By Alex Kurpeski
You’ve probably heard the phrase “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” at some point in your life. Perhaps it was used anecdotally by a wrestling announcer on your living room television (shoutout Jerry “The King” Lawler by the way). In the case of fantasy football, the phrase doesn’t necessarily correlate to the size of the player in question (the one who’s falling) although in some cases (Eddie Lacy), it does apply to that aspect. In fact, the “fall” in question actually refers to a player’s regression, particularly in the case of guys (like Lacy) who go from first-round pick to washout within the blink of an eye. In our best attempts to advise you to not end up like the guys who bet on Lacy many years ago, let’s discuss some of the prime regression candidates for the 2020 season.
Bills: WR John Brown
It’s evident from Brown’s massive drop in ADP following the Bills’ acquisition of Stefon Diggs that the fantasy football community is in agreement with me on this take. Brown, who up until last season had been known as a guy with blazing speed with a tendency to switch up from hot to cold enough to tally a six-figure heating bill, broke out in a major way in 2019, accounting for a career-high 1,060 receiving yards on 72 receptions (also a career-high) while scoring six touchdowns (unfortunately, not a career-high but pretty close!).
Sadly for Brown, the 30 year-old wideout will have a significant challenger for targets in the form of Diggs, a Pro Bowl caliber player who can do everything you would want from a WR1. With Diggs, steady slot specialist Cole Beasley, and second-year TE Dawson Knox all looking for their piece of the pie, it’s possible that Brown will be relegated to a minor role in the offense.
Looking at the template of last year’s team, we can assume that Brown will fill the role once held by Robert Foster, a fellow speed specialist who had developed tremendous chemistry with QB Josh Allen in 2018. As a rookie Foster caught 27 passes for over 500 yards, leading many to draft him as a stash in dynasty startups for 2019, on the basis of his strong performance in tandem with Allen.
Instead of supplementing Foster, Brown (a free agent signee during the previous offseason) supplanted Foster in the offense, monopolizing the target share on deep routes, leaving the second-year player with just 18 targets (only 3 of which Foster caught). While it would be out of the ordinary for Brown to experience as extreme of a regression given his previous track record of success, as well as the fact that the organization is due to pay him a decent sum of money for 2020, the addition of Diggs can only hurt his fantasy value.
John Brown last 3 finishes before finishing WR20 last year – WR45, 86, 74. Are we really sure he is going to get any volume and be fantasy relevant in that Bills offense after the Diggs addition?
— FF_AllStar (@FF_AllStar) July 9, 2020
In general, Buffalo’s offense should not be super friendly for fantasy football, particularly for managers with any stock in the team’s pass-catchers. As dynamic of an athlete as Allen is, the former first-round pick still struggles with spotty ball placement and subpar accuracy, as evidenced by the fact that he has yet to complete over 60% of his passes in either of his first two seasons. The accuracy issues are magnified down the field, where Allen completed 18/68 (14.8%) passes, an ugly number that becomes even uglier when remembering that Allen’s arm was lauded as a strength by scouts.
Beyond Brown and Beasley (who each accounted for over 100 targets last season) no other playmaker on the team managed to see more than 50 targets. While Beasley’s role in the slot is locked in, Brown will have to not only compete for targets with Diggs on the boundary but also hold off Foster and fourth-round rookie Gabriel Davis for the third receiver spot on the depth chart.
While I expect that there will be some games where Brown breaks double-digits (due to some crazy deep throw by Allen most likely), he will be far too inconsistent to consider starting in any leagues, barring an injury to either Diggs or Beasley. That being said, here’s what I’m expecting out of the veteran this season:
- 42 receptions (-30 from 2019)
- 63 targets (-52 from 2019)
- 609 receiving yards (-451 from 2019)
- 4 receiving TDs (-2 from 2019)
- 126.9 fantasy points ~ WR56 (-36 spots from 2019)
If you’re dead-set on drafting Brown, I’d advise that you wait until the latest rounds of redraft leagues and even later in dynasty formats due to his age. Unless the Bills do a complete 180 on their offensive mentality, it will be tough to imagine him having much utility as the tertiary receiver.