Fantasy Football: The Eagles finally take WR No. 1 from AJ Brown, but is it a less-than-ideal fit for Fantasy?

The Philadelphia Eagles used the 18th overall pick in Thursday’s 2022 NFL Draft to acquire their long-sought #1 wide receiver, but they won’t be one of the rookies. The Eagles sent the #18 pick along with the #101 pick to the Titans Thursday in exchange for third-year wide receiver AJ Brown, who later agreed to a four-year, $100 million contract extension with the Eagles.

That makes three straight years the Eagles have used a first-round pick on a wide receiver, after they traded to DeVonta Smith a year ago at number 1 overall and took Jalen Reagor to 21st in 2020. But this time, they’ I have a true proven star, as Brown has two 1,000-yard seasons in his first three in the NFL — and would have gotten there last season if it weren’t for four lost games and another two where he left early with injuries. The combination of Brown and Smith gives the Eagles one of the most talented wide receiver pairings in the league, though the question Fantasy players must ask is how good can they be with Jalen Hurts at quarterback?

The good news is that we’ve seen Brown be a differentiating Fantasy WR in a low-volume passing offense before. He ranked seventh in PPR scores per game in 2020 when the Titans had just 485 pass attempts. Brown has been a model of efficiency in his NFL career, ranking third among all players played with at least 200 targets with 10.2 yards per target since joining the league. He also scored a touchdown on 8.1% of his targets, an unusually high number – Justin Jefferson, who is slightly ahead of him in yards per target, has a touchdown rate of 5.8%.

What does this mean for the Hurts, the eagles’ passing game

The Eagles were last in the NFL in pass attempts last season with 494, 41 fewer than Brown’s Titans. Hurts started 15 of 17 games, passing for 209.6 yards per game with 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions – he also led the team in rushing yards with 784 and 10 touchdowns. That running potential makes Hurts a viable Fantasy option even in a low-volume passing game, but it also makes it hard to argue that there will be enough volume to get the most out of Brown and Smith, not to mention tight end Dallas Goedert.

That said, I think this trade likely signals the Eagles will pass more than they did last season, when Hurts averaged just 28.8 pass attempts — including an incredibly low for 2021 of 23.8 from Week 8. They went 6-2 in their last eight games, but failed to keep up with the Buccaneers in the Wild Card loss as the need for another star player was highlighted once again.

They won’t be a high-volume passing game, of course, but it will all help in a suddenly crowded situation. Hurts will need to play at a higher level to get the most out of them too, and I think you’ll probably have to discount all parties involved except for Hurts, who suffers a bit here and can make it to the top-6 QB in ADP.

Where Brown, Eagles WRs rank now

I had Brown as one of the top eight wide receivers before this trade, but he will have to drop in the rankings. You can’t assume the same efficiency with Hurts that he had with Tannehill, although Brown’s ability to break big plays into short passes and on the field makes him a good bet for more efficiency regardless. It will likely experience a drop in target volume as well, although I don’t want to bury it in that regard – let’s not make the mistake we did when Stefon Diggs was sent to Buffalo. Elite wide receivers get elite target quotas, and I’d still bet Brown would be in his mid-20s. That should be enough to put it in the number 2 mid-to-high range – I’ll put it in the WR18, with room to grow beyond that.

It’s a little less clear what that means for Smith, who was WR29 for me before the switch. He’s had a solid rookie season, and you can probably safely assume he’ll have it easier with less defensive attention. But he may have trouble building his 104-target rookie season alongside Brown, so he’ll need to be a lot more efficient to be more than a starter. I’ll leave you in the WR3 range low in the ranks. There might be a buying opportunity here in the Dynasty leagues because there might be some overreaction around Smith being knocked down to second in the pecking order.

Goedert also takes a hit, although he can only fall to a point since he’s a tight end with a pulse. He was TE9 in points per game last season on just 76 total targets, and while I don’t expect him to repeat his 10.9 yards per target, his chances of being a high-efficiency player are also improved with that move. He was TE7 to me before this trade, and he’s unlikely to move much below that, maybe Dalton Schultz will move ahead of him, maybe Rob Gronkowski if he returns to Tampa. But there could actually be a buying opportunity for Goedert here as well, and it could extend into the summer draft season if people push him into the break of Mike Gesicki or Albert Okwuegbunam. I would still take it over these two guys in the low-end TE1 range.

There is a chance that this trade will end up with the three values ​​of Brown, Smith and Goedert, of course. The pains might not be so good, and the Eagles might still decide that while they have more guns, their best path to victory is still ground play. If this is still the lowest-volume offense in the league and Hurts is just a common passer, it’s not hard to see how the three disappoint.

But I wouldn’t bet on it. Brown is an elite talent, one of the few best wide receivers in the league, and Smith was a historically productive college player who put together a very solid rookie season. Bet on talent. The Eagles achieved much more for their passing game.

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