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Fantasy Case Against A.J. Brown: A Lateral Move to Philadelphia

Traded to another run-first offense, there isn't much new fantasy upside for A.J. Brown.

The summer is here, meaning we’re getting closer to the start of fantasy football drafts. Success in those drafts will come from landing terrific bargains in the middle to late rounds while avoiding players who could see their numbers decline compared to 2021. That latter exercise isn’t easy, however, especially in the case of players who are among the elite at their position or are coming off breakout seasons in the stat sheets.

Case in point. In 2020, Allen Robinson recorded 102 catches on 151 targets for 1,250 yards and six touchdowns. That was all good enough for him to finish ninth in fantasy points among wide receivers, and it was his second straight year in the top 10. As a result, fantasy managers felt good about drafting Robinson as a low-end No. 1 wideout in 2021 drafts. In fact, he had an ADP of 32.7, according to Fantasy Football Calculator.

Unfortunately, the veteran wideout experienced a massive decline in his fantasy totals across the board. In fact, his catches, yardage and touchdown numbers were his worst since his rookie season. Who knew he would miss Mitchell Trubisky so much or that the selection of rookie Justin Fields would actually be bad news for Robinson’s stock?

The point here is that few folks saw this coming because Robinson was so good in the two previous seasons. The proof, of course, is in his high-end ADP number. That leads me to this series, aptly named "The Fantasy Case Against…" where I'll do my due diligence in looking at players who everyone in fantasy land thinks are a sure bet to remain uber-productive after finding a high level of success in past seasons.

The series highlights big-name players or those coming off enormous statistical years who could see a surprising decline in fantasy success. Like I always say, the only predictable thing about the NFL is that it's often unpredictable. And as much as we love our fantasy heroes out on the gridiron, no one is ever guaranteed to succeed.

Next up, I'll look at Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown.

Fantasy Case Against: Cooper Kupp | Davante Adams | Deebo Samuel | Amon-Ra St. Brown | Diontae Johnson | Cordarrelle Patterson | Michael Thomas | James Conner | Javonte Williams | DK Metcalf | Amari Cooper

2021 Season

Brown is coming off a disappointing season, finishing 32nd in fantasy points among wide receivers while missing four games due to injuries. He wasn’t much better on a points-per-game basis either (13.9 PPG), ranking 28th. D.J. Moore, Michael Pittman Jr. and Marquise Brown were among the wideouts who averaged more. Overall, Brown posted career lows in yardage, touchdowns, yards per reception and fantasy points.

Did You Know?

Brown was brutally inconsistent for fantasy managers last season, scoring single digits in seven of his 13 games (54%). Furthermore, nearly 50% of his total fantasy points were scored in three games. Three. He also found the end zone just five times and was held to six or fewer targets in five of his 13 contests. Brown has also missed a combined six games over the last two seasons due to an assortment of bumps and bruises.

Historical Trends

Brown’s best fantasy season came in 2020 when he scored 247.5 fantasy points. That total would have ranked as the fifth-most in a single season for an Eagles wideout in the last 20 years. Just two (Terrell Owens – 2004, Jeremy Maclin – 2014) have had more than 270 fantasy points for the franchise in that time. Moreover, an Eagles wideout has reached the 250-point mark in PPR leagues just four times in the last two decades.

Philadelphia has also seen just four wide receivers (Owens, Maclin, DeSean Jackson, Kevin Curtis) finish with more than 1,000 yards since 2002, and only eight have scored eight or more touchdowns. Just two, Owens and Maclin, have recorded double-digit touchdowns. These are a bit troublesome for Brown if you're into historical trends.

Coaching & Personnel Changes

Head coach Nick Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen will again lead the offense, though the former will be the main play caller. In his first season as the main man, Sirianni’s squad was a tale of two offenses. Over the first six weeks, the Eagles ranked 10th in pass percentage and 23rd in rush percentage. Jalen Hurts averaged nearly 35 pass attempts per contest, and the team had a meager record of 2-4.

Over the final 11 games, however, the Eagles shifted their focus to the run. In fact, no team ran the ball more. They were also dead last in pass percentage, and Hurts saw his pass attempts per game average decline to just 24.8 in his final nine starts. The Eagles' wideouts were also affected, as DeVonta Smith led the team with an average of 10.7 fantasy points a game. No other receiver averaged more than 6.1 points in that time.

The Eagles went 7-4 in this 11-game span and finished 9-8, which was good enough for a Wild Card berth. The ground game, it seemed, was better for the team. But with the addition of Brown, the Eagles have to throw the football more often... Right?


At times, Brown has shown flashes of brilliance, but he hasn’t always been reliable for fantasy managers. The fact that 50% of his points last season came in three games is proof of that. Sure, he was far better in the previous campaign (15-plus points in nine of 14 games), but he had the advantage of playing with a quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, who had a completion percentage of 67.3 in his last three seasons. Hurts was at 61.3 last season, which ranked a lowly 25th among quarterbacks with at least 12 games.

Brown also had the advantage of playing in an offense with Derrick Henry, who drew stacked fronts regularly. In fact, no running back with at least 200 carries had more carries with eight-plus men in the box in 2020. That made life easier for Brown and the Titans receivers. The Eagles don’t have that kind of back. Their top runner, Miles Sanders, saw 10.2% of his carries against eight-plus men in the box in 2021.

Fantasy fans also have to wonder how much less Sirianni will run the football now that he has Brown in the offense. Remember, the Eagles had a better record while leading the league in run percentage last season. Will Sirianni go back to his original game plan of throwing the ball over 60% of the time as he did in his first six games when the team opened 2-4, or will he feature a balanced attack where the run isn’t the main focus?

Brown will also have to share targets with DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert, and to a lesser degree, Quez Watkins and Jalen Reagor. When you also factor in that he’s not been the most durable wideout in the league, and Brown seems like a real risk at his current ADP of 28.4 on Fantasy Football Calculator. At the position, he’s the 11th wide receiver off the board. Personally, I don’t see Brown as a top-12 fantasy wideout.

Instead, I’d be looking to grab him as a No. 2 receiver in the third round. That’s where he landed in my recent one-man, 10-round mock draft. With several obstacles to overcome in Philadelphia, including a quarterback who needs to improve his accuracy and the potential for a run-based system, I can’t target him higher with any confidence.

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Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Click here to read all his articles here on SI Fantasy. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram for your late-breaking fantasy news and the best analysis in the business!