Editor’s Note: We recently interviewed Vincent Brown of the Chargers and many of our readers contacted us, wanting more. Today, we take a deeper look.
New coach, injuries everywhere and not a whole lot of fantasy relevance – that’s one way to look at the San Diego Chargers if you’re a dynasty fantasy football owner. Injuries to the offensive line haven’t helped Phillip Rivers, Ryan Matthews is consistently auditioning to be Mr. Glass in the “Unbreakable” sequel, Antonio Gates’ production slows as he ages and the receivers, led by Danario Alexander, are a mess. Sure, DX had a good run at the end of last season, but how long is he going to last before he’s back on the injury report? He may not even be back with the team, While Alexander will be held and started by most, when the dust clears, I believe Vincent Brown will be the wide receiver everyone will want to own.
Vincent Brown was much the talk during last off-season and heading into training camp. His “sleeper potential” campaign was in full swing. Here was a player coming of an impressive rookie season where he posted stats of 19 receptions, 329 yards and two touchdowns. What’s equally impressive was his 17.3 yards per catch average. Granted, those stats were taken over the eight games he contributed in. But looking even deeper into those stats, you see his lowest yards per catch game was 8.0 and his next lowest was a robust 13.0 – both on one reception games. It’s all uphill from there with his highest yards per catch game being 22.0, another one catch game. While his numbers of receptions aren’t the most exciting it’s the yards per catch that intrigues me the most and translates to one thing – he’s the deep ball threat in San Diego and he’s only going to get better.
As the hype grew and preseason games began, there was only one thing that could stop Brown from ascending to the next level in his second year, injury. In the Chargers second preseason game, Brown went down with a broken ankle. Optimism remained as Brown landed on the Chargers IR/designated for return and owners hoped they would get him back towards the end of the season. That plan never materialized and owners were left with Brown on their IR or bench and many question marks as to what they should do with him.
An argument could be made against Brown about his yards per catch. For example, according to Pro Football Focus, he only had 19 receptions on 39 targets which equals out to 50%. This is fairly low for wide receivers that average a 60% catch rate. Could much of that been attributed to him being a rookie and not being on the same page as Rivers? Sure. But when looking back at 2011 game film, most notably against the Raiders (five catches on nine targets), the Bears (one catch on four targets) and the Broncos (three catches on 11 targets), you see it wasn’t only rookie mistakes. Against all three teams, Rivers was heavily rushed and having a banged up offensive line caused him to make erratic and rushed throws. Brown had his share of drops, but what I noticed in all three games was Rivers would often throw into double coverage. In one-on-one coverage, Rivers would throw up the ball forcing Brown to back up off his route and go up to make a play. At times it worked, with Brown doing a great job of fighting for the ball. Other times, the ball flew over his head or directly at the cornerback. With a complete overhaul of the front office and coaching staff, hopefully the offensive line is a priority so Rivers will get time to hit his receivers. The offensive scheme could also change to help Brown improve on his low catch percentage.
As the 2012 season began, Vincent Jackson was gone, Brown was hurt, Malcom Floyd was busy being Malcom Floyd and free agent bust Robert Meachem was providing no help, so the Chargers were desperate to find some life.
Enter Danario Alexander.
The injury prone wide receiver was dumped by the Rams where he struggled to stay on the field despite showing the talent when on it. I, like many, was on board with the addition of DX and knew if he could stay healthy, he could be a much needed breath of fresh air to a depleted receiving corps and a solid fantasy contributor. He was that and more and had a great run during the last two months of the season. According to Pro Football Focus, he posted stats of 37 receptions, 658 yards and seven touchdowns to go along with a yards per catch of 17.8 and a 70% catch rate. It also made him the WR6 in PPR formats – not too shabby for a player with brittle knees who made Ryan Mathews look like an iron man.
DX is the counter argument to Brown. Both players give Phillip Rivers solid deep threats to throw at. With Alexander’s emergence, does this mean Brown should play second fiddle to DX and the Chargers should throw all their eggs in one basket? The simple answer is no. Brown gives them depth and fantasy owners a dynasty player to hold on to. DX is the short term answer and will always have the injury prone tag attached to his name – that’s the concern and should be yours as well.
Danario is the sell now player, Brown is the guy you want to own long term. Keep in mind, Alexander’s two month stretch was the longest he’s been on an NFL field. I remember adding DX and thinking I had a steal. Sitting back and reaping the rewards is always nice, but there was always a thought that kept me at bay. Would his run and good story end in a terrible way with an injury? Would it all be a fluke? Luckily, he held on and helped many owners to championships. But as a fantasy owner, do you really want to add that headache to an already tall list to deal with? Granted, with every player you own there’s always concern that they may go down at any time. But when you own a guy who’s been in the league for two years and only played in 18 games, your concern is warranted that he could break at any time. With the Chargers giving him the original tender, he could just as easily be gone since a team would not have to give up any draft pick compensation should they sign DX to a contract the Chargers decline to match.
Heading into the 2013 season, Vincent Brown will have had a good year off to recover. He’ll be determined and ready to contribute. Even with what appears to be a logjam of wide receivers after Alexander for the number two spot, I believe Brown will emerge as the starting receiver opposite DX and eventually take that top spot. I have been on the Brown bandwagon since he was drafted and was very excited about his prospects going into last season. With Brown being a third-year year wide receiver and with the situation of the Chargers I’m even more excited about his potential. While the Chargers, as a whole, aren’t the most attractive option in dynasty, the one player that you could and should make a case for is Vincent Brown himself.