Stabilizing the Hype Before the Wheels Fall Off: A.J. Brown Edition - Kenneth Steinkamp

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone dreams of getting the next great player in fantasy football. Last year the hype was enormous for standout wide receiver Chris Godwin and he did not disappoint! Godwin had massive weeks, few disappointments and did it all at the young age of 23.
While breakouts happen every year, it appears that Godwin has pushed fans to new limits to catch lightning in the bottle and a sophomore wide receiver down in Nashville is skyrocketing up people’s draft boards.
A.J. Brown was once thought to be the premier WR heading into the 2019 draft, but competition and NFL draft capital had him fall slightly down the ladder. The signs pointed to a difficult position in Tennessee to provide real value but what he did was provide owners a strong and dominating finish to the 2019 season with over 1000 yards and eight TDs. At the same ripe age of 23 as last year’s phenom in Tampa Bay for the 2020 season; can Brown become the next Fantasy superstar?
Brown isn’t facing much competition for targets in Nashville; with Jonnu Smith probably being the only real competition as Corey Davis finally is on his way out with his option being denied for the 2021 season.
Brown has great metrics with 4.4 speed, decent burst, and a robust catch radius and will have Ryan Tannehill for a full season (if Tannehill can stay healthy). There is no reason that Brown shouldn’t significantly increase his 84 targets from last year and his 52 receptions should follow suit.
Without a doubt it is likely that Brown outproduces his fantasy output from last year; especially in PPR formats.
The biggest hurdle A.J. Brown and the rest of the Titans offense will have is having the scoring efficiency that they did last year. It’s extremely unlikely that Brown is able to take 16% of his touches to the house in 2020 and will likely fall below Tyreek Hill’s 12% success rate of doing so. So while Brown will likely see a significant increase in targets, he’ll likely see a massive reduction in yards/catch and TDs/catch.
There will also be games that Henry takes over and Tannehill only needs to have 7 or 8 completions to win the game; a la last year’s playoff. Without a doubt, the Titans are wanting this to be an offense that focuses on the run with one of the best pure rushing RBs in the game. This limits the opportunities that Brown will have to make an impact. This could result in the dreaded up and downs that fantasy owners have dreaded from the uber-talented but often inconsistent Dallas star WR Amari Cooper.
Tannehill is the last piece of the potential problems and successes of A.J. Brown. While often doubted Ryan Tannehill is a talented thrower of the football and had a great season a year ago. That being said he is not someone that has come close to that 5000-yard mark or has thrown 30+ TDs in a season like most of his contemporary’s and will not be asked to be that quarterback in Tennessee. He has also missed some time to both knee and shoulder injuries in his career and Mr. Woodside is not who I want throwing to a player I draft to be a core piece of my team moving forward.
A.J. Brown has all the measurables and a great storyline of being the dominant WR1 on his team entering the 2020 season, and all that being at the young age of 23. He will be heavily targeted and given all of the opportunity to become Fantasy’s next darling.
Yet, at a cost that is ever rising, he does not seem to provide the elite upside that others being drafted around him do like: Golladay, Cooper, Julio, Odell, and Allen Robinson have. There is a scenario that he translates to a WR1 this year but there are many more scenarios that he gets stuck as a great NFL WR on a team that doesn’t need to give him the ball 7 times a game to win.
Re-Draft: At his price in redraft it is much safer to take a different WR with a similar upside on a more pass friendly offense.
Dynasty: While his price would indicate possible better options; if focusing on building a young team with long term upside Brown is worth a shot. The preference in this scenario would be for him to be your WR2 and paired with a more consistent top-end option for the weeks that Brown will inevitably disappear.

