05 Aug AJ Brown: 2020 Fantasy Bust
This is the second installment in my 2020 Fantasy Bust series, highlighting players who may be good, but definitely not worth their draft position going into this upcoming year.
We first highlighted newly acquired Denver Broncos’ Melvin Gordon, and today we’ll be looking at Tennessee Titans’ young wide receiver and projected fantasy bust A.J. Brown.
Last year A.J. Brown hit the ground running as a rookie for the dark horse Titans. He surpassed 1,000 yards receiving at an absurd 20 yards per reception tick while hauling in 8 TDs. Brown and QB Ryan Tannehill had an incredible connection that helped lead the Titans into a playoff berth. While 2019 was an amazing year, it just isn’t sustainable and the numbers prove as much.
As a rookie, Brown had one of the more incredible years in recent memory. His 20.2 YPR ranked second, only to the Chargers’ Mike Williams. While this is great don’t expect that average to continue going forward. The only player to come close to that career average is former Saints WR Devery Henderson (17.9).
If you don’t know who that is, it’s hard to blame you as Henderson had a lackluster career. His other absurd stat, a 9.5% TD rate, was greater than 80% of the league. The problem with that is when compared to other star WRs, only Randy Moss has had a greater than 8.2% rate for their career.
When looking at the numbers another startling statistic popped out to me: Brown’s usage (touches) by game score. It seemed as though the Titans only decided to go to Brown when the game was starting to get away from them, as 56% of his touches came when the team was losing. These numbers lead me to believe that the Titans relied on his big play ability to try to keep the game close, or stop it from getting out of hand with desperation heaves.
Fortunately for them it worked most of the time, but this isn’t sustainable. These tendencies coincide with the playoff numbers as well. In the two games that the Titans won, Brown had a total of 10 targets that produced five catches for 64 yards. Corey Davis accounted for more targets than Brown during this run despite only playing 15% of the snaps on offense.
The other problem for A.J. Brown’s Fantasy production in 2020 is quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill also had a fantastic second half of the season last year. While most of his overall numbers stayed fairly consistent to his career averages, the same surplus that accompanied Brown followed through with Tannehill as well.
What I mean is that he had career bests in yards per attempt, adjusted yards per pass attempt, yards per completion, net yards per attempt, and adjusted net yards per pass attempt. Each of these were better than his previous career best by at least 2.0, which is unheard of for a quarterback going into his seventh year. These numbers also show that Tannehill had the tendency to go deep, and as noted before this was due to the team losing and not by design.
So why does this make him one of my fantasy busts for 2020? At the moment, Brown’s overall ADP is #34. This is above WRs like Allen Robinson, Keenan Allen, Tyler Lockett, Robert Woods, and Stefon Diggs. Each receiver had a more productive 2019 than Brown, with nothing to suggest that their numbers will take a hit.
His ADP suggests that he is an elite WR, and while he is talented, I don’t believe he’s ready to take that step as of yet. So while Brown definitely deserves the hype he’s received, don’t reach for him in your upcoming Fantasy drafts as your WR1 or you’ll end up disappointed.
95 Targets, 68 Rec, 820 Rec Yards, 5 TDs – WR24