The Path to a WR1 Fantasy Season: Marquise “Hollywood” Brown
As mentioned previously, this series is now in its fourth year of finding some undervalued, potential WR1s. The concept is simple: pick a player who is ranked outside of the top-15 wide receivers in Andy, Mike, and Jason’s initial rankings as discussed on the podcast and go through the process of seeing whether they have it in their range of outcomes to finish inside the top-12.
After highlighting Courtland Sutton’s WR1 chances, I needed to broaden my approach and went with a second-year wideout who has the name and game to finish among the elite: HOLLYWOOD! The Ravens WR was impressive in spurts as a rookie as Lamar Jackson’s most potent wide receiver weapon. Let’s recap Brown’s 2019 season, dive into a few statistical categories that we need to project his ceiling, and finally land on his chances heading into the 2020 season.
Want all the Reception Perception info on Hollywood? Buy the Ultimate Draft Kit to get data on all the rest of the top-50 WRs.
2019 Season Recap
The first WR taken in the 2019 NFL Draft, Brown started out the regular season with a bang posting 28.7 fantasy points in Week 1 against the Dolphins. He would collect only two more WR1 finishes (WR11 in Week 10 and WR9 in Week 12) before finishing the season as the WR46 in o.5 point-scoring. All of this needs context as Brown began the season recovering from a Lisfranc injury. The rest of the Ravens pass-catchers (outside of Mark Andrews and Mark Ingram… the Marks brothers) were downright pitiful for fantasy as Brown accounted for 40.9 percent of the WR fantasy points, 14th most in the league.[lptw_table id=”163700″ style=”default”]
Lamar Jackson posted an insane 123.2 QB Rating when targeting Brown, 6th best among WRs. Brown accomplished all of this despite seeing just 59 percent of Baltimore’s total snaps in 2019 including missing Week 5 & 7. Maybe you deleted this game from your memory as most Ravens fans did but he caught 7-of-11 targets for 126 yards in the Ravens upset playoff loss to the Titans. All in all, for a rookie WR adjusting to the NFL, Brown’s stock is pointing up heading into 2020.
The Path for 2020
In order for Brown to take the next step and finish as a WR1, there are a number of statistical benchmarks he must meet to become truly an elite fantasy option.
Target Share- For a rookie, an 18.9 percent is impressive especially considering the low volume and injuries Brown fought through. However, 71 total targets placed him 59th among WRs. For Brown to reach a WR1 level, he will need to hit 20+ percent and north of 100 targets. Why that threshold you ask? Only six players have finished with less than 110 targets and a WR1 finish in PPR leagues over the last 12 years. That means roughly 97% of the WRs needed that type of volume to see WR1 production. For context, Jason, who is the most bullish on Brown among the Footballers, has him over 100 targets as detailed in the Ultimate Draft Kit.
Through the first five weeks of the season, Brown was on pace for 125 targets. That total seems a bit high but we shouldn’t count it out in terms of his absolute ceiling. Miles Boykin and Willie Snead, as well as rookies Devin Duvernay and James Proche, aren’t exactly striking fear into the hearts of opposing defenses. The other competition for alpha status in Baltimore is among the weakest in the league.
Catch Rate- Brown is one of only seven rookie WRs over the last 30 years with seven receiving TDs, better than 12.5 yards per reception, and a catch rate above 64 percent. The list was impressive with recent rookie standouts Odell Beckham Jr., Keenan Allen, Calvin Ridley, and Juju Smith-Schuster among others. The point is that Brown doesn’t have to fall by the wayside in this category despite the number of deep routes he runs. Catch rate isn’t the stickiest of stats but anything above 60 percent should get the job done.
Receptions– According to PlayerProfiler, Brown ranked 4th among all WRs in terms of yards of “cushion”, meaning defenders were terrified of his afterburners. While he can be typecast as only a DeSean Jackson-esque deep threat, Brown’s route tree is way more refined than many realize. As Matt Harmon details in his Reception Perception write-up in the Ultimate Draft Kit, “no one should think of him exclusively as a deep game option. Brown’s 73.6 percent success rate vs. man coverage puts him at the 83rd percentile and in some exciting company.”
If 100+ targets are on his radar, he can finish in the neighborhood of 70 receptions if things break right. Jason has him down 74 receptions, an aggressive projection but well within his wheelhouse. Remember when this dude was with Kyler Murray in junior year in college he put up 75/1318/10 in just 12 games played. While I’m not in the business of extrapolating college numbers, he is not just a 50 catch guy in the mold of a one-trick pony speedster ala Taylor Gabriel or Ted Ginn Jr.
Yards– This is where Brown can sneak up on the pack in a hurry. While he certainly had an impact for fantasy in short spurts, his yards per reception (12.7) and total Air Yards (841) were actually quite pedestrian for a player with his skillset. Despite starting with 147 yards in Week 1, Brown surpassed 80 yards only twice more and posted less than 50 receiving yards in all of his other 11 games. While his up-and-down nature might need to be considered when drafting him, this article seeks to find an end of season result that would put him in WR1 territory.
Given a full season worth of snaps, his yards per pass route (2.25) might be a better indicator of what we could see if he’s turned loose. Factoring in Baltimore’s lower passing volume and Brown’s route participation, his high-end projection could be 1,200 receiving yards. Breaking 1,000 is likely a more attainable goal which puts him in the mold of a Brandin Cooks or Doug Baldwin low-end WR1 type of season.
TDs– If 2019 was an indicator of any part of Brown’s game, he can find the end zone in a hurry. Aided by Jackson’s off-the-charts nine percent TD rate, Brown scored seven times in 2019 while gathering nine red zone receptions. He scored from 47, 83, 11, 20, 6, 18, and 24 yards out. Beyond the first week when he went absolutely bonkers, Brown scored on repeatable red-zone looks from Lamar Jackson, the ultimate red-zone weapon. He’s one of the sneaky candidates to hit double-digit TDs although teammate Mark Andrews will have a say in that conversation. If Jackson ends up near 30 passing TDs and Brown is his WR1, it’s not odd to predict a third of his TDs might go Browns’s way in 2020.
WR1 Possibility: Low (15%)
This percentage is based upon the combined average of the Fantasy Footballers writing staff. To put this in perspective, Michael Thomas is probably more like a 90% chance given his consistency, volume, and lack of injury history. A guy like Cole Beasley is probably at about 2%. Keep in mind that in order for players like Brown to jump into the top-12, you’ll be kicking out studs or assuming regression hits for the elites.
Brown offers one of the major trump cards in NFL: speed. It’s the speed that kills and defenses clearly are intimidated by. As noted in his Reception Perception article by Matt Harmon coming into the NFL, Brown had some of the best film he’d seen in a while with comps ranging from Desean Jackson, John Brown, and all the way to Tyreek Hill. “Brown has the potential to be one of the most thrilling players in the game in a few seasons.” For fantasy purposes, he has quite a hill to climb to reach WR1-status. His team’s passing volume and his likely lower reception total definitely hinder him. He will have to make his mark on yards per reception and TDs, as we saw in 2020.
But the best part about Hollywood is that you don’t have to pay a WR1 price tag. Currently, Brown is going as the WR31 off the board in Bestball drafts as an early 7th round pick. In other words, he will likely be your team’s WR3/4 which should excite anyone with his upside baked in. I’ll be taking shots at Brown in Bestball and 0.5 PPR leagues a full round earlier in hopes that he takes his game to another level in 2020.