Would Vincent Brown Be An Upgrade Over Jerome Simpson?


Talented but oft-injured receiver Vincent Brown was waived by the Chargers with an injury settlement two weeks ago and is now making the rounds, trying to score a job with a new team.

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ESPN’s Adam Caplan reports that Brown has 3 workouts lined up for next week, and has received interest from no less than 8 teams.

It so happens that current Vikings OC Norv Turner coached Brown for two years in San Diego and is said to be a fan of the receiver.

Given Turner’s known admiration for Brown’s abilities, can we assume the Vikings are one of the 8 teams that have put in a call on the former Charger? Can we further assume that they’re one of the 3 teams scheduled to work him out next week?

Outside of the connect-the-dots argument, there’s no reason to assume Brown is on the wish list for the Vikings. But should he be on their wish list?

That all depends on how you personally break down the Vikings’ wide receiver situation. Some think the Vikes are especially deep at that position, but I happen to not share this assessment.

Beyond Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings, I don’t think the Vikings are very strong at WR at all. Jarius Wright has shown me nothing. Adam Thielen is a nice story and looks like a tough, scrappy kid, but realistically he is a #5 at best. Rodney Smith is borderline.

And then there’s Jerome Simpson, the eternal question mark.

Jerome has two more games left on his suspension, and we assume that nothing more will surface between now and Week 4 that will cause him to be suspended again.

Fingers crossed.

Even when Simpson returns, we don’t know exactly how he will fit in Norv Turner’s offense. He is presumably the deep threat, but this is a shaky presumption at best. Because frankly, when has Simpson ever proven himself to be consistently good as a deep receiver?

Inconsistency is the issue with Simpson. He’ll make a great catch now and again, but he’ll drop easy ones too, and there will always be questions about his route-running and focus.

Basically, he’s Bernard Berrian, without the ridiculous salary.

Surely the Vikings can do better than Jerome Simpson? We’ve thought that for a couple years now, and every year they keep bringing back Jerome Simpson.

Well, maybe now there’s a better option out there than Jerome Simpson. How does Vincent Brown stack up against Simpson as an overall receiver, and does he make better sense than Simpson in Norv’s offense?

Right up front we must point out that Simpson and Brown are not the same type of receiver. Brown does not have Simpson’s speed or athleticism, and he’s several inches shorter.

Here’s what Brown does have: the consistency in running routes and making catches that Simpson has always lacked.

Brown will run precise routes, and he will hold onto the ball. He has to be excellent in those areas, because he’s not a great athlete.

Brown is also good at timing his jumps when he goes up and gets the ball. This helps him compensate for his lack of size.

Next question: When you look at the deep stats and compare Brown to Simpson, do you see enough separation to make the case that Brown would represent a clear upgrade over Jerome?

According to Football Outsiders, the answer to this is…mmmmmaybe?

It’s certainly not-clear cut. In the one year where Brown had enough catches to qualify for Football Outsiders’ rankings, he finished above Simpson in just about every category.



An explanation of all these esoteric Football Outsiders stats is located here.

The numbers do tend to make your hair hurt. For our purposes, here is all we need to concentrate on:

Last year, Brown ranked 60th among receivers in three categories and 58th in another. Simpson ranked 70th in two of those same categories and 72nd in the other two. In other words, there was no category in which Simpson was better than Brown.

There are those who will argue that Brown’s production was largely a product of Philip Rivers, and it’s not a totally invalid argument. Plus, the Vikings did not have a very settled QB situation last year, and that probably affected Simpson’s numbers to some extent. So the margin between them, already not that wide, might even be narrower than the stats suggest.

Any way you slice it, Brown is no #1-type receiver, finishing no better than 58th in any of the four categories listed above. Vincent Brown is no better than a #3 receiver in the NFL. But that’s okay because the Vikings already have their #1 and #2.

The question is, would dumping Simpson before his suspension is over and signing Brown off the street ultimately be better for the roster than keeping Simpson through the season?

I think we’ve shown that Brown is at least a marginally better player than Simpson on the stat sheet. By reputation at least, Brown is a more technically proficient receiver than Simpson.

Simpson has an advantage over Brown in athletic ability, size and presumed value as a deep receiver.

Really, when you look at Brown, you see a sort of poor man’s Greg Jennings. That’s where the whole “fit” question comes in. Does Brown complement the other players already on the roster, or would he represent a redundancy?

Looking at it superficially, Simpson would seem to offer more in the way of complementary ability, or at least potential complementary ability.

Aug 16, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson (81) catches a pass in the first quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The problem with Simpson is, you don’t know from play-to-play what you’re going to get. With Brown you would.

It boils down to this: would you rather have the more-athletic Simpson, with all his inconsistency, or the consistent Brown with all his physical limitations? Also keeping in mind that Brown is extremely injury-prone.

When you add everything together, it looks like a wash.

Really, the argument for getting rid of Simpson exists separately from the argument for adding Brown. Simpson is a headache and of negligible value to the team. You can argue that the Vikings would be better off dumping him even if they don’t have a backup plan.

Whether Brown represents a better option than Simpson is a question without a clear answer. Brown might be worth taking a chance on, even with his injury history. But it’s not a slam dunk.

We’ll see if the Vikings even take a look at Brown. We can’t assume that Norv Turner wants him in just because they have history together (though Turner does seem to like bringing in his ex-players).

My money would be on the Vikings not looking at Brown and keeping Simpson. But who knows.