Connect with us

Redraft

Player Profile: A.J. Brown

a.j. brown

Wide receiver is arguably the deepest position in all of fantasy football year in and year out. 2020 is no different and in fact, it might even be getting deeper. With the current crop of expected draftees plus the rising stars of the league, there are studs everywhere. A.J. Brown finished the 2019 regular season as arguably the best of the bunch. Not to mention, Pro Football Focus gave him the highest grade of any receiver in the league from Week 10 on. However, as we examine the numbers for this player profile, there is some cause for concern.

A.J. Brown was a stud in the second half of the season. However, his 26 receptions were good for 43rd in the league during that span. His 60.5% catch percentage was 46th best in the league of players with at least 20 receptions. Despite the mediocre numbers in receptions, he sure did make up for it in a flashy way. His 622 yards were good for 6th, and his five touchdowns were tied for 1st with 10 other receivers.

Where Brown shined was with how many yards he gained per reception, which strongly relied on what he did after the ball was in his hands. In the first half of the season, Brown recorded 16.5 yards per reception. After Week 10, he added nearly 9 more yards to that total. He nearly doubled his yards after catch total despite having the same number of receptions (161 versus 301). And his 6.2 yards after catch per reception in the first half was 5.5 yards shorter than in the second-half of football.

First-Half Strength of Opponent:

Most, if not all, would look at these numbers and warrant the current 5th round ADP for Brown, according to FF Calculator. Nevertheless, there is more to the story than what meets the eye. During the first half of 2019, the Tennessee Titans faced the Browns, Colts, Jaguars, Falcons, Bills, Broncos, Chargers, Buccaneers, and Panthers. The below chart represents each team with their PFF grades for Total Defense, Pass Rush, and Coverage, sorted by Coverage.

Team Name: PFF Defensive

Rating (Rank)

PFF Pass Rush

Rating (Rank)

PFF Pass Coverage

Rating (Rank)

Buffalo Bills 78.1 (10th) 71.7 (14th) 90.5 (4th)
Denver Broncos 83.8 (5th) 65.3 (26th) 82.3 (10th)
Los Angeles Chargers 72.1 (17th) 70.4 (t-17th) 79.0 (11th)
Indianapolis Colts 70.0 (13th) 68.9 (t-21) 76.6 (13th)
Carolina Panthers 67.0 (20th) 70.4 (t-17th) 76.1 (14th)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 74.6 (15th) 73.6 (10th) 70.1 (19th)
Cleveland Browns 61.2 (28th) 70.5 (16th) 59.8 (22nd)
Atlanta Falcons 66.3 (21st) 72.8 (12th) 52.5 (25th)
Jacksonville Jaguars 60.6 (30th) 73.7 (9th) 50.7 (27th)

As we look to digest the numbers above, there is a lot to look at. First, let’s take a look at the coverage ratings and rank for the Titans’ opponents. Through the first nine weeks of the season, the Titans faced five teams ranked in the top 15 and a 6th in the top-20 in pass coverage, according to PFF. In addition to top coverage units, they faced seven of the top-17 pass-rushing groups, and five of their opponents were in the top 17 of total defense.

Second-Half Strength of Opponent:

In comparison, let’s take a look at the numbers of opponents he faced in the second half of the season. The Titans faced the Jaguars, Chiefs, Colts, Raiders, Texans (twice), and Saints. The below chart will sort them by Coverage ratings as well.

Team Name: PFF Defensive

Rating (Rank)

PFF Pass Rush

Rating (Rank)

PFF Pass Coverage

Rating (Rank)

Indianapolis Colts 70.0 (13th) 68.9 (t-21) 76.6 (13th)
New Orleans Saints 80.3 (7th) 79.1 (6th) 71.3 (17th)
Kansas City Chiefs 64.3 (25th) 62.9 (29th) 70.4 (18th)
Houston Texans x2 64.4 (23rd) 69.1 (20th) 53.3 (24th)
Jacksonville Jaguars 60.6 (30th) 73.7 (9th) 50.7 (27th)
Oakland Raiders 61.2 (28th) 68.2 (23rd) 48.0 (29th)

After looking at the defensive ratings for Titans opponents in the second half of season, things get more precise. Brown and the Titans faced only three teams over seven games in the top-20. Only one of them in the top-15 and none in the top-10. Comparing the numbers, Brown surged when he was supposed to as the quality of the opponent dropped drastically in the second half of the season.

Brown meets all of the physical attributes needed to be a top pass-catcher in this league and certainly passes the eye test. However, when he played tougher opponents, he was the 75th ranked receiver by PFF and the #1 receiver when facing much worse opponents.

2020 Player Outlook:

A.J. Brown was a rookie last year, and a lot of people will be intrigued by how he follows up the final seven weeks of the regular season in his sophomore year. But in 2020, things may get worse before they get any better. The Titans are going to face some tough coverage opponents next season including Vikings (3rd, at Minnesota), Bills (4th, home), Steelers (5th, home), Packers (7th, at Green Bay), Ravens (8th, at Baltimore), Broncos (10th, at Denver), Bears (12th, home), Colts (13th home/away). *Rank based on PFF Coverage Grade

Finally, there is the obvious worry of who is throwing him the ball. I have been on record as being a Ryan Tannehill fan, but the former Aggie did have a bit of regression over the second half. After being named the starter in Week 6, Tannehill had seven games with a completion percentage of over 65%. Over his next six games, including the playoffs, the Titans signal-caller had just one game over 65%, and that was only 67.7%.

Tannehill has also been a bit of a disappointment so far in his career. Whether it be because of the injury bug that forced him to miss a lot of time or because of a very pedestrian TD:INT ratio, Tannehill has never truly caught on. His failure to do so had harmful effects on receivers like DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills as well. Both had better PFF receiving grades in 2019 than any single year they had with Tannehill as QB.

Currently, Brown is being drafted in the 5th round ahead of receivers like A.J. Green, Will Fuller, Terry McLaurin, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Parker. All of these names comprise a list of guys I’d currently take over Brown if given a chance. Brown certainly holds all the cards, and maybe his explosion in the second half of 2019 was more to his developed talent and less about the schedule he faced. But if you are drafting him to be your WR2 with borderline WR1 upside, you’ll be wasting a pick and playing catchup quickly.

 

Be sure to keep checking back to our website for our newest written content in addition to our weekly podcast!

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Redraft