The Path to a WR1 Fantasy Season: Marquise Brown
Editor’s Note: As outlined in the Path to WR1 Primer article, The Path to a WR1 Fantasy Season article series will showcase WRs who are currently ranked outside of the top-15 receivers in Andy, Mike, and Jason’s initial PPR rankings. We are identifying players that possibly have a shot at finishing the year as a WR1. We are NOT projecting a WR1 end of the year total but merely giving the high-end range of outcomes for players to show what type of ceiling is in the realm of possibilities.
This is a first for our Path to a WR1 series, charting a course for a rookie WR to be a fantasy WR1. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown doesn’t have the highest ADP or the best landing spot of his fellow first-year wideouts. Nonetheless, the fact remains that he was the first WR taken in the NFL draft and has the clearest path to his own team’s WR1 spot, thus he has a chance, possibly minuscule, but a chance to be a fantasy WR1.
If you’ve read the previous articles in this series, you know that a lot of ceiling/floor data is pulled from a player’s previous seasons in the NFL, meaning these stats won’t exist for Hollywood. Instead, I will be looking at the excellent data provided by Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception of Brown’s college career, along with the history of WRs that have played under new Raven’s offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Using these numbers, we can try to formulate a floor/ceiling for Brown and his chances at finishing the season as a top-12 fantasy wideout.
2018 Season Recap
Brown left Oklahoma after just two years as a college starter. In 2017, he was Baker Mayfield‘s (the first QB drafted in 2018) primary target and in 2018 he was the go-to guy for Kyler Murray (the first QB drafted in 2019). He has played with successful QBs and been a part of the reason for their success. During his junior year, he reeled in 75 balls for 1318 yards and 10 TDs. Those stats were good enough for top-5 in the Big 12 in all three categories and he was 8th in the entire NCAA in receiving yards. So when the Baltimore Ravens had their pick of the litter at #25 in the 1st Round of the NFL draft, they made “Hollywood” Brown the first WR selected.
The Path for 2019
The fact is: Marquise Brown’s principal competition for targets at wide receiver are: Willie Snead, Jordan Lasley, Chris Moore, and Seth Roberts. Snead has flashed ability but never looked like a WR1 in his career. The others are career JAGs and that alone propels Brown to the top of the Ravens’ depth chart. Let’s see what that might mean for his fantasy season.
Target Share– If Hollywood is going to break into the fantasy top-12, he is going to need to see plenty of targets. Roman’s offense is notoriously run-heavy so they won’t be a lot of attempts to go around. In his six years as an OC in San Francisco and Buffalo, his team never finished higher than 29th in pass attempts. While that doesn’t sound great, he did lean on his WR1s heavily. Particularly in San Fran, when he had Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin as the #1 WR on the team, and they were targeted on almost 28% of the team’s total throws.
In his seven games as a starter last season, Lamar Jackson spread the ball around quite a bit; John Brown was the team leader with a 19% target share. But with the departure of Brown and Michael Crabtree, Marquise has room to pick up quite a few vacated targets. If the offense we’ve seen from Roman in the past and the usage we saw of Jackson last season, the Ravens will fall somewhere between 450 and 500 pass attempts. If Brown ends up the WR1, he will be looking at 110-125 targets. No fantasy WR1 had fewer than 130 targets last season.
Catch Rate– Targets are not as heavily tracked in NCAA as they are in the NFL so it will be best to use NFL comparisons. In Harmon’s Reception Perception, he made it clear that the best comparisons for Brown are DeSean Jackson, Tyreek Hill, and the man he replaces, John Brown. All of these players are field stretchers and those type of players tend to have a lower catch %. Hill caught 63% of his passes last year and Jackson has hovered between 50-60% his entire career. However, John Brown caught just 42 of the 97 targets sent his way in Baltimore last season.
Receptions– Using the data pulled from the previous categories, we get a good idea of a range of outcomes when it comes to receptions for Marquise Brown. On the high-end, he could see 110-125 targets and should reel in just over half of those. In other words, he has a floor of 55 receptions and a likely ceiling of 75 catches. While this does not scream WR1 by any stretch of the imagination, it should be noted that Tyler Lockett was the WR15 with only 57 receptions in 2018 and in 2017, there were three WRs to finish in the top-12 without topping 75 catches, including Tyreek Hill.
Yards– In college, Brown averaged more than 18 yards-per-reception and he will need that kind of production to be a top WR in fantasy football. Last season, his predecessor John Brown averaged just over 17 YPC. Now this gives a huge range of outcomes. On the low end, if he only reels in 55 balls but is held to 17 YPC, we’d have a floor of just over 900 yards. His ceiling is the most intriguing part. At the 75 catch ceiling and his college yards-per-catch average, we could be looking at almost 1,400 yards. Only six WRs topped that mark in 2018 and all of them finished as a fantasy WR1. Even 900 yards could easily put him in WR2 territory.
TDs– While TDs are hard to predict in the best of circumstances, receiving TDs in a run-heavy offense are a nightmare. Looking over the Greg Roman’s history and Baltimore’s numbers last season you get a decent idea of the floor and ceiling.[lptw_table id=”160010″ style=”default”]
At the bottom end, you get four TDs and, putting it simply, that will not get it done for a WR1 season. But again, the ceiling tells a brighter story. At nine TDs, Brown could end up in the leagues top-10 in scoring and near fantasy’s top-12 without much issue. The problem is that the range is huge: four TDs is a disappointing season and nine is near the top of the food chain. Compounding the issue is that Lamar Jackson only threw six TDs in seven games last season and it would appear that Brown would need to catch over 50% of the teams total passing TDs to hit that ceiling.
WR1 Possibility: Bad (Below 10%)
This percentage came from a Twitter poll I ran asking the likelihood that Marquise Brown finishes as fantasy WR1. It was actually voted as “laughable” that I was even posing the question. Hopefully, this article has shown that while that % is pretty accurate, the doubt surrounding Brown and his Baltimore landing spot is exaggerated to the point that he represents a huge value in fantasy drafts. It’s not often that you can get the 1st rookie WR selected in the real draft as the WR58 and 6th rookie off the board in fantasy drafts.
The long and short is: Brown is likely not a fantasy WR1 in 2019. We haven’t even gotten into the fact that he is recovering from the pesky Lis Franc injury but does appear on track to appear in training camp. With comparisons like Tyreek Hill and DeSean Jackson, Brown could have IMMENSE value later in his career, even as early as 2020; however in 2019, it would appear that a back-end WR2 season is his ceiling, and for a 14th round pick, that isn’t a bad deal at all.
Be sure to check out all of our “Path to a WR1 Season” articles for 2019!