Quiet Players That Could Make a Lot of Noise in 2020 - Kenneth Steinkamp

Studs are the fun and exciting players that all fantasy players love drafting over the first couple rounds, but championships are made by finding the hidden gems later in the draft. These can be ascending young talents or boring veterans but there’s usually question marks with these potential league winners, and we’ll assess some potential outliers that could be game-changers and the level of risk they have.
*Using MFL ADP from Recent Drafts
Matt Stafford
This is going to be a common pick among the fantasy community as a potential draft steal; however, his ADP has barely moved over the last month. Stafford was not just good before being sidelined last year; he was top tier amazing while nursing a bad back. While he posted a few disappointing games, he averaged the 3rd highest PPG in 6pt/TD scoring behind Jackson and Mahomes. Best of all he is being drafted as the 24th QB off the board. This is a classic case of Stafford just being a boring name to draft and the likelihood of him becoming fantasy elite over the course of his 12th NFL season is low, but he should finish as a low QB1 in most league formats. It’s hard to see a situation outside of injury that he does not out produce is QB24 draft price.
It is fair to point out that unless you’re in a 2QB/SF league that low-end QB1 options are typically steamtable on a week over week basis and an opening weekend game against Chicago is off-putting. He will get games against the Cardinals, Jaguars (not the Jaguars of 2017), Falcons, Panthers, and Redskins in the meat of NFL schedule and should be heavily considered in those games.
4300 Yards, 31 TDs, 9 Ints
25 Carries, 100 Yards, 1 TD
6pt/TD Points: 317 points over 15 weeks (QB6 in 2019)
Percent ownership: 0% (likely will be 25% after week 1 waiver wires)
David Montgomery
At first glance, Montgomery seems to be right where he belongs as the RB29. He was bad in almost every measurable statistic, was bad in 2019, and didn’t have strong metrics coming out of college. Yet a deeper dive into the options going ahead of him and where he is being drafted leaves an interesting set of circumstances that could just be the biggest steal of the fantasy season. Montgomery is the only RB on the team that can play all three downs and with Cohen lining up all over the field and Foles likely taking over there should be more scoring opportunities for the Bears this season.
With a slight uptake in total carries Montgomery won’t need much to destroy his current ADP; even if he can’t improve his yards/carry by a significant margin. He is one of a handful of other backs (almost all taken in the first couple of rounds) that has a realistic shot of hitting a 300-carry threshold. The biggest question mark will be if the offensive line can improve without significant effort put to do so with personal changes. He won’t be a sexy name to select, a comfortable player to start, or someone that wins weeks for you by himself on a consistent basis; but he should provide a safe floor with great upside throughout the season. Best of all, you should be very strong at other positions if Montgomery is your third RB taken. However, if Trubisky keeps the QB job it could be a very long year of frustration owning any piece of the Bears offense.
290 carries, 1130 yards, 8 TDs, 3 Fumbles
32 receptions, 252 Yards, 2 TDs
PPR Points: 204 points over 15 games (RB15 in 2019)
Percent Ownership: 20%
Diontae Johnson
Looking at ADP there are many choices for WRs that are falling too far down the draft board and the hype train of the 2020 class is mostly to blame. Popular choices of A-Rob, Landry, and Hilton will litter fantasy sites everywhere until August arrives. However; there is a player in Pittsburgh being drafted at WR66 and finished his rookie season averaging more points per game than his counterpart JuJu Smith-Schuster who is being drafted as WR10 off the board. While it’s unlikely that Diontae averages a higher per game total than JuJu this year, there are a plethora of reasons he should be going ahead of other options currently being selected higher than him.
The easiest answer to be excited about is that Big Ben is healthy, determined, and easily more reliable than Rudolph or Hodges were last year. The team should have more yards, TDs, and big plays this year and that should correlate to all the starters production totals increasing. What is forgotten and probably the least heard coach speak of 2019 is that the Steelers had a 1st round grade of Johnson coming out of Toledo and used him as such last year. Juju doesn’t have a new contract, Claypool is a rookie that likely won’t have a training camp and Washington appears to be a bust. That leads to the belief that Johnson is secure in his role as at least the WR2 on an offense; that with Big Ben always has superb WR success. Maybe Johnson doesn’t break out and become a WR2 candidate this year but being drafted as the WR66 with that type of upside in the Steelers offense is intriguing and exciting.
75 Receptions, 937 Yards, 6 TDs
PPR Points: 191 (WR26 in 2019)
Percent Ownership: 33%
Jonnu Smith
This is a position that while it looks deeper than most years is one that top tier talent is preferred. Kelce, Kittle, Andrews, Ertz, Waller, Henry, and Engram are currently rounding out the top 6 in ADP and should be targeted as such. There are breakout candidates galore at the TE position later in the draft from Fant and Hockenson to Higbee and Gesicki but they all have risk and are all a shot in the dark. If you miss out on one of those top 6 options, it may be better to take a few shots in the last couple rounds of the draft and load up on RB and WR talent that is plentiful in the mid-rounds. This brings us to an intriguing option down in Nashville: Jonnu Smith currently being drafted as TE23.
Smith ended the season on a strong note with solid games against the Texans and the Saints. While two games do not make a season, he also was battling the 2020 fantasy football off-season darling AJ Brown for the target lead in the playoffs. He has circumvented the NFL protocol of traveling/working out with teammates by living close to newly extended Ryan Tannehill to gain chemistry and likely target preference heading into 2020. The Titans will likely lose efficiency across the board which may mean less scoring opportunities for the team but should open up more passing attempts for the receivers and Smith which could help immensely in PPR formats. Increased targets, building chemistry with his QB, and another year of growth could be all Smith needs to become a fantasy-relevant player in 2020. The recommendation would still be to acquire the proven commodity at the beginning of the draft but as a second option or necessity; Smith seems to check all the boxes of a potential breakout TE and a much lower cost than the players being drafted above him.
52 receptions, 692 Yards, 6TDs
PPR points: 147 (TE8 in 2019)

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