Amon-Ra St. Brown Fantasy Outlook: Why He Can Be an Elite WR in 2023

    Amon-Ra St. Brown was the overall WR7 last season while anchoring the Detroit Lions' passing attack. What is his fantasy outlook in 2023?

    At PFN, we’ve researched more than 350 fantasy football players, trying to identify which ones are overrated, underrated, and priced right. With that in mind, here is Detroit Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown’s fantasy outlook for 2023.

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    Amon-Ra St. Brown’s 2023 Fantasy Outlook

    In the five NFL Drafts from 2017 to 2021, 96 WRs were selected on Day 3 — the fourth round or later. Among those wideouts, Amon-Ra St. Brown is No. 3 in receptions, behind only Hunter Renfrow and Russell Gage. Renfrow’s been in the league for four years and Gage for five.

    St. Brown has played only two seasons. On a per-game basis, he’s been better. Much better. The best among Day 3 WRs since Tyreek Hill seven years ago.

    St. Brown joined an offense in transition. After the team went 5-11 in 2020 — in an aerial attack led by 23-year-old T.J. Hockenson, 30-year-old Marvin Jones, and 35-year-old Danny Amendola — they underwent a dramatic offensive makeover, sending Matthew Stafford to the Rams while receiving Jared Goff.

    In the short term, the Rams won that swap, winning the Super Bowl the following season. Detroit regressed to a 3-13-1 record behind a painfully bad defense and mostly anemic offense — “mostly” because St. Brown dominated as a rookie.

    It was a combination of talent and opportunity. In a crowded receiving corps, he might have been a top 35-45 fantasy WR at best. Coming out of college, he didn’t profile as an offensive difference-maker, and certainly not in Year 1.

    But the club’s other wideouts included No. 2 WR Kalif Raymond, No. 3 WR Josh Reynolds, and a smattering of Quintez Cephus, KhaDarel Hodge, Tom Kennedy, and Trinity Benson.

    Take St. Brown out of the equation, and this would have been by far the NFL’s worst WR corps.

    Of course, it wasn’t all about opportunity, although that helped. As highlighted above, St. Brown possessed an under-the-radar talent that contributed to his massive success.

    Despite a preseason ADP of WR72, he caught nearly everything thrown his way, dropping only one pass on a team-high 119 targets, culminating in a sterling 75.6% catch rate. He also earned the 14th-most yards after the catch among wideouts.

    This was no situational fluke. He was the real deal. The only question that remained was whether he could sustain it as the receiving corps inevitably improved.

    Jameson Williams was supposed to be the first big test. His arrival as a rookie last season threatened St. Brown’s must-start fantasy status. But injuries limited Williams to one catch in only six games. And he’s suspended for the first six games this season.

    Who knows how long it will take Williams to push for an alpha role or even a co-alpha role alongside St. Brown? Williams is supposed to be an NFL-ready talent. So we can throw last year’s injury-plagued season out the window. But when he returns, he will have barely played since losing the NCAA title game to Georgia 21 months earlier.

    So while St. Brown could be elite or near-elite in these first six games, he might remain elite or near-elite for many weeks after as Williams ramps up.

    This makes St. Brown a fascinating fantasy investment. Do you draft him early and then try to trade him around Week 6 with Williams’ return looming? Do you hold onto him, knowing that he might remain the No. 1 WR for weeks or even months? If an opponent drafts him, do you try to trade for him around Week 6, in the belief your opponent might give him up for less than he’s worth?

    Whatever your strategy, this passing attack isn’t that different than the one St. Brown joined as a rookie in 2021. A young Hockenson has been replaced by a young, less-experienced Sam LaPorta. Jones is back — now 33 years old and quite possibly on the verge of retirement.

    The Lions clearly trust St. Brown. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have focused on landing a top RB, a top TE, and an array of defensive upgrades in this year’s draft. For their two first-round picks, they had their choice of any wideout, including presumed No. 1 prospect Jaxon Smith-Njigba. They passed.

    They had two more picks in Round 2 and once again looked elsewhere as Jonathan Mingo, Jayden Reed, and other seemingly NFL-ready WRs came off the board. They had two more picks in Round 3. Same outcome.

    The Lions believe they can win their first NFC North title with a top-heavy aerial attack centered on St. Brown all season, on Williams for part of the season, and partially on LaPorta for as much as he can contribute.

    While it’s hard to envision St. Brown improving on his WR7 fantasy performance last year, it’s also hard to fade him. He’s earned Goff’s and this franchise’s trust. He’ll continue to be one of the best Day 3 WR picks in a decade or more, and he should continue to be a no-brainer weekly fantasy starter with a real shot at producing elite numbers.

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