Emerging Stars: Two Undrafted Rookie Receivers Capture Aaron Rodgers’s Attention

Xavier Gipson and Jason Brownlee must be doing something right.

At the least, the New York Jets‘ two undrafted rookie receivers have captured the attention of starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

“I would say 16 [Jason Brownlee] and 82 [Xavier Gipson] really had nice camps as rookies,” said the future Hall-of-Fame field general following the final springtime practice in Florham Park.

In a receivers’ room loaded with proven veterans, Gipson and Brownlee have succeeded in being noticed. Their emergence likely leads more to a shot at the Practice Squad rather than the 53-man roster, but both lesser-known prospects have shown NFL potential during organized team activities.

“There’s been some young guys that have been really impressive I think in the camp. You always got to temper expectations because there’s no pads on, there’s no contact,” said Rodgers.

In a session open to the media, Gipson hauled in a pass downfield during Rodgers’s first 11-on-11 drill towards the end of the final OTAs practice. The reception allowed the Jets to move into field goal range during a two-minute situation.

Brownlee made touchdown catches in each of the final two practices where media was allowed. On June 6, he caught a short throw from Rodgers during 7-on-7 red zone work. Three days later, Brownlee hooked up with Zach Wilson for a score. Covered tightly, the rookie made an impressive one-handed snag in the end zone.

Granted it’s much easier catching passes when the defender consists of air, but Gipson and Brownlee also made noteworthy plays when going against the defense during team drills. Still, there was no live contact permitted and players wore only helmets with shorts and practice jerseys.

Both underrated rookies have some NFL traits to go along with impressive collegiate resumés. They showcased their abilities as teammates during NFLPA Bowl Week in Pasadena, CA, standing out amongst a group that included prospects from Power 5 programs. Gipson and Brownlee competed for the Jeff Fisher-coached American Team.

The 5-foot-9 Gipson is an undersized burner who consistently put his big-play ability on display competing for Stephen F. Austin at the NCAA FCS level. He averaged 17.9 yards per reception en-route to Stats Perform All-America First Team honors in 2022.

Gipson, who made a 48-yard catch in the NFLPA Bowl all-star game, was the active receiving yards leader (4,321) in the NCAA subdivision (DI FCS) that once featured the likes of Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens and all-time Jets’ fan favorite Wayne Chrebet.

Brownlee, who has good size for a pro receiver, checked in at 6’2″ and 202 pounds on NFLPA Bowl Weigh-In Day. The Southern Mississippi product went on to make three receptions for 78 yards, including a 61-yard gainer, in the annual all-star exhibition.

After transferring from JUCO, Brownlee led Southern Miss in receiving for three consecutive seasons. He totaled 2,144 yards and 21 touchdowns on 135 receptions at the Conference USA member school.

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