seen as a late day two or day three prospect in the draft in April. Due to his lack of experience and limited success at a small school, the former Texas State player went undrafted. It’s going to be an uphill battle, but there is certainly an opportunity for someone like Brown to make the cut.
If Brown can outperform Blanton in the preseason and show his potential on offense as well as special teams, he’ll be difficult to keep off of the roster. If he does fall short of the roster, he’ll be someone the Rams look to get on the practice squad like they did Hemingway in 2018.