While Ole Miss' 2016 season had its disappointments, there were some bright spots. Wide receiver A.J. Brown's emergence as a key target was one of those positives. Brown entered the 2016 season as a highly touted four-star signee from Starkville High School that looked to make his mark early, and he did just that. In his debut against Florida State, Brown hauled in a Chad Kelly pass for a huge gain on a drive that ended with a touchdown. For the remainder of the season, Brown proved to be a big-bodied target that picked up tough yards for Ole Miss on offense. Brown's production was hampered by nagging injuries throughout the season, but he still managed to finish his freshman year with 29 receptions for 412 yards and two touchdowns.
With junior Damore'ea Stringfellow departing early for the NFL Draft, Brown will be the Rebels' primary big-bodied target in 2017. He'll need to use his physical play-making ability to win jump balls and stiff arm defenders for yards after the catch. Brown's production will be a key to the Ole Miss offense's success in 2017. Along with Stringfellow, the Rebels will also lose tight end Evan Engram, who led all Ole Miss receivers in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Brown will have to pick up Engram's production as well. While Brown will need to put up big numbers in 2017, he won't be alone. Fellow now-sophomore D.K. Metcalf returns from a foot injury, and Tré Nixon will be available after a year as a redshirt. Redshirt sophomore Van Jefferson, junior DeMarkus Lodge and senior Markell Pack will also return, which should free up some coverage on Brown to have an explosive season in 2017.