Fantasy owners drooling over Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins, and the likes might be overlooking A.J. Brown, who could become a bonafide WR1 in Fantasy Football.
There are a few great wide receivers in the NFL, and I don’t think A.J. Brown has entered himself into the “elite” category after one good season. However, A.J. Brown is definitely worth drafting onto your fantasy football roster.
Brown emerged as the Tennessee Titans’ top target in his rookie season, having 1,051 receiving yard with 52 receptions and eight touchdowns. In having 1,000 receiving yards in his rookie season, he joins guys like Michael Thomas, A.J. Green, Odell Beckham Jr., Keenan Allen, and Mike Evans, who have all done so in the last decade in their rookie seasons.
Why does that matter for fantasy football? Well, it means A.J. Brown should receive a lot of targets and opportunities going forward.
Brown is worth an early pick in your fantasy football draft. I’m not talking round one early, because that’s usually where the top dogs at the position go, like Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, and Deandre Hopkins. I mean late second round, maybe early third territory.
To know why Brown is essential to have on your roster, you have to understand how the Tennessee Titans run their offense. To put it very simply, it all starts with the run game. Derrick Henry consistently plows through defenders, getting 3-4 yards a carry, stiff-arming, the whole nine yards.
This leads to defenses creeping up, showing eight-man boxes, and leaving guys like A.J. Brown with plenty of room to make a play. Because of that, Brown had a lot of big plays last season, including this play where you can visibly see the Raiders defense going all-in for Derrick Henry.
As far as production goes, last season A.J. Brown was targeted pretty fairly until the Titans got into the red zone. Of course, that is when they rely on Henry, and sometimes even trick plays to get points on the board.
I wouldn’t be too afraid of A.J. Brown’s minimal production in the red zone. He is a playmaker, and most of his touchdowns will come from big plays, and big-play wide receivers are valuable for fantasy football.
On the bright side, though, A.J. Brown had five receptions in the red zone in 2019, and four of them were touchdowns. So, he gets his chances, and he delivers.
There are some obvious downsides to drafting A.J. Brown, though. One of them is the normal fear when it comes to a receiver who had an exceptional rookie season: what if they are a one-hit-wonder?
That is indeed possible for A.J. Brown, but I think the reward outweighs the risk here in fantasy football. A.J. Brown is in a system that is designed for him to succeed. So I don’t think you should worry too much about Brown not living up to the hype in 2020.
Instead, I think you should be worried about the possible regression of the Titans offense as a whole. There is a fair possibility that Ryan Tannehill and/or Derrick Henry regresses, which would then hinder the run game, play-action game, and effect A.J. Brown’s numbers.
In that case, Brown would still be a solid fantasy wide receiver given he will have a respectable amount of targets in any given game. However, he wouldn’t be the same explosive wide receiver that we saw in 2019. He may have a big play here and there, but not as often as you would like it for your fantasy football team.
The good news is that the Titans are returning most of their offensive starters in 2020, all but right tackle Jack Conklin is returning to Nashville to go for another AFC Championship run. The Titans, for the first time in forever, are returning their same offensive coordinator as well.
Chances of the Titans completely flopping in 2020 are low, so I don’t think you need to worry about the possible downsides of drafting A.J. Brown too much. Even if they aren’t the same explosive offense as they were in 2019, a realistic regression still means they are a decent offense.
The potential is tremendous, and I think you should absolutely take Brown before someone else in your league steals him. A.J. Brown should become a bonafide WR1 in 2020.