Welcome to the best time of the fantasy football calendar, overreaction season! Even with heaps of offseason research, many of us are floundering after real football starts. You can count me in that bucket. I vividly remember roasting a league mate as he drafted Marquise “Hollywood” Brown in our dynasty rookie draft. Sure, I loved Brown as a prospect but that was before he went to the run heavy Ravens.
Then Week 1 happened:
- Lamar Jackson throws for five touchdowns and runs only three times
- Marquise Brown goes off for 147 yards and two touchdowns
- Ravens win 59-10
The fallout from this week has been unreal. 0-16 seems possible for the Dolphins and it sounds like half their defense is requesting trades. The rest of the AFC North lost which already puts the Ravens in the driver seat. Lamar Jackson goes from 100-1 to win the MVP all the way down to 10-1 and Hollywood Brown is the hottest name on everyone’s waiver wire. Was I wrong about Brown? I dove into his impressive debut and found some interesting takeaways for the rest of the season.
Let’s start with the boxscore. Brown caught four passes on five targets for 147 yards and two touchdowns. Brown only ran eight routes all day, giving him an incredible 18.38 yards/route run. Looking a bit deeper, Brown was on the field for 14 snaps which was the lowest of any receiver for the Ravens. Most of you have already spotted the red flags.
These are incredibly low numbers for both routes and snaps in a full game. However, Brown barely played in the 2nd half because of the huge lead and Lamar only dropped back to pass 22 times. By the end of the game, the Ravens had run the ball 46 times and passed 31 times. The run-first team stuck to their gameplan, they were just hyper-efficient in the passing game. I
f you take a peek at Kenny Hyttenhoves’s article from the offseason he broke down the Ravens play style from last year and what he expects in 2019. This game should not significantly change that outlook.
So what does all this mean? It will be very important to monitor Brown’s time on the field moving forward as he will need to make the most of the limited opportunities that this offense will present him. With that out of the way, let’s breakdown some Hollywood film.
The Ravens are already up 7-0 when they get the ball at the 47-yard line. They run a play fake to Mark Ingram II to the right and the entire defense sucks down to stop the run leaving Brown all alone in the slot against Eric Rowe. Behold the speed of Hollywood Brown!
You may remember Eric Rowe as the player that replaced Malcolm Butler in the Superbowl. This is a tough matchup for any corner and Rowe gets beat inside despite having inside leverage.
This is a solid route by Brown who knows he has time with the play-action and forces Rowe to think about a streak before cutting inside. He slips off the tackle and with the safety way out of position he wins the foot race to the end zone easily. I initially wanted to claim this was the Lamar Jackson effect, wherein he sucks extra defenders because of his running ability.
However, if you take another look at the play, Lamar would’ve had a massive running lane as the entire defense overplays the handoff. This is a very poor play from the defense as a whole but Brown’s excellent route and ridiculous speed turn this from a 20-yard first down into a long touchdown.
The Ravens get the ball back up 14-0 and lightning strikes again!
How amazing is this kid? Just two offensive plays after housing a slant, Brown blows the top off the Dolphins defense. This time his opposition is former Alabama cornerback/safety hybrid Minkah Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick is a savvy player who played well in his rookie year, but he is not ready for the speed. Fitzpatrick knows he has been torched when he gives up the inside and desperately tries to grab and body Brown.
Brown slips right off the contact and Lamar Jackson rainbows a perfect throw that travels about 45 yards. Brown finishes the job by evading the tackle attempt and walks into the end zone for the second time. Again this is poor scheming by the Dolphins. Fitzpatrick should never be left to run with Brown down the field. So far we have seen two pretty questionable plays by the Dolphins, as you might have expected.
The positive takeaway for Brown (and the Ravens) is that when defenses lapse he can punish them immediately. If you are keeping score at home, Brown has two targets, two catches, 130 yards, and two touchdowns.
