One of the blockbuster moves of the offseason was the draft day trade that sent A.J. Brown from the Tennessee Titans to the Philadelphia Eagles. This deal signaled the Eagles intentions to be a more balanced offense after becoming the league’s most run heavy team over the second half of last season.
The uncertainty about the Eagles passing offense has helped suppress Brown’s ADP. He currently goes in the early third round of Underdog drafts as the WR11 off the board. This price definitely leaves room for upside but also reflects the very real concerns about how Brown will perform in 2022.
In this article we will explore the specific upside and downside scenarios that could play out this year to help you decide whether you want to target or fade Brown in your fantasy drafts.
Reasons to draft A.J. Brown
The simplest reason to draft A.J. Brown is because he’s one of the best WRs in the NFL. Throughout his three seasons in the league he has posted elite numbers in every per-route and per-target metric. He is physically dominant on the field and has the ability to put up the massive weeks we are looking for in fantasy.
Although he is transitioning to a new team, the Eagles made it clear from the pieces they traded away and the contract they gave him that Brown is going to be the focal point of this offense. It also doesn’t hurt that he is best friends with his new QB which should help alleviate some of the usual concerns about a WR joining a new team.
Last season the Eagles attempted the fewest passes of any team in the league but there was a stark contrast between the first half and second half of the season when they switched from being relatively pass heavy to extremely run heavy. Fortunately for Brown, he has always relied on efficiency rather than volume to do his damage while playing in a run-first offense in Tennessee.
He is one of the best WRs at creating yards after the catch and is a nightmare to tackle in open space. Most importantly, his strengths as a receiver align fairly well with the routes that Hurts had the most success throwing in 2021: hitches, screens, and crossing routes.
|A.J. Brown – 2021||13||106||63||869||5||2.5|
*Brown’s 2.5 yards per route run during the regular season ranked 8th in the NFL.
A.J. Brown Fantasy Upside Case
I am confident that Brown will be the top target on the Eagles so his upside is tied to how often they throw and how efficient Jalen Hurts can be as a passer. Although Hurts wasn’t an elite passer last year, he did show improvement over his rookie season and is still very young so it’s unlikely he has hit his ceiling.
If the Eagles offense can make the jump from throwing the fewest passes to being around league average (or even slightly below average) then I expect Brown to see the most targets per game of his career.
In a scenario where Brown sees at least 130 targets (probably 7.5-8.5 per game depending on games played) he should easily beat his previous career high for yardage and is a good bet to score 8+ TDs. This gives him a clear path to being a top 10 WR with a shot at reaching the top 5 if he runs hot on TDs.
Reasons to avoid A.J. Brown
The Eagles shift to a run heavy offense last year coincided with Nick Sirianni handing off play calling duties to Shane Steichen. It was confirmed earlier this offseason that Steichen will remain the play caller in 2022. If this offense continues to be extremely run heavy and spreads the ball around when it does throw, it is very possible that Brown could just not see enough volume to justify his cost in drafts.
The other risk is that Jalen Hurts does not progress as a passer which allows defenses to key in on the few things he does well and force the offense to try to beat them in other ways. This could result in Brown being effectively shut out of games against good defenses and lead to very inconsistent fantasy production.
A.J. Brown Fantasy Downside Case
Brown is playing alongside much more talented pass catchers (DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert) than he was in Tennessee which could cap his targets in an offense that is likely to be in the bottom half of the league in passing attempts. He could easily post a career low in targets per route run which would limit his ability to produce the big games he is known for.
In a scenario where the Eagles are bottom 5 in passing attempts and Hurts spreads the ball around between his top 3 targets I could see Brown finishing the year as an inconsistent, low-end WR2 which could really hurt fantasy managers who choose to take him over the likes of Tee Higgins, Mike Williams, and Michael Pittman.