On February 18th of last year, WR Marquise Brown underwent Lisfranc surgery. It knocked him out of the combine and, for some, down their draft boards. However, that didn’t deter the Baltimore Ravens from selecting him in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He was the first WR off the board. It came as a shock to many because almost no one believed he would be the first WR selected. Don’t get people started on him being a first-round pick, especially following the surgery. However, the Ravens stuck to their draft board and ignored the injury concern.
That brings us to Brown’s 2019 season. It was one marred with concerns over his foot injury and limited playing time. Yet, Brown managed to put a solid season together even though he never topped 80% of the Ravens offensive snaps. He received 71 targets, catching 46 of them for 584 receiving yards and seven TDs. Those numbers don’t knock your socks off, but they are impressive, considering the lack of playing time.
Entering 2020, Brown, the Ravens, and all his fantasy owners hope he turns a new leaf. However, Brown once again underwent offseason surgery to remove a screw from the Lisfranc surgery he had before the draft last year. The difference is that this time Brown will be ready and healthy for training camp, and it shouldn’t linger or limit him in-season. So, for Brown to build upon his debut season and turn a new leaf in 2020, he needs to get more playing time and an increased target share.
More Playing Time, Please!
Last year was an odd one for Brown and the Ravens. He consistently received inconsistent playing time as he played in less than 50% of the offense’s snaps in six games. As I already mentioned earlier, he never played in more than 80% of the snaps on offense. That leaves us to question why he got a limited amount of playing time. To find that answer, we don’t have to dig too deep.
On January 30th, 2020, ESPN Staff Writer Jamison Hensley published an article that covered Brown’s inconsistent playing time. The article documented times when the team limited Brown’s snaps and learned that the Ravens are expecting a ‘dangerous’ year two for Brown.
In that article, you see that limiting Brown’s snaps was a high priority for the Ravens. They made sure that they didn’t push him too far and that he felt comfortable. Another interesting note from the article is that HC John Harbaugh stated that, “Marquise was really not 100 percent most of the year, and that was pretty obvious, right?” Thus, the Ravens limited his workload and made sure to handle Brown with care.
Projecting That Forward
When you consider that Brown never reached full strength, what he accomplished is impressive. He showed to the Ravens that even when he’s limited, he can be a great asset. In week one of 2019, Brown beat a defender on a deep post route. Then, following the catch, proceeded to take it to the house for an 83 yard TD. According to Next Gen Stats, he hit 20.33 miles per hour, which was the 14th fastest. That highlights his explosiveness even as he deals with a nagging injury and just how good he will be when fully healthy. Though he did undergo surgery earlier in the offseason, Brown will be at 100% entering 2020. That means you can expect to see Brown on the field much, much more this upcoming season.
More Targets, Please!
In his rookie season, Brown only received 71 targets. Granted, he did miss two games. Still, that was a meager target count for the first-round rookie. I went through his game logs in 2019 and learned that Brown rarely received more than five targets. It happened a total of four times throughout his 14 regular-season games. The most amount of targets he received in-game was only 13. There was a lot left on the table for a rookie that burst onto the scene. The lack of targets can be explained by three things: the lack of playing time we’ve already discussed, the overall lack of passing volume in the Ravens scheme, and the new additions on offense.
Reason #1: The Lack of Playing Time
Yes, it’s already been well documented by myself, but bears repeating: Brown’s lack of playing time affected his workload. If he were on the field more, he would’ve received a lot more work then he had. Regardless of what the Ravens scheme was, they would’ve made it a point to get Brown the ball more than they did. Even in limited playing time, Brown was a focal point of the offense when he was on the field. For instance, he received five targets in a game that he played less than 20% of the snaps. Now, he is entering 2020 healthy and will be on the field for a large part of the offense’s snaps.
Reason #2: The Lack of Passing Volume
Another issue with projecting Brown more targets in 2020, is the Ravens offensive scheme. The Ravens ran the ball the most of any team last season and were ranked dead last in pass attempts in 2019. If you take the 96 different offenses from the past three years, the Ravens still would’ve ranked as the third-lowest in pass attempts. While the Ravens want to run the football and run it a lot, they didn’t want to have that much difference in the run-pass ratio.
A large part of the limited pass attempts is the passing options themselves. In 2019, the Ravens had one of the most lackluster WR corps in the NFL. It doesn’t help that their first-round draft pick at WR, Brown, was limited, which means that the Ravens only had one proven pass-catcher: Mark Andrews. I freely grant you that they had other veterans like Willie Snead and Seth Roberts, but, to put it simply, they aren’t good pass-catching options. So, the lack of weapons certainly played into the limited passing volume.
Reason #3: The New Additions
Over the offseason, the Ravens have brought in a few new faces on offense. In the 2020 NFL Draft, they selected RB J.K. Dobbins, WR Devin Duvernay, and WR James Proche. The new additions have people scared of Brown and his output in 2020 and beyond. However, these players don’t scare me away from Brown. This year, rookies are entering the season on much more limited work than usual, which means players like Brown, who have already played in-game action with the starting QB, have a leg up on the rookies. I’m not fearful of the new additions as they were drafted to build the team’s other lackluster parts. Brown’s entrenched as the leading WR on the Ravens roster, and he’ll rule over these new additions.
I see and understand the concerns people have with Brown. He’s not in an ideal scheme, he has a very small frame, and the new weapons can steal whatever targets Brown got in 2019. These are all very valid concerns, but they don’t affect my view on Brown. He is a very talented, uber-fast WR. To be as explosive and dynamic as he was when he was on the field when he was less than 100% healthy is incredibly impressive. That’s why I view Brown as a potential top 24 WR.
He has the talent and ability to be that good, and he will get the targets needed for him to post those types of numbers. The additions of Duvernay and Proche are suitable for the Ravens as a team, but won’t affect Brown in 2020. One of those two will be replacing Snead opposite Brown in 2020 (I’d bank on Duvernay), while the other will collect the targets left behind by TE Hayden Hurst, who was traded to Atlanta earlier this offseason. I also expect the Ravens to throw the ball more then they did last season. They won’t be blowing people out as they did in 2019.
Right now, you can get Brown as the 30th overall WR in PPR league startups. Considering the way I think about him, he is well worth that kind of investment. However, I will note that he is slightly lower than that in my dynasty ranks as I think Brown will have a limited shelf life in the NFL given his size or lack thereof. One last thing I’ll say, if you are a contending team, buy Marquise Brown for a rookie draft pick in the range of a late first to early second in either 2020 or 2021. He is well worth the investment as he will contribute to your team in a big way for what you’ll give up.