In the famous words of Taylor Twellman, “What are we doing?” A.J. Brown had a polarizing rookie campaign. He saw action in all 16 games, but only started in 11 of them. He saw 84 targets and caught 52 of them, for a catch percentage of 61.9%. For comparison, Julio Jones’ catch rate was 63.1%, Deandre Hopkins’ was 69%, nice, and Michael Thomas’ was a whopping 80.5%. This can be a very subjective stat, but I want to paint an entire picture here instead of leaving any stone left unturned.
Brown went over 1,000 receiving yards, while tacking on eight touchdowns. He also had three rushes for 60 yards and one score on the ground. In this article, we will go over why I think you should swim in the opposite direction this draft season and not take Brown where others are taking him.
Average Draft Position
As you can see below, Brown has seen a steady increase in his ADP since October, while his counterpart, Corey Davis, is on the opposite side of the curve. Brown is now being drafted in the same range as Chris Godwin, Odell Beckham Jr., and Amari Cooper. Brown will be 23 this football season, Cooper will be 26, Godwin will be 24, and OBJ will be turning 28 in the middle of the season. Davis is going to be 25 when the regular season rolls around.
While Brown’s snap share went up, his targets didn’t see much of an increase. I think that it could be assumed that he could see more targets going forward, especially with the loss of the other skill players, but the data last year shows that even when his snaps increased his targets didn’t go up all that much. Even with Brown leading the team in targets, he will remain a boom or bust each week and will rely on breaking off a long run to produce for you.
What Do the Stats Say?
While it is impressive for rookies to go over 1,000 yards receiving and to almost break double-digit touchdowns, this doesn’t paint the entirety of the picture. Brown only saw more than eight targets once last season and only had eight receptions in one contest.
In the five games that he broke 100 yards receiving, in only one of them did the wide receiver have more than five receptions. In those five games, he had long receptions of 51 yards, 60 yards, 91 yards, 65 yards, and 51 yards. Thirty percent of Brown’s yardage came on those five receptions alone. If you were to take Brown’s average yardage over those 11 games that he failed to break 100 yards in, he would only be averaging 38 yards per game.
There is no doubt Brown has the juice. He shows his YAC ability in this clip against Atlanta.
Breaking It Down
If you take Brown’s stats by face value, it is easily understandable as to why he is getting the attention he is right now. None of this is to say that he isn’t a phenomenal talent. If you put on the film, you will see a dynamic player that can take it to the house any time the ball is in his hands. I don’t think the volume is going to be high enough. He will be dependent on breaking another long touchdown, and inconsistency will follow him.
Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill combined for 446 pass attempts last season, while Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis combined for 357 rushing attempts. We saw in the playoffs this past season the Titans rely heavily on the run, and that trend will continue.
Below, I gathered data from Pro Football Reference and made a chart to display red zone opportunities.
So, is A.J. Brown worth his current ADP? Even with Brown seeing the most targets on the team, the production from his five games shows that his fantasy value depends on those long receptions. Even though there is a lot of negative in this article about Brown, he did see the lion-share of the redzone targets. It could be assumed that the Titans will look to draft a skill player as they lost Tajae Sharpe, Delanie Walker, and Dion Lewis this offseason. If they choose to do that in this historical rookie class Brown’s value could take another hit.
Is Brown an incredible wide receiver? Yes, there is no questioning that, but I am holding off on drafting him at his current ADP with options like OBJ, Godwin, and Cooper on the board.