The first day of the NFL draft was a fun one for fantasy purposes as we saw the snow globe of the wide receiver position continue to shake this offseason. We had six wide receivers selected in the first round on Thursday, with another two young stars changing teams as part of the evening.
With that, we are going to walk through the fantasy-centric selections and trades of the opening night.
With the Titans moving A.J. Brown, they had a massive void to fill. A year ago, the Tennessee pass-catching depth was exposed due to injuries to Brown and Julio Jones.
Brown played just 69% of the offensive snaps while Julio Jones played only 58%. The team released Jones this offseason. As a byproduct, 31.3% of Ryan Tannehill’s dropbacks were with both off the field. On those plays, Tannehill averaged just a meager 5.5 yards per pass attempt.
Treylon Burks was comped to Brown by a number of people this offseason. Although asking him to perform on the same level as Brown is a tall ask, where Burks wins does fit the Tennessee offense.
In this draft class, Burks ranks first in yards per route run (3.93), third in yards per team pass attempt (3.52), fourth in the share of team receptions (32.2%), third in share of yardage (45.0%), and first in receiving touchdowns (50%).
A prototypical alpha frame (6’2” and 225 pounds), Burks does carry some volatility in terms of refinement, while he also was not nearly the same measurable athlete at the combine as lofty comparisons placed upon him such as Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant. Burks did still register a 75th percentile speed score with his 4.55 40 at his weight, but he did fall short of being a transcendent athlete on the measurable level.
Burks is amazing with the football in his hands. 57.2% of his yardage in 2021 came after the catch (third in this class) while he was second in yards after the catch per reception (9.6 yards). Arkansas did whatever they could to get him the ball. 24.4% of Burks’ targets were on screen passes, the highest rate of this draft class.
Despite the high usage near the line of scrimmage and running 67.7% of his routes in the slot, Burks also eviscerated press coverage on his limited exposure, averaging 6.4 yards per route run the past two seasons in that department per Pro Football Focus. When operating as an isolated receiver last season, Burks was targeted on 22-of-37 routes (59.5%) for a robust 20-439-4 line, averaging 11.9 yards per route.
Although Burks needs expansion in route diversity, he was strong on go routes, ins, and slants, three of the most popular routes used in the NFL per work done by Dwain McFarland earlier this offseason. Those in-breaking routes are a staple of the Titans’ offense stemming off play-action and the use of Derrick Henry.
With just a 30-year-old Robert Woods coming off an ACL injury to contend with, Burks is set up to command one of the best immediate target shares of this class. The downside, of course, is something similar that we had consistently from Brown, in that he will have to carry efficiency as the raw counting volume stats just do not exist in this passing game. Even with Brown in 2021, he still posted seven full games played with fewer than 50 yards receiving.
Like Drake London, Burks carries WR2 upside as a lofty outcome, but has a wider range of outcomes with the potential overall target limitations of the offense if he cannot be efficient out of the box.