The two highlight plays are exciting (and account for most of his production) but Brown did have a few other plays I will break down. To set the scene the Ravens are now up 28-0 and have a 2nd and 5 on their 37-yard line.
Here the Dolphins are in a cover 3 defense. The outside corners along with the middle safety split the field into thirds. You can see Eric Rowe (near side) give Brown a ton of cushion, which is exactly what he’s supposed to do.
Once Brown catches the pass from Jackson, Rowe should come up and make the tackle. Brown turns on the jets, leaving Rowe in the dust, gaining an additional ten yards after the catch.
This kind of after the catch explosiveness is what made Brown such an intriguing prospect. Brown also dives underneath the tackle and avoids taking a hit from the bigger defender. This is encouraging as Browns size brings the inevitable injury question to the forefront.
Here we see another downfield target for Brown, although this did not show up in the boxscore because a penalty nullified the play.
Brown runs deep post over the middle of the field. This time he’s facing off against Xavien Howard. Howard is the best player on this defense and is one of the most talented corners in the entire league. Xavien, like Minkah, is physical at the top of the route but he is ready for the release to the inside.
Howard impressively sticks with Brown down the field and has a shot at the underthrown ball. Although Brown was not able to separate on this specific route, it shows how willingly Lamar Jackson will throw the ball deep to Brown. I would guess the Ravens will take a few of these shots every game, regardless of who is covering Brown.
After a fake punt up 28-3, the Ravens have the ball in the deep in Miami territory on the 8-yard line.
Brown, starting on the far side of the field, runs a drag over the middle. He fights through some contact and rubs his defender into the linebacker and creates some great separation. Brown probably has his third touchdown of the game if the pocket is clean. However, the ball does not get to him until he is on the other sideline.
Once the ball is in his hands, there is some more Hollywood magic as he slips away from Rowe (again) and puts the next defender on skates. Brown is electric in space and has a very good understanding of how to set up defenders. Again we see him dive to the ground and avoid a big hit. So far, Brown has been scary after the catch.
The game is very much out of hand now with the Ravens up 42-3. Unsurprisingly, it is a perfect time to try some fun stuff!
The Ravens take a shot off play-action with the running back and tight end blocking. Willie Snead (slot near side) releases straight up the seam and sucks the safety towards his side of the field with an impressive route of his own. Brown, on the far side, is running a double move that will take a bit longer to develop, but with safety keying on Snead first, the corner covering him has no help.
Brown does not run the cleanest route here. He does not sell the inside break well enough before cutting back to the outside. With Brown that almost does not matter as he accelerates past the cornerback with ease.
Lamar gets happy feet and instead of leading Brown early, he waits, invites some pressure and throws the ball too far towards the sideline. The important part is that Brown beat his man AND the play was specifically schemed to get him the ball.
This was quite a debut for Hollywood Brown. His speed will give nightmares to defensive coordinators that already have to scheme for Lamar Jackson. For an offense, these super-speed receivers open up the entire field creating space for other wideouts in the intermediate range. This type of player is huge for the prospects of this Ravens offense moving forward.
But I do need to throw some cold water down. Volume is still king in fantasy football. Brown will need to see the field a lot more for him to be a viable fantasy starter. This performance is encouraging because it should lead to more opportunity but in an offense with limited passing that might not be enough. Some fantasy-relevant, speedster comparisons include Ted Ginn Jr., Desean Jackson, and Will Fuller V. While these players have some value, they are all inherently streaky and dependent on a few plays every game.
I am encouraged that Lamar is willing to target him when he faces single coverage, I just hope it happens more than once a game. Brown might already be the most talented pass catcher on this offense and the Ravens could leverage his elusiveness by targeting him in the short and intermediate parts of the field.
He will likely be used more as a deep threat for now, but with more time in this offense, his role might expand. For keeper and dynasty leagues, the talent and overall upside make him a must-add.
If you own Brown pay close attention to how he is used within this Ravens offense. The volume is a problem for now but later in the year, he might just have enough leash to be a solid fantasy asset.