The first round of the NFL draft unfolds Thursday night, and Marquise “Hollywood” Brown is strapping in for the ride of his life. He’s among the most coveted receivers in this class, yet all the defensive talent is in the spotlight. He knows there will be ups and downs, twists and turns.
But please don’t compare this to a roller coaster.
Brown knows roller coasters, and he can’t stand them. Before rising to stardom at the University of Oklahoma as the favorite target of quarterback Kyler Murray — the likely No. 1 overall pick — Brown played at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita. When enrolled there, he had a job at Six Flags Magic Mountain loading people onto “Full Throttle,” a ride the amusement park calls the tallest and fastest looping roller coaster in the world.
“I’m not a ride person,” the soft-spoken Brown said Wednesday during a pre-draft event at the Tennessee Titans’ stadium. “I don’t really see the kick out of it. They made me try it one time and I regretted it. Yeah, that’s not my thing.”
The 5-foot-9, 166-pound Brown expresses his need for speed in other ways. He has run the 40-yard dash in 4.32 seconds, and believes he could have challenged John Ross’ combine-record 4.22 but was unable to run in Indianapolis because of a foot injury. Brown, a cousin of All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown, is likely to be selected somewhere in the first round.
As for the Hollywood nickname, it’s not in reference to Tinseltown. It’s for Hollywood, Fla., his hometown.
“I first heard it after we played Kansas State in 2017,” Brown said, referring to a game in which he caught six passes from Baker Mayfield for 126 yards. “[Play-by-play announcer] Gus Johnson came up with it because I’m from Hollywood, Florida. He said, ‘Hollywood Brown.’ Hollywood, Florida, is not a big town, and there’s not a lot of people who make it out. So I just use it to be like a symbol for my community.”
The Arizona Cardinals have the No. 1 pick for the first time in their history, and they are considering using it on Murray, even though they drafted former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen 10th overall last year. It would be the first time in NFL history a team chose quarterbacks in the opening round two years in a row.
Brown understands the fascination.
“With the ability he has to run, and the ability he has to throw, I don’t think people really understand that combination and how good he really is,” Brown said of the undersized Murray, who won the Heisman Trophy last fall. “But he’s going to show a lot of people.”
Murray and Brown weren’t starters when they got to Oklahoma, yet they would routinely burn the first-team Sooners defense in practice. When the elusive Murray was on the move, plays that looked to be over seemed to last forever.
“I learned that quickly,” Brown said. “There’s some plays I’m like, is he going to run? And he slings it. You’ve always got to be ready.”
If Brown thought he was in the middle of a talented defense then, he should take a look around the green room Thursday night. This draft is loaded with top-shelf defensive players, among them Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Allen, and Louisiana State cornerback Greedy Williams.
In the annual beat writer mock draft conducted by The Times, Williams — not Murray — was selected first by the Cardinals.
“I’m not coming to no franchise thinking, ‘I’m the man,’ ” said the 6-3, 295-pound Williams, winner of the Outland Trophy as the top interior lineman in college football. “I’m coming to a franchise as a weapon that can help the team.”
This draft also features T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, tight ends likely to be selected in the first round — and college teammates at Iowa. Last year was the first time in 14 years that two tight ends were taken in the opening round, so two from the same school is bizarre.
There’s a decent chance that four quarterbacks will be selected in the top half of the first round: Murray, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, Missouri’s Drew Lock and Duke’s Daniel Jones.
As for which position will be chosen first, history is on Murray’s side. Quarterbacks have been selected first overall in three of the last four drafts, seven of 10, and 15 of 20.
Brown, meanwhile, plans to sit and wait as patiently as he can for his phone to ring. He’s bracing for a wild ride and will keep his hands and feet inside the green room until the draft comes to a complete stop.
Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer