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Fantasy Impact: John Brown to the Bills

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Mar 12, 2019

John Brown is going to the Bills, which makes him unappealing in 2019 fantasy drafts

Another one of the free agent dominoes have fallen, as wide receiver John Brown and the Bills have agreed to terms on a three-year deal worth $27 million. It’s an interesting signing that will have an effect on players who were already on the roster.

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Throughout Brown’s career, there’s been some serious ups and downs, with the downs highlighted by his health issues with Sickle Cell Trait. He was in and out of the Cardinals lineup from 2016-2017, missing seven full games and large portions of others. It was a shame, too, as he’d proven to be a playmaker when on the field over his first two seasons where he turned 204 targets into 113 receptions for 1,699 yards and 12 touchdowns.


Because of his health issues, he was forced to sign a one-year deal with the Ravens to prove that he could stay on the field and produce once again. He answered those questions while playing all 16 games and was the No. 11 fantasy wide receiver through seven games with Joe Flacco under center, posting 558 yards and four touchdowns. Unfortunately, Flacco was injured and was eventually forced to ride out the remainder of the season on the bench. From there, Lamar Jackson took over and it was a disaster for Brown, who tallied just 107 yards and two touchdowns in the seven games Jackson was under center.

The Ravens averaged just 22.6 pass attempts per game with Jackson under center, so that’s part of what’s to blame, but the other part is Jackson simply being an inaccurate quarterback. On the season, he completed just 58 percent of his attempts, which ranked 51st among the 69 quarterbacks who threw a pass in 2018. That may be why Brown caught just 7-of-27 targets from Jackson.


Now he goes to Buffalo, where Josh Allen is under center. Remember how Lamar Jackson ranked 51st in accuracy? Well, Allen ranked 58th among those 69 quarterbacks, completing just 52.8 percent of his passes. That can’t be good, right. On top of that, Allen averaged just 26.7 pass attempts per game in 2018, not too far off the mark the Ravens had with Jackson under center. Over the last 10 years, there’s been just 33 wide receivers who’ve finished as a top-24 wide receiver with 103 or less targets and Brown is one of them. Brown has had to make a lot out of a little far too often in his career, as he’s never seen more than 103 targets in a season, but this may be asking too much.

The depth chart in Buffalo is also a bit unclear, as Robert Foster emerged as the downfield threat late in the season, finishing with 511 yards and three touchdowns over the final seven games of the season. In fact, Foster finished with 304 yards on balls that traveled over 20 yards in the air, which ranked 17th in the NFL. Keep in mind that he ranked 94th in the NFL with his measly 44 targets. He’s going to be in direct competition with Brown for those deep targets, something Brown has excelled with throughout his career. Then you have to add in the signing of Cole Beasley, which took place immediately after the Brown signing happened, so he’s going to occupy the underneath portion of the offense as a slot-only receiver, taking away more potential targets for Brown. That’s not even factoring in their 2017 second-round pick Zay Jones, who saw 102 targets last year, which led the team. If I had to guess, Jones is the one who’s going to lose a lot of snaps to Brown.


In the end, Brown chose money to provide for his family over stable opportunity. I can’t fault him for doing so, as he’s the only one who can (and should) make that decision. But as for us Brown truthers, it’s time to move on. The Bills offense is going to be run-first with LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore (oddest duo of all-time) and Josh Allen would be lucky to hit 500 pass attempts this season, which would still be near the bottom of the league. Unless Allen starts completing 65 percent of his passes, there’s not going to be a whole lot of production to be found in this offense. Well, consistent production, anyway. Brown is still plenty talented enough to get open and you’re going to see Allen and he connect on some long balls, as Allen does have one of the strongest arms in the league, but you’re not going to see them frequently enough to count on him for production. It’s better to let someone else deal with the headache that is the Bills offense. My early 2019 projection: 76 targets, 36 receptions, 543 yards, 4 touchdowns

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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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