Amon-Ra St. Brown can’t turn on the NFL playoffs without seeing a hint of himself on the screen.
In rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase’s big plays for the Cincinnati Bengals. In Cooper Kupp’s bone-rattling blocks for the Los Angeles Rams. And in the creative ways the San Francisco 49ers use do-everything star Deebo Samuel.
“I think Deebo, he’s going to change the game for many years to come for receivers that can go up in the backfield,” St. Brown said Thursday during an appearance in Los Angeles to sign trading cards for Panini America. “It changes the dynamic, being able to go in ’11’ personnel or ’10’ personnel and then bring you back to the backfield.”
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He set franchise rookie records in every major receiving category while occasionally lining up in the backfield, and he can’t help but think now what the future holds as he watches his peers shine in the playoffs.
Chase, the first receiver taken in the 2021 draft, led all rookies — and finished fourth in the NFL — with 1,455 yards receiving, about 500 more than St. Brown had for the Lions. He had 14 catches for 225 yards in two playoff games to help the Bengals reach the AFC championship game for the first time in 33 years.
Samuel, the 49ers; leading receiver and second-leading rusher in the postseason, converted a key third-and-7 with a 9-yard run on San Francisco’s game-winning field goal drive in last week’s upset of the Green Bay Packers.
And Kupp, who led the NFL in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in the regular season, starred in the Rams’ divisional win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; he scored on a 70-yard pass, had a 44-yard reception with five seconds left to set up the game-winning field goal and laid a run block on Devin White that had St. Brown jumping out of his chair.
“You love to see that as a receiver,” St. Brown said. “A receiver that blocks, I think honestly every position on the football field can respect it and really appreciate a receiver that blocks because receivers have that preconceived notion or preconceived idea that they’re divas, they don’t really want to block, they just want to go out there and catch touchdowns all day. So you watch a guy like Cooper Kupp, he’s catching touchdowns. He obviously led the league in receptions, touchdowns and yards, and plus he’s making those kind of blocks. I feel like that’s the ultimate competitor right there.”
Kupp is considered the best blocking receiver in the NFL, Samuel the most versatile player at the position and Chase the best in what looks like a star-studded rookie class.
St. Brown rates closely behind Kupp, Samuel and Chase in those categories. He led the Lions with 90 catches for 912 yards this season, got seven carries as a pseudo-running back and earned high praise from Lions coach Dan Campbell and others for his contributions as a blocker in the run game.
“This kid is, I mean, he’s better than gold,” Campbell said after the Lions’ Week 18 win over the Packers. “When you’re the athlete he is, explosive, but then you’re tough and you’re competitive, just the way you’re made up and he’s smart. Man, those guys are hard to find that are all-encompassing like that, so I’m glad we’ve got him, and he proved again the consistency is there, that’s for dang sure.”
St. Brown said he has mostly laid low in the two-plus weeks since the Lions’ season ended, resting his body and recharging mentally for a big offseason.
He spent two days this week signing trading cards and handling media obligations for Panini, and he marveled at what it’s like to be featured on cards now that his first NFL season is done.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s definitely cool to see.”
He squeezed in a workout and some pickup basketball Monday, even though he was determined to give his body a month of rest after a long season.
“I was bored,” he said. “It’s not even that I wanted to, it’s just like, I feel like I had to cause I was just so bored. I was just sitting at home, I was like, ‘I got to do something with my life,’ so I just went to go get a good pump in.”
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And sometime after the Super Bowl, he’ll reconnect with Lions quarterback Jared Goff for some throwing. He’ll also begin his own offseason training program, in which he will focus on the nuances of the position in hopes of following in his peers’ footsteps and leading his team to playoff success.
“Obviously people love to look at numbers, so you look at my stats and add a few hundred yards to my yardage total, you add a few more touchdowns to that, other things that you might want to add, you can add that to my stats,” St. Brown said. “But for me, (my goal next year is) just helping the team win. That’s always the biggest thing. If the team wins, you’re obviously doing something right. So anything I can do to help the team win, that’s always the main thing in my head.”