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Cornerstone: Is A.J. Brown a must have for 2021 Fantasy Football

A.J. Brown is a superstar, but he is set to explode in 2021. @ConbonNFL takes you through his career to date and why he is a “must have” for fantasy managers.

A.J. Brown is one of the most explosive, young wide receivers in the NFL. His first two seasons in the NFL have been outstanding while proving he belongs in the upper tier of wide receivers. I’m going to explain just how good AJ Brown’s first two seasons have been, why you should be targeting him in redraft and dynasty formats, and his career outlook. After reading this article, you better go and trade for him if you don’t already own him.

Explosive Start

Brown’s first two seasons in the NFL are historic in productivity. These are his stats through his first two seasons: 122 receptions, 2,126 receiving yards, 19 touchdowns, and 17.4 yards per reception. Brown compiled these gaudy stats in 30 games, and during his rookie season, he wasn’t playing on 50% of the snaps until Week 5. Ryan Tannehill’s career rejuvenation has propelled Brown’s start to new heights. Interestingly, Brown is in some elite company and is on track to be one of the best wide receivers ever.

Wide Receivers with 2,000+ receiving yards & 18+ TDs in first two seasons
Jerry Rice (49ers 1985-86)135 receptions, 2,497 yards, 18 touchdowns
Randy Moss (Vikings 1998-99)149 receptions, 2,726 yards, 28 touchdowns
Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals 2004-05)161 receptions, 2,189, 18 touchdowns
Odell Beckham Jr. (Giants 2014-15)187 receptions, 2,755 yards, 25 touchdowns
AJ Green (Bengals 2011-12)162 receptions, 2,407 yards, 18 touchdowns
Julio Jones (Falcons 2011-12)133 receptions, 2,157 yards, 18 touchdowns
Marques Colston (Saints 2006-07)168 receptions, 2,240 yards, 19 touchdowns
John Jefferson (Chargers 1978-79)117 receptions, 2,091 yards, 23 touchdowns
A.J. Brown (Titans 2019-20)122 receptions, 2,126 yards, 19 touchdowns
Stats via Pro Football Reference

As you can see, Brown had a historic first two seasons in the NFL. He’s among the elite wide receivers to have played this game. Interestingly, he has put up these gaudy statistics while playing on a run-first team and playing at one of the slower paces in the NFL. On another note, here is a list of players in their rookie season to put up 1,000 receiving yards and have 20-plus yards per reception: A.J. Brown. That’s it. That’s the list.

It’s crazy just how amazing he is after he gets the ball in his hands. During the 2019 season, Brown was sixth among WRs in yards after the catch with 465 yards and was 10th in 2020 with 429 yards. His ability to break for a long touchdown at any given moment is a reason why he belongs with the Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, DeAndre Hopkins of the world. Believe it or not, he hasn’t even scratched his ceiling yet.

Where he ranks among his peers

Brown produced his second 1,000-yard receiving season in only 14 games. He missed two games due to injury early in the season, but that didn’t slow him down. I wanted to dig deeper and see where he ranked among the WRs in various categories, and what I found was nothing short of amazing and exciting. Let’s take a look.

AJ Brown Ranks Ranks among WRs (2020 season)
Receiving yards16th
Receiving yards/GM11th
Yards per Route Run2nd
First Downs13th
Yards per Reception12th
YAC for WRs 10th
First down%/Reception4th
Contested Catches 6th
Average Cushion8th
Target Share8th
Stats via NBC Sports

Brown was ranked highly among his peers. Brown also admitted he played on a hurt knee, which required off-season surgery. There are so many different factors working in his favor to explode next season. Yards per route run is a significant indicator of success and just how good a player is, and Brown is in the upper echelon in that category. Expect huge numbers from Brown next season, and his situation could get even better next season.

OC Change

The former offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith, has left the Titans and joined the Atlanta Falcons. Titans’ new OC is Todd Downing. Downing has been an OC before and will learn from what Smith did and what he could do with Tannehill, Brown, and Henry to keep this offense operating at a high level. Derek Carr and Mathew Stafford both had outstanding seasons with Downing as their OC, and they threw the ball over 500 times in every season he was with them. Tannehill hasn’t topped 500 pass attempts in his two years with the Titans.

Henryis the engine that makes this offense move, but if they want to keep their leading player healthy, it might be wise to dial back his attempts. Therefore, this will lead to more pass attempts for Tannehill, and in theory, more targets for Brown. Titans are hurting for WR depth as Adam Humphries, Jonnu Smith, and Corey Davis all left during free agency. They likely add additional pass-catchers in this deep draft class to complement Brown on the opposite side. It’s shaping up for Brown to demand a considerable target share and likely surpass 130-plus targets this coming season.

Combining his insane efficiency, target share, and target volume, we could be looking at the No. 1 overall WR in 2021. This is a genuine possibility, and you’re going to want Brown on your rosters next season. Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz on Twitter) posted this clip, and you have to get excited about the sheer potential Brown possesses.

2021 Ranking and Dynasty Outlook

There are so many great, elite wide receivers in the NFL that it’s hard to rank them all. As of right now, I have Brown ranked as the No. 3 WR in redraft leagues, only behind Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill. On the other hand, some might say that’s too high. I might argue that it’s not high enough. He’s coming into his third-year campaign, and we’ve seen the likes of Chris Godwin and Calvin Ridley take the next step forward in their third year. I fully expect Brown to explode this season.

As far as dynasty goes, Brown is super young, tied to an excellent QB, and has a good situation around him. I have him as my WR1, and multiple people do as well. He is a perfect choice for this spot. To some, it might seem premature, but he is just oozing with potential and upside that it’s hard to ignore. If you don’t already own him, you’re going to have to overpay. But that price might be worth it.

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