The 2022 offseason has been the craziest in NFL history. I don’t think it is hyperbole to say that. After a boring start, the NFL Draft quickly followed suit with trade after trade after trade. In one of the most shocking moves, the Tennessee Titans traded A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles for the 18th overall pick and a third-round selection. What are the fantasy football ramifications of the move?
Fantasy impact of the A.J. Brown trade
There are multiple players impacted by the Titans trading Brown to the Eagles. Let’s dive into what this means for fantasy football, specifically in the 2022 season.
Impact of Brown trade on Ryan Tannehill
The Titans entered the 2022 offseason with wide receiver as a top need. For them to trade away Brown was a true shocker. Their only other big offseason move was to sign a 30-year-old Robert Woods coming off a midseason ACL tear.
Immediately following their trade of Brown, they replaced him with Treylon Burks, whom they selected with the 18th overall pick they received in the deal.
This is an obvious downgrade for Tannehill and the entire Titans’ offense. Brown may not have been a WR1 in fantasy, but he was a true WR1 in the NFL. Tannehill will now have to develop rapport with a rookie and a new veteran wide receiver.
Tannehill was already nothing more than a high-end QB2, averaging 16.5 fantasy points per game in 2021. You have to think the Titans will only become more reliant on the run and Derrick Henry, further limiting Tannehill’s already low ceiling in one of the most run-heavy offenses in the NFL.
Impact of Brown trade on Robert Woods and Treylon Burks
Brown would have been the clear target leader ahead of Woods this season. As long as Woods’ recovery goes well (which by all accounts it is), I would expect him to be Tannehill’s primary receiver.
Woods averaged 15 PPR ppg last season, which was 1.1 ppg more than Brown. Woods would do incredibly well to even get to 13 this season despite his target competition diminishing. I fully expect Woods to have around a 25% target share, though. If he goes late enough in 2022 fantasy football drafts, he could be a value.
As for Burks, this is an interesting landing spot. It’s great in terms of an opportunity to play right away. He will instantly be this team’s WR2 and start opposite Woods in Week 1. There’s no doubt about it. The question is, what does it mean to be Ryan Tannehill’s WR2?
There are also concerns with Burks’ profile. He tested worse than expected at the Combine and might just not be as good as many analysts initially thought.
If you believe in Burks’ talent, he’s a dynasty buy. Do not let Tannehill’s limitations deter you from that. However, I suspect Burks will struggle to find relevance from a redraft perspective. He will likely be drafted as a WR4, and I think producing as a WR4 is probably the best case for him as a rookie.
Impact of Brown trade on Jalen Hurts
Every trade has two sides. On the other side, we have the Eagles, who benefited immensely. They haven’t had a true WR1 since Alshon Jeffery. A.J. Brown is a true WR1. He will immediately become Jalen Hurts’ top target. I’m expecting upwards of a 25% target share.
Hurts has not been accurate in his short career, but he significantly improved his completion percentage from his rookie to his sophomore year. He completed just 52% of his passes in 2020 compared to 61.3% in 2021.
We’ve seen top wide receivers boost their quarterback’s efficiency plenty of times in the past. Just look at Stefon Diggs with Josh Allen.
Brown only increases Hurts’ already high ceiling, at least from a fantasy perspective. Hurts is undoubtedly a QB1 this season. With the Eagles immediately giving Brown a four-year, $100 million extension, Hurts has his WR1 for the foreseeable future.
Impact of Brown trade on DeVonta Smith and Brown himself
This is a tough spot for Brown. Hurts may be a better fantasy quarterback than Tannehill (by a lot), but he’s a worse quarterback for the fantasy prospects of his receivers. He’s less efficient than Tannehill, and he runs more, taking targets away from his receivers.
DeVonta Smith’s 22% target share last season earned him just 103 targets, as the Eagles only attempted 494 passes. The Titans are also extremely run-heavy, but they attempted 535 passes. That’s a sizable difference.
Now, Smith will be lucky to exceed a 20% target share, as Brown should hit the 25% mark. If Hurts gets over 500 attempts, Brown could see 125-135 targets. If he can recapture his rookie efficiency, where he averaged 12.5 yards per target (second-highest in the NFL), he can be a fantasy WR1. However, we don’t like to rely on efficiency.
Brown’s efficiency has dropped each of his three NFL seasons. He averaged 10.5 yards per target as a sophomore and 8.3 yards per target in his third season. The most likely outcome is he’s a mid-to-low WR2.
As for Smith…yikes. Hurts cannot sustain three quality fantasy receivers. Between Brown, Smith, and Dallas Goedert, someone will get the short end of the stick. I don’t think Smith gets vaporized, but his ceiling likely drops from WR2 to mid WR3.