Undrafted wide receiver Marlon Brown won't win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award, but he is the Baltimore Ravens' top rookie.
He's also proven to be near the top of Joe Flacco's list of trusted targets.
With the season on the line Sunday, Flacco had three options in the end zone in the final seconds of the game. Torrey Smith, the team's leading receiver, was on the right side. Jacoby Jones, a $4 million receiver, was on the left. And Marlon Brown, who was signed nearly three weeks after the NFL draft, got behind a Vikings linebacker in the middle.
Flacco put the nine-yard pass high in the air to his most inexperienced and inexpensive receiver. Brown leapt to make the catch and somehow got both feet in the back of the end zone, lifting the Ravens to a 29-26 win over the Minnesota Vikings.
"I’m not thinking back there, ‘Who is in this position? Can I trust this guy?,'" Flacco said. "If I was thinking that -- if that was going through my head -- I’d have all the confidence in the world, and he’d be a guy that I’d pick out. He is a great football player. He has got a lot of things going for him, and he’s getting better and better each week.”
Brown has earned that trust. He leads the Ravens with six touchdowns in the red zone, and only four other wide receivers have had more this season: Denver's Wes Welker (10), Pittsburgh's Jerricho Cotchery (nine), Dallas' Dez Bryant (eight), Detroit's Calvin Johnson (eight) and Cincinnati's Marvin Jones (seven).
Not among the 28 wide receivers drafted this year, Brown is tied for the most touchdown catches for rookies. Why Flacco likes throwing to Brown is he plays bigger than 6 feet 5.
“He’s a big, strong guy with body control and catch radius,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Joe can put the ball around him, and he can make an adjustment and go make the catch, and that’s really valuable in the red zone.”