One of the reasons that we love fantasy sports is the surprise performances. And one of the reasons that we love dynasty fantasy football is finding an unheralded player and watching them break out. Wide receivers are a great example of this, with chemistry and opportunity playing considerable parts in production. But, with that in mind, just what are the dynasty values of AJ Brown and Courtland Sutton?
Undervalued: Courtland Sutton is a dynasty superstar in the making
When I say that Courtland Sutton is undervalued, I naturally get some strange looks. He’s currently sneaking into the top 15 or so wide receivers in most dynasty rankings, so those searching for a sleeper will have to look elsewhere. But there’s an argument that he should be even higher.
Sutton is coming off a breakout season, but there’s every reason to believe that he can sustain his success. In standard scoring, Sutton finished the season as WR17. Although he was the WR67 in PFN Offensive Share Metric (OSM) for the season, he posted a top 20 weekly grade on five separate occasions. Of the 16 wide receivers who finished above him in fantasy scoring, he still finished with a better OSM grade than four of them, proving that his production wasn’t a complete anomaly.
The expectation entering the season was that Sutton would be the secondary option to Emmanuel Sanders, capable of big games but ultimately not receiving the targets to make him more than a depth piece for your fantasy roster. And his ADP reflected that, with between 40 and 50 wide receivers often being picked before him in redraft leagues.
His age naturally gave him a boost in dynasty fantasy football rankings. Still, it wasn’t uncommon to see him grouped with players like Dante Pettis, Alshon Jeffery, and Sterling Shepard, all of whom he has distanced himself from comfortably.
The trade of Sanders before week 8’s game against the Indianapolis Colts delivered a boost to Sutton’s dynasty value. Opportunity is vital to any young player, with wide receivers, in particular, relying on their quarterback getting them the ball. This was a clear message from the Denver Broncos front office. The passing game goes through Courtland Sutton now.
Former New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur has been brought in as the Broncos offensive coordinator, replacing Rich Scangarello. The Broncos look committed to quarterback Drew Lock, who enjoyed an impressive rookie season.
Shurmur has experience of getting the most out of offenses. While the 2019 Giants didn’t send shockwaves through the league, rookies Daniel Jones and Darius Slayton developed and improved throughout the year. In his time with the Minnesota Vikings, he created productive passing offenses despite having to rely on Sam Bradford and Case Keenum. More importantly, for Sutton, both Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen were able to establish themselves among the best receivers in the league.
Courtland Sutton is being undervalued in dynasty rankings. When it comes to your dynasty leagues in 2020, he’s an excellent option for those who miss out on the elite group. A young number one wide receiver paired with a promising young quarterback is potential gold.
Overvalued: AJ Brown’s unpredictable production is dangerous for dynasty
There’s no doubt whatsoever that AJ Brown had an incredibly impressive rookie season. The Tennessee Titans rookie wide receiver exploded on to the scene with 100 yards on his debut and continued to produce, becoming the first Titans player to reach 1000 receiving yards in a season since tight end Delanie Walker in 2015.
The 2019 rookie wide receiver class exceeded all expectations with DK Metcalf, Terry McLaurin, Deebo Samuel, Hunter Renfrow, Darius Slayton, and others all looking like potential fantasy football stars in the making. Brown earned his spot among a group being bathed in superlatives.
His OSM score of 34.12 made him the WR32 on the season. That said, despite playing in all 16 regular-season games, he was only able to hit the minimum threshold for involvement (five targets) in eight of those. The inconsistency reached a crescendo when, after 124 receiving yards in week 17, the playoffs rolled around, and he registered just 4 yards in the wildcard round victory over the New England Patriots and 9 in the divisional round victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
Brown is a big-play threat every time he gets the ball. That can’t be overlooked. The fact that he had 100 or more receiving yards in five games last season is a testament to that. His 19.6 yards per reception trailed only Mike Williams. A lot of those yards came after the catch, though, compared to the traditional deep threats that are often near the top of the list.
Looking at Next Gen Stats shows just how much Brown overachieved after the catch. His average yards after catch above expectation was 4.9. The next highest in the league was Jonnu Smith, another Titan, with 2.9. Brown’s 4.9 was the highest mark ever recorded, with George Kittle’s 3.4 yards in 2018 the second-highest.
Expected yards after catch takes into account factors such as how open the receiver is as well as the situation they find themselves in with defenders to beat. AJ Brown got yards that he shouldn’t have been able to get.
Those in Brown’s corner will point to other players who have been at the top in previous years – Kittle and DJ Moore in 2018, Chris Godwin, and JuJu Smith-Schuster in 2017… all four continued to perform the following season. But betting on something unexpected is a risky proposition.
It’s difficult to deny that Brown is in a better situation than he was a year ago. Ryan Tannehill is a considerable upgrade over Marcus Mariota, and the Titans are a better offense than they were because of it. But Brown overachieved in 2019, and those expecting him to be a perennial 1000 yard receiver could be in for a shock. They’re a run-first offense and, as such, can be challenging to trust.
Come back next week for the fifth installment of the overvalued and undervalued dynasty players in 2020 by Andy Gallagher.