The Path to a WR1 Fantasy Football Season: Hollywood Brown
Editor’s Note: This profile is part of our annual Path to a Fantasy WR1 Season series. For our methodology and an outline of the process, make sure you read the 2023 Path to WR1 Series Primer. Find out the full statistical projections for the Footballers Consensus WR1s in the Ultimate Draft Kit.
Cue music. You know what I’m referring to. Hollywooooood!
When Marquise Brown reunited with college QB Kyler Murray in 2022, there was excitement around the league for what the two could create, both for fantasy and the Arizona Cardinals. Spoiler alert, it didn’t really work out for the Cardinals last year, but Brown was still able to make a splash despite missing five games and losing Kyler to a torn ACL in Week 14. So, what about 2023? Can Brown make a name for himself in the desert, possibly without Kyler to start the season?
Let’s look at what it would take for Brown to give us a WR1 season in 2023.
Brown had his best fantasy finish in 2021 as a Baltimore Raven, finishing as WR 23, and there was much hopeful chatter around his trade to Arizona. DeAndre Hopkins was due to miss the first six games of the 2022 season due to a suspension, so the probability was high that Hollywood would become Kyler’s favorite target, at least early on. Brown had a somewhat complicated season – through week six, he had 43 catches for almost 500 yards and 3 TDs. He led the Cardinals in all three categories during those weeks. Brown also suffered a fractured foot that week which sent him to the bench, just with Hopkins returning. After the Bye week, Brown returned to the field and finished the season out across the field from Hopkins. The offense got even more fuzzy when Kyler went down in Week 14.
The Cardinals ended the season with a fizzle instead of a bang, and despite being the WR6 at the end of Week 6, Brown finished the season as WR46. Managers who had drafted Brown at his average ADP as the 28th WR off the board, hoping for a prolific Arizona offense, were left wanting more.
The Path for 2023
With the current situation in Arizona – Kyler’s injury timeline still uncertain and a new head coach, it’s difficult to imagine a world where the Cardinals are not at the bottom of the NFC West. Even so, we know that bad teams can still provide fantasy goodness in terms of a WR1. Davante Adams was WR2 last season on a Raiders team that finished 6-11, and Amari Cooper finished as WR9 on a Browns team that ended with a 7-10 record. So you’re saying there’s a chance…
Brown had a solid 24% target share in 2022, not far from Deandre Hopkins’ 29% share. But Hopkins is now gone. If Kyler is healthy enough to start the season, he will undoubtedly have eyes for his college buddy Hollywood, and we can assume a target share similar to that of Hopkins last year. If Arizona has to start Colt McCoy, the potential targets still look good for Brown. In the three games McCoy started (and the one where he came off the bench after Kyler’s injury), McCoy peppered his WR1 (Hopkins) with targets like a bland steak in an old Black Angus. Over those four games, Hopkins averaged a 32% target share. To be fair, not all those targets would head Hollywood’s way, but it could be a lot.
The Cards added Michael Wilson in the draft, who might end up being a bit of a dark horse, but besides that, you are looking at Rondale Moore, young TE Trey McBride, and the Dortch to battle over targets with. Zach Ertz suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2022, so he is another player whose situation is up in the air.
Receptions & Catch Rate
Hollywood had 67 receptions last season, which is lower than usual due to his missed games. However, his reception percentage was 63%, the same as his reception rate during his highly successful 2021 season in Baltimore. Comparing Brown again to Hopkins, Hollywood’s number of receptions topped the WR1. Browns receptions led the team last season. To be a WR1 this year, Hollywood will have to repeat this, but with Hopkins gone, it seems highly possible. If Hollywood can stay consistent or slightly improve on his 63% catch rate, he stands a good chance of finishing the season as a WR1. You could convince people of this fairly easily if we knew who would be under center for Arizona week one. But with the QB carousel in full swing, it isn’t easy to assume a stellar catch rate for Hollywood until we get more info.
Yards & ADOT
Brown clocked 709 receiving yards in 2022. Not a significant number, given his number of targets, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. He only had three on-target passes that he dropped last season, and we all know that when Hollywood can get open, he can get himself a huge gain – his longest catch went for 47 yards. Hollywood had the lowest ADOT of his career in 2022, with 11.7, but it is not a bad number in the grand scheme of things. Brown ranked 24th in ADOT among WRs with at least 75 targets. His ADOT was similar to Stefon Diggs, Tyler Lockett, and Tee Higgins – three players who all finished as WR1s.
A scrambling QB like Kyler does give a WR like Hollywood the chance to shake his defender and get open downfield, but we are brought back to the same question – who will be the QB for the Cardinals? Even without Kyler, Hopkins’s 2022 yardage will go somewhere, presumably Brown, and he could easily see himself eclipsing 1000 yards.
Hollywood had three TDs in the 2022 season. That’s not great, Bob. But, full transparency, the QBs from Arizona only threw 17 TDs the entire season. We all know TDs is a stat that is very difficult to project, and if the Cardinals start their rushing QB in Murray, fantasy managers might have to be content with a range of 3-5 TDs for Brown this season – Kyler loves to run it in if afforded the possibility. Red zone-wise, Brown has nowhere to go but up, at least with consistency. Last year he had 12 red zone targets and only caught one.
As mentioned by Andy on the podcast, Arizona assets will be vastly undervalued this season – Arizona will be playing from behind a lot in 2023. There, I said it. The recently released power rankings from the NFL had the Cardinals sitting strong at number 32. But a bad team does not always make a bad fantasy option, and Hollywood has a path to be a WR1. Brown might make his hay this season as a volume WR, perhaps similar to Pitty City of last year (he finished as WR23 in 2022, with usage a key reason). Add in his overall incredible talent, plus the departure of DeAndre Hopkins, and Brown could be sitting pretty as an under-the-radar WR1 candidate.