A.J. Brown Fantasy Football Outlook & Value 2021

A.J. Brown is one of the most exciting young talents at the receiver position in the NFL, and he has 2,126 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns over his first two NFL seasons. He’s been focusing on rehabbing from knee surgery this offseason and working on “new ways to improve his game.” I do not doubt that Brown will be back and better than ever, especially after Tennessee traded for Julio Jones to keep some defensive attention away from him. Even in a lower-volume passing offense, Brown is a clear-cut WR1 this season.

2020 Recap 

RECSREC YDSREC TDSFPTSFPPG
701,07511206.514.8

The former Ole Miss wideout delivered plenty of big weeks last season as he had 17+ half-PPR points in seven of his fourteen games. Brown has racked 17.8 yards per reception and 11.3 yards per target so far in his career, somewhat making up for the relative lack of volume he’s received. Brown routinely made highlight-reel catches look ordinary last season as he burned just about every cornerback he faced. In his third professional season, could even more impressive production be on the way?

2021 Projection 

RECSREC YDSREC TDSFPTSFPPG
88.71,348.410239.214.1

A.J. Brown was on pace for 5 catches per game last season, which would be good for 85 catches over a 17-game slate; I have him down for about 88 receptions. Brown’s 66% catch rate last season was elite, especially given the types of targets he received downfield. I don’t see him slowing down in that regard; if anything, his efficiency could improve as Julio Jones takes away some defensive attention. Brown will be a target hog in an offense that lost both Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith over the offseason, and I currently have him projected as the WR8 in half-PPR scoring.

ADP & Auction Value 

ADP: 21, Round 2, WR7

Auction Value: $27

A.J. Brown could be had in the fourth or fifth round last year and was often drafted outside the top 15 wide receivers. Those days are over after he finished as the WR5 in half-PPR per-game scoring last season. He’s continued to thrive in a lower-volume passing offense, and while Julio Jones could eat into his targets more than Corey Davis did, Brown’s elite efficiency isn’t going anywhere. As one of the biggest threats in the NFL to hit double-digit touchdown catches, Brown is well worth the second-round pick.

Floor

A.J. Brown saw 106 targets in 14 games last year, and had he played a full 16-game season, he would have finished with about a 25% target share in the offense. Julio Jones could theoretically eat into his elite target share a bit. Still, this offense has plenty of vacated targets as Corey Davis (92) and Jonnu Smith (65) are no longer on the team and were the two most-targeted players outside Brown. Over a 17-game slate, it isn’t easy to envision Brown finishing with fewer than 120 targets. Brown has 19 touchdowns in 30 games, so I see him as a near-lock for 10 touchdowns. Combine that with a career 64.1% catch rate and 15.4 YPR, and you’re looking at 77 catches for 1,185 yards. All of those numbers give him a floor as a low-end WR1.

Ceiling 

Few players can make big plays as A.J. Brown can, and it shows in his yards per reception rate. With an elite YPR of 15.4 last season, Brown earned 434 of his 1.075 yards after the catch – only Tyreek Hill is on the same level in making big plays. Among players with at least 50 receptions, Brown has ranked inside the top six in yards per reception in each of the past two years. The Titans did acquire Julio Jones to soak up some of the targets vacated by Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith, but Jones missed seven games last season, and if he misses time again, Brown would be an absolute target hog for this team. Brown could easily be a top-five WR in his third professional season if he plays every game and has WR1 upside.

Tennessee Titans Offense 

Tennessee TitansThe Titans scored the fourth-most points in the NFL last season and have arguably only improved their offensive personnel heading into 2021. Derrick Henry returns after a First-Team All-Pro season in which he ran for 2,027 yards. Henry has led the NFL in rushing in two straight seasons, and he’s one of the few running backs who absolutely transform his team’s approach on both sides of the ball. Ryan Tannehill has thrown for 55 touchdowns to just 13 interceptions in 28 career games in Tennessee, and he’s become one of the most efficient quarterbacks in football since joining his new team. The Titans don’t have much in the way of proven receiving talent outside of A.J. Brown and Julio Jones, although that duo is arguably the best in the NFL. Josh Reynolds comes over from the Rams as a middling veteran pickup while rookie Dez Fitzpatrick doesn’t figure to have much involvement right away. Tennessee does have some of the best continuity on the offensive line in the league as Taylor Lewan returns from his ACL tear to join Rodger Saffold, Ben Jones, Nate Davis, and Kendall Lamm new right tackle who came over from the Browns in free agency. All in all, this figures to be one of the best offenses in football once again, and A.J. Brown is a huge reason why.

Strength of Schedule  

You can argue the strength of schedule is a silly metric for someone like A.J. Brown as the 6’0″, 227-lb physical freak combines strength, speed, and athleticism to put fear into any defense he faces. Brown faces some beatable matchups in his division as the Texans and Jaguars have two of the worse defenses in the league. While the Colts feature a top-level cornerback in Xavier Rhodes, they don’t have two high-level guys to guard Brown and Jones – few teams do. The Titans face the NFC West this season, a division with some beatable defenses in the Seahawks (28th), 49ers (16th), and Cardinals (14th), all of whom were average or below-average in terms of fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. On the other hand, the Rams feature Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams, arguably the best cornerback pairing in the league. The AFC East presents more of a challenge as the Bills (6th) and Patriots (12th) have some great secondary talent and were above-average in defending against wide receivers in fantasy. The Jets (20th) and Dolphins (23rd) proved much more beatable. Rounding out the Titans’ schedule are the Chiefs (3rd), Steelers (10th), and Saints (18th). Far more than any matchup with a cornerback this season, Brown’s upside week-to-week will depend on the team’s projected game script, which could vary wildly.

Bottom Line

Sometimes all it takes is an eye test to tell you a player is fantasy gold, and A.J. Brown’s highlights are among the most fun to watch in the NFL. He’s a beast in the red zone, a constant threat to take the top off the defense, and one of the best players in the league at picking up extra yards with the ball in his hands. Few defenses can hope to guard him and Julio Jones in the same game, and there’s no real reason to expect a decline in targets for Brown with Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith departing from Tennessee. A.J. Brown is a locked-and-loaded WR1 this season with top-3 upside at the position, making him well-worth the 2nd-round pick he’ll require if you want him on your fantasy team this season.

2021 Fantasy Football Player Outlooks
I've been writing about sports for Lineups since the beginning of 2020 and on my own website since 2018. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. I've been playing fantasy football for as long as I can remember and am now in far more leagues than any person should take part in. There are few things that give me as much joy and excitement as fantasy football, and I'm excited to share my input with you in your journey towards a championship.

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