The Path to a WR1 Fantasy Football Season: Marquise Brown
In this installment of our “Path to a WR1 Season” series, I will discuss the Arizona Cardinals‘ newly acquired weapon, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. Brown may not be your typical WR1 in fantasy when you think of size, but he has a great opportunity to produce even more than he has so far in his young career. He is now reunited with his college quarterback, Kyler Murray, and they are looking to continue where they left off in college. In this article, we will look at what may need to happen for Brown to take that next step and be a top-12 wide receiver for fantasy. I will use half-point PPR scoring when referencing points-per-game or overall finishes.
2021 Season Recap
Entering his third year in the league, Marquise Brown was ready to break out in the 2021 season. Brown started off hot through the first nine games of the season and was the WR5 overall (WR6 in PPG). He scored six touchdowns during that time and failed to score another touchdown the rest of the season. Weeks 10-18 were a different story for Brown as he was the WR58 overall (WR67 in PPG). Brown played eight games during that stretch, missing Week 11 against the Chicago Bears. Brown ended up finishing as the WR23 in 2021.
The target volume wasn’t the reason for the lack of fantasy points, as he averaged 9.5 targets a game. Brown did not hit ten fantasy points during that stretch of games, and a big reason for that was only eclipsing 50 receiving yards twice and not scoring any touchdowns. Lamar Jackson did miss the last four games of the season, so that also played a factor.
2022 Path to a WR1 Season
According to PlayerProfiler.com, Marquise Brown had back-to-back seasons of hitting a 26% target share, finishing 12th among wide receivers in 2021 and 7th in 2020. It’s clear that Hollywood earns targets, and I don’t see that changing in Arizona. Brown might not hit a 26% target share again, but I could see him getting around 22-24% which is still really good.
The Cardinals threw 591 pass attempts in 2021, ranking 18th in the NFL. However, if we look at attempts per game, Kyler Murray threw 34.1 attempts per game, 13th among QBs starting more than one game. Murray missed three games, and the Cardinals averaged 30 passing attempts per game while he was out.
Let’s say the Cardinals throw 600 pass attempts in 2022. If we project a 24% target share, we should expect 144 targets for Brown, and that volume would be well in line to finish somewhere in the mid-to-low WR1 range if we look at target volume for top-12 wide receivers in 2021. He could end up receiving an even higher target share than 24% due to DeAndre Hopkins’ six-game suspension to begin the season. Hopkins is also aging and has suffered injuries, so we don’t know if he will be guaranteed to be the primary target when he returns from his suspension.
Brown caught 62.8% of his targets in 2021, which isn’t great, but he also was 59th in catchable target rate (73.1%) per playerprofiler.com. PlayerProfiler also measures true catch rate, taking uncatchable passes out of the equation, and Brown was 45th (85.8%). Brown struggles the most with contested targets, catching 5-of-30 (16.7%). Hopefully, we can see an increase in catch rate to the 65-70% range in 2022. Kyler Murray statistically seems like an upgrade for Brown. Murray had the second-highest completion percentage in 2021 and excelled at the deep ball.
Marquise Brown was 12th among wide receivers in receptions, with 91 in 2021. If we see an uptick in catch rate for Brown in 2022, and he catches 67% of 144 targets, that would mean roughly 96 receptions. In 2021, 96 receptions would have been the 11th most by a wide receiver.
Yards and Air Yards
Brown had 1,008 receiving yards in 2021, the 24th most in the league. He also averaged just 11.1 yards-per-reception, 36th among wide receivers with at least 50 receptions. Part of that is due to a low average depth of target in which he was 51st (11.1) per profootballreference.com. It’ll be interesting to see how the Cardinals utilize Brown in the offense, but I would predict that his average depth of target goes up.
Per PlayerProfiler, Brown was 11th in air yards (1,518) and 6th in unrealized air yards (888). There’s potential for Brown to improve with more accurate deep passes from Kyler Murray, who ranked first in deep-ball completion percentage while throwing the eighth-most deep ball attempts. There’s a chance this duo becomes one of the most lethal deep threats in the NFL.
Despite Brown’s smaller frame, he has been a solid red-zone threat and has shown he can score touchdowns from all over the field. We know touchdowns aren’t a sticky stat or anything, but it’s always a plus to see volume in the red-zone. In 2021, Brown had six touchdown receptions, the lowest touchdown total in his three years in the NFL. He had eight touchdowns in 2020 and seven as a rookie in 2019. If Brown is to finish this year as a top-12 wide receiver, he will likely need to score at least seven touchdowns which are well within his range of outcomes. Murray was 12th in touchdown passes despite the Cardinals being third in rushing touchdowns, so there will be plenty of scoring opportunity for Brown.
WR1 Probability: Unlikely (9-24%)
I ran a poll on Twitter to see what people thought the probability was that Marquise Brown would finish as a top-12 wide receiver in 2022. The top result, with 44% of the votes, was “unlikely,” which I labeled a 9-24% chance. Check out the full poll results below.
In your opinion, what are the chances that Marquise Brown finishes as a top-12 WR in 2022?
— Ryan DeVaney (@WhyDoIEvenTryFF) June 10, 2022
Marquise “Hollywood” Brown has the potential to finish as a WR1 in 2022. He’s proven he can be a team’s number one receiver during his time in Baltimore, and now he has a chance to prove it in Arizona. When you think of potential breakout wide receivers, he checks many boxes. Brown has the talent and is in a great situation to take the next step.
According to the Ultimate Draft Kit, Brown is currently drafted as the WR26 in the middle of the seventh round. He has the potential to outperform his current average draft position, and WR26 may be close to his floor, so it’s not much of a risk to take him there should his ADP remain the same in August.