The Path to a WR1 Fantasy Football Season: Treylon Burks
Fourteen months ago, the Tennessee Titans decided to trade AJ Brown to the Eagles for the 18th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. That pick led them to a player out of Arkansas that many had compared to a diet AJ Brown, Treylon Burks. For Burks, this was the chance of a lifetime. For Titans fans, this was a sign of the impending rebuild they had so long dreaded.
One year later, many questions remain unanswered, but one truth remains regarding the Titans – Mike Vrabel hates to lose. That attitude is necessary for 2nd year Burks because the Titans must be competitive for Burks to have a chance at a breakout season. If Ryan Tannehill is his QB for the entire 2023 season, then the path to becoming a fantasy football WR1 is achievable.
Treylon’s rookie season was injury-riddled and littered with poor quarterback play. This led to an extremely underwhelming WR78 for him in his debut season. This is causing the market to undervalue Burks as a fantasy asset this coming season. Last year he missed four games due to a toe injury and two games due to a concussion he suffered in the Eagles game in which he was knocked out of after an 18% snap rate and one catch for 25 yards and a touchdown. So in all reality, he missed seven games last year, and when he finally returned healthy, he was saddled with Malik Willis and Joshua Dobbs (off the street). These are all things to consider when looking at the range of outcomes for Burks this season.
The First Step on the Path
Injuries aside, the most important factor in Treylon Burks competing for a WR1 designation this year: the Titans cannot throw in the towel and give up on the season. If this happens, his chances become exponentially slimmer with Willis or rookie QB Will Levis. As mentioned above though, he has a head coach who will not go away easily and if they are still in the playoff hunt come November, his year could be one to remember. The win over/under for the Tennessee Titans is 7.5, so Vegas does not think this team will wither away, despite what one may hear in the Twitter streets. The longer the team can remain competitive, the longer Burks will get to catch passes from a competent quarterback, according to ESPN’s Turron Davenport, who is “head and shoulders” above Malik Willis and Will Levis. There is little to no reason to go to one of the younger quarterbacks if the Titans stay in the hunt.
Tannehill to Treylon
There are wide receivers out there that can make a run at being a WR1 even if they do not have the greatest quarterback play. Then there are the guys that have no shot to ever be a WR1, “NEVER, EVEN IF THERE’S A FIRE!”. Then, somewhere in the middle of that pack, lies Treylon Burks. He may never be the guy that can overcome bad quarterback play (not many guys can), but he could become the next WR1 for Ryan Tannehill.
Many people may find it surprising that Ryan Tannehill has supported a WR1 three different times in his career. Go ahead and count me as one of those surprised individuals. Tannehill has supported WR1 seasons with the Dolphins and Titans, in the form of Jarvis Landry and AJ Brown. AJ Brown’s WR1 season was during his sophomore year, a year in which Ryan Tannehill played all 16 games. Treylon Burks just so happens to be going into his sophomore season as well, and will by far be the best wideout on the team. Tannehill is not afraid to throw the pigskin to his favorite guys either and proved that in 2015 when he peppered Jarvis Landry with a 28.5% target share. If Treylon sees that type of target share from Ryan Tannehill, then Treylon could be in for a special season.
Target Share & Yards per Route Run
The opportunity for Burks to have an enormous target share this year is certainly a big reason for believing he can become a WR1. Last year he had a 16.8% target share in the 11 games that he played in. That is coming off multiple injuries and a shortened off-season program as well. With a full year under his belt and a full off-season with a healthy Tannehill, he should bump that target share up without even adding in the fact that his only competition for target volume is Chigoziem Okonkwo, the Titans’ tight end.
When Burks gets an opportunity, he is successful with it on most occasions. He registered 1.75 yards per route run in 2022, which ranked 29th out of all receivers with over 37 targets. That puts him in the same YPRR atmosphere as Garrett Wilson, Brandon Aiyuk, and Tee Higgins. Anytime one of the more important statistics for predicting future success has a player in company with the likes of those mentioned, it’s wise to give them a nod when constructing your team.
Touchdowns & Contested Catch Rate
There are paths to a WR1 season without accumulating massive touchdown numbers…but it is rare and Burks frankly is not the type of player that will accumulate 135 points from receptions only. But luckily, he has a bit of touchdown regression in his favor after posting just one touchdown last year. To put his touchdown luck into perspective, Burks had a TD-to-reception percentage of 3.03%, which ranked him 11th worst for the wide receiver position. With a higher target share and a bit of regression, Burks should see an increase in those numbers. His contested catch rate should help those numbers out as well. Last year he saw a 58.3% CCR which was good enough for him to rank 17th amongst receivers. 22 of the 26 receivers above 50% CCR scored at least three touchdowns.
Treylon Burks doesn't catch the ball he removes it from the air pic.twitter.com/b1gCAMxWkc
— James Foster (@NoFlagsFilm) November 28, 2022
Good things are in store for Mr. Burks.
In the Path to a WR1 Fantasy Football Season Primer, Borg laid out the basic numbers needed for players to reach WR1 status. This is not a one size fits all chart, but it does help to lay the groundwork for the basic type of stat line a player will need to reach that top-12 receiver tier.
5-Year WR1 Averages
Treylon Burks‘s final season at Arkansas saw him amass 1,104 receiving yards, 66 receptions, and 11 touchdowns in 12 games, so he can accumulate stats like these. Although college stats should not be pressed upon excessively, it does paint a picture of what Treylon can do when given the opportunity within the offense. This ability should be able to shine through more this year when he gets a massive increase to his workload given the sparse options at pass catcher for this Titan team. The talent and the opportunity are there for Treylon to finish this year as a WR1 or give it a valiant run at the very least.