The wide receiver class from the 2019 NFL draft is off to a blazing start during their rookie campaign. From first-round picks to undrafted free agents, many young pass-catchers have started to make a name for themselves in their respective franchise’s offense. Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown’s rookie season has impressed so far this season due in large part to a second-half surge with new starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
A tale of two Titans
Tennessee has had an up and down season. To open the season, QB Marcus Mariota resumed starting duties for his fifth season in a row under center. However, after an underwhelming start to the season, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel yanked Mariota for Tannehill, the former Miami Dolphins starting QB, in Week 6 during a 16-0 loss to the Denver Broncos.
The Titans went 2-4 during the first six weeks with Mariota at the helm. The team averaged just 16.3 points per game. Since Tannehill’s takeover, the Titans have won six of their last seven games, and the team is averaging 31.43 points/game. Tannehill has effectively moved the ball down the field in the passing game while running back Derrick Henry has dominated for the second year in a row. In just 13 games, Henry has secured consecutive 1,000 yard rushing seasons and has set his season-high for rushing yards by over 200 yards to this point.
But back to the topic at hand, Brown’s rookie season. Brown struggled some while Mariota was under center, yet he and Tannehill have shown great chemistry over the second half of the season. Brown has led Tennessee in receiving yards over the past three games. He also leads the Titans receiving core in yards (779) and receiving touchdowns (6) so far this season.
Brown is having one of the better seasons from this rookie wide receiver class. Three rookie WRs have surpassed 700 yards so far this season: D.K. Metcalf from the Seattle Seahawks (783), Brown, and Terry McLaurin from the Washington Redskins (703). Brown’s six touchdowns ties him for second-most among rookies along with McLaurin, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown from the Baltimore Ravens, and Mecole Hardman from the Kansas City Chiefs. They trail New York Giants rookie receiver Darius Slayton by one.
Is Brown’s rookie season a sign for the future?
Brown has quickly moved into the WR1 spot for Tennessee, especially while Tannehill is under center. According to PFN’s Offensive Share Metric, Brown earned an OSM grade of a 43.21, ranking him 6th among wide receivers in Week 14. According to the OSM performance scale, a score of 40 or above qualifies for as an elite performance. Week 14 was Brown’s second elite performance in three weeks following a monstrous 57.44 OSM grade in Week 12.
What sets Brown apart is his ability to generate yards after the catch. He led all pass-catchers in Week 14 with 17.2 yards after the catch per reception according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats. Brown also had the highest yards after the catch differential of +11.7 over his expected YAC/reception of 5.4.
Brown effectively stretches the field for the Titans, doubling as a deep threat and a receiver who will fight for extra yards. Of Brown’s five receptions during Week 14, all were at least 10 yards or more. If Brown can continue to produce for the Titans passing offense, he will prove to be a valuable asset for Tennessee as they make their playoff push.