Marquise Brown’s Circumstances Limit His Fantasy Football Potential in 2020
The Ravens offense is one of the most exciting units in the NFL after all, and key players in it could make for league winners in fantasy leagues this year. But while I do not doubt that Brown will be a good player in the coming season, I have my doubts as to whether this will translate into fantasy production.
The biggest driver of fantasy success is the opportunity to make plays. A shortage of overall opportunities is likely to be a significant obstacle for Brown moving forward, just as it was last year. The Ravens are one of the least pass-happy teams in the NFL. Last season no team attempted fewer passes over the whole campaign than Baltimore, and no team had a lower pass to run ratio than their 0.79.
The impact this had on Brown's opportunities is all too plain to see. Brown had 71 targets last season, the 59th most among all NFL wide receivers. While not commanding a vast number of total targets, Browns was also not peppered with looks that allowed him to showcase his blazing speed. Brown was targeted deep just 17 times last season, as per PlayerProfiler, a tally exceeded by 35 other players.
Leaving Plays on the Field
When Brown was looked for in the Ravens passing game, he didn't do too much to make Lamar Jackson desperate to keep sending the ball his way. His per-play efficiency left much to be desired. Of the 63 wide receivers who saw at least 70 targets last season, Brown finished 25th in Target Net Expected Points (NEP) per target with 0.41. When he secured the ball, he was able to post a 0.73 Reception NEP per target, but even that was only good for 35th out of 63.
Brown was not able to take full advantage of his chances, whether when the ball was in the air or his hands. He totaled 385 completed air yards, which was 52nd among the 80 wide receivers with at least 50 targets. Brown also only managed 199 yards after the catch, 50th out of 80.
Fantasy stars at the wide receiver position either need to see a boatload of targets or need to demonstrate extreme efficiency when an opportunity presents itself. Of the top 24 wide receivers in PPR formats last season, all but three of them commanded an average of seven or more targets per game.
The three that didn't, namely Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and A.J. Brown, finished inside the top six in terms of Target NEP per target. Marquise Brown saw an average of 5.1 targets per game last season, and if he is unable to improve his efficiency than I just don't think he's going to be able to produce the type of numbers fantasy owners want to see.
The sad thing is that Brown did show in his opening NFL games that he could produce when given the chance. Between Weeks 1-3 last season, Brown averaged nine targets a game, which he converted into 4.7 receptions for 94 yards and 0.7 touchdowns. He averaged 18.07 PPR points per game in this span. For the rest of the season, his per-game numbers dropped to four targets for 2.9 receptions, 27.4 yards, and 0.4 scores. That's 8.4 PPR points per contest. It's worth pointing out that the Ravens pass to run ratio in the first three weeks was 1.04. This dropped to 0.74 for the rest of the way.
There are several factors in play that could work to Brown's advantage ahead of the 2020 season. He was hampered by injury for most of his rookie campaign but appears to be fully healthy now. There is also the possibility that the Ravens not only attempt more passes overall but also more further down the field. Ravens coach John Harbaugh believes that the Ravens run game "should create more opportunities in the passing game".
This could see Lamar Jackson take more deep shots, after averaging a mere four deep ball attempts per game last season. This would be music to Brown's ears, as you can imagine.
But while the Ravens may not be able to run the ball exactly as they did in 2019, they should still see plenty of positive game script. They face the 3rd easiest defensive strength of schedule according to Sharp Football Stats. Jackson may not rush for over 1,000 yards himself, but the plethora of backs the Ravens have should get plenty of chances to rack up yards on the ground. This again emphasizes how important it will be for Brown to become a more efficient weapon in the passing game.
Brown is currently going off the board as the WR33 over at Fanball. This ties in pretty closely with our projection of him as the WR32. Brown may have spike weeks in 2020, but I just don't believe he's going to command enough volume to break into the top 24 consistently enough to make him a player I simply must-have in my weekly starting lineups. I love him and the role in plays for the Ravens, but I just don't think that will translate into fantasy.