In 2011, a 6’4″ rookie receiver from the University of Georgia caught seven touchdowns and was seen as a top candidate for Rookie of the Year. You may know him as A.J. Green.
In 2013, a 6’4″ rookie receiver from the University of Georgia caught seven touchdowns and nobody seemed to notice. You may not know him as Marlon Brown.
If you want to count Brown’s rookie season as a fluke, that’s fine; I originally did the same. However, after digging deeper into the numbers, I was shocked to learn how rare his rookie season was. To be perfectly clear, I’m not saying that Marlon Brown and A.J. Green are comparable talents, but I think there’s something to see here, especially when you consider that Brown’s ADP is currently outside the top 65 WRs. As such, the only conclusion I can draw is that Marlon Brown’s fantasy football stock will never be lower. In other words, buy him now. Here’s why…
The Rare Rookie Season
This all started with me perusing 2013 stats and wondering “how many other rookie receivers have caught seven touchdowns?” From there, I narrowed my fields by Holy Grail components weight and age, eliminating anyone older than 23 or weighing less than 200lbs. Dating back to 1980, the following table shows all players who met those three criteria: seven+ touchdowns, 200+ pounds and max age of 23.
|WR||Wt||R Age||R GP||R Rec Yds||R Rec TD|
|Mike Williams TB||204||23||16||964||11|
Brown may have snuck into the club through the back door, but he still got in. Who does he see in the club? A bunch of the best (young) receivers in the game and Eddie Kennison. Okay, so there were a few names on this list who didn’t have great careers, but hindsight may be deceiving you. As you’ll see below, even if we don’t remember guys as having solid careers, their fantasy production was almost always very useful.
Should We Be Worried About His Low Yardage Total?
The biggest red flag about the previous table was the fact that Marlon Brown was a couple hundred receiving yards below anyone else in the cohort. So, should we be worried about his low yardage total? I put together the following table which shows the market share of targets (opportunity) each player received. As you can see, Marlon Brown received the least opportunity of any of the players in this cohort, which I think helps explain his cohort-low yardage total.
|WR||MS Trgs||MS Yards||MS TD||DR||DR - MS Trgs|
|Mike Williams (TB)||25.9%||28.7%||42.3%||35.5%||9.6%|
The table is currently sorted by MS Trgs, but go ahead and sort by the furthest right column (DR – MS Trgs). What this number represents is how much production a player offered above the opportunity they were given. To clarify, Marlon Brown received 14.8% of the targets but accounted for 27.7% of the Ravens passing production. The takeaway here is that Brown exceeded expectations within his role in the Ravens offense, he just didn’t have a very big role.
The Outlook for Years 2 & 3
What are the chances that Marlon Brown’s role increases in the next few years? Expectations have been tempered by the signing of Steve Smith, but considering that Smith is 35 and will reportedly retire after 2014, maybe there’s hope that Marlon Brown can claim a full-time role in the next two seasons. To further that idea, the Ravens did not draft any high-end receivers this year, indicating that they want to see more from Brown in the near future. Referencing his 7-200-23 comparable group, let’s see how that bunch fared in years 2 & 3 of their career.
|WR||Wt||Yr 2+3 RecYD/G||Yr 2+3 RecTD/G||Yr 2+3 FP/G|
|Mike Williams (TB)||204||55.2||0.4||7.8|
For perspective, a receiver posting 8.2 fantasy points per game in 2013 would have been ranked WR30. Anyone over 11 FP/G would be among the top 15 receivers. This is really interesting because, excluding Eddie Kennison, almost everyone in Marlon Brown’s peer group returned at least top 30 value during years two and three of their career. In other words, it would be incredibly rare for a player to accomplish what Brown did in 2013 and then totally disappear. Yet, based on his low (or non-existent) ADP, people are treating him like he has disappeared.
The bottom line here is that Marlon Brown did something really unique in his rookie season and is the kind of low-cost, high-upside bet I would recommend making in Dynasty leagues.