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Amon-Ra St. Brown has swiftly etched his name into the annals of NFL history, proudly standing among a distinguished group of 17 wide receivers who surpassed 250 targets and 2,000 yards in their first two seasons. This achievement is even more impressive considering he was not selected in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft, making him one of only two players on that list with lower draft capital. Despite a slow start to his rookie year and injury setbacks in his second year, St. Brown has emerged as one of the league's top receivers.
In his rookie season, St. Brown didn't do much until Week 12, but he exploded in the latter part of the season. Some considered it a fluke, as late-round rookies often have short-lived success. However, his performance during that period was significant:
|Amon-Ra St. Browns Rookie Year||Weeks 1-12||Weeks 13-18|
In a previous article, I analyzed his late-season success and expected him to take a backseat to his more talented teammates in his second year. I was quickly proven wrong.
Picking up where he left off in Year 2
In Year 2, before a Week 3 injury, St. Brown put up impressive numbers with 33 targets, 23 receptions, 253 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Only Stefon Diggs and Cooper Kupp averaged more fantasy points during that stretch. Despite being hampered by ankle and concussion injuries, he still managed to average 16.7 PPR points per game, ranking 10th among wide receivers. If we exclude the games where injuries limited him, his 19.7 points per game (12-game sample) would have made him the WR5 for the season, behind Kupp, Justin Jefferson, Tyreek Hill, and Davante Adams.
What's even more remarkable is that he's only 23 years old. Despite the injuries, he became the fourth-youngest player to record 100 receptions in his first two seasons. Only Jefferson, Jaylen Waddle, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Larry Fitzgerald achieved a 100-catch season at a younger age.
When we compare St. Brown's start to other players in NFL history or his early-career benchmarks, we find ourselves looking at lists of all-time greats.
Amon-Ra St. Brown Archetype and Profile
Jordan McNamara recently wrote an article about predictive metrics to pay attention to among wide receivers. St. Brown excels in most of those metrics. Last year, only Tyreek Hill averaged more targets per route run among full-time players. St. Brown's 2.55 yards per route run ranked seventh among qualifying wide receivers, and his 27.8% target share was in the top 10.
However, there are some weaknesses in his analytical profile, such as target depth, air yards share, and yards per target. St. Brown isn't known for being a deep threat. The Lions initially used him that way in his rookie year, but he found more success on quicker, high-percentage routes. Last season, 72.7% of his routes were within nine yards of the line of scrimmage. He excels at gaining yards after the catch, with a true catch rate of 93%, frequently breaking tackles. The Lions incorporate St. Brown into their run game, utilizing him like the Rams use Cooper Kupp or the 49ers use Deebo Samuel.
Should we have quarterback concerns?
Jared Goff had a great year in 2022, putting up numbers we hadn't seen from him since his playoff runs with the Rams in 2017 and 2018. He ranked sixth in the league in both pass attempts and yards. However, his numbers were accumulated in a conservative manner. His average intended air yards per pass attempt of 7.0 ranked 24th among qualifying quarterbacks. He also had a relatively quick time to throw, ranking 23rd. This style of quarterback play actually benefits Amon-Ra St. Brown's outlook for 2023.
There were rumors during the offseason that the Lions were interested in drafting a rookie quarterback. A change at quarterback, especially with a young and inexperienced prospect, could have negatively affected St. Brown's production. However, Jared Goff has a history of supporting wide receivers who excel in the short passing game. Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, who played under Goff with the Rams, had similar roles to St. Brown, receiving short targets and making plays after the catch. They consistently put up strong fantasy seasons when healthy, operating in the same areas of the field.
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