Dynasty Debate: AJ Brown vs Jaylen Waddle
I’ve had people ask me…
“What kind of separation do you have between AJ Brown and Jaylen Waddle?”
“Who would you rather have? AJ Brown or Jaylen Waddle?”
“I know they are different types of Wide Receivers, but would you trade Waddle for AJB or vice versa?”
Well…I have thoughts.
Brown had an elite season in 2022, finishing as the overall WR6 with just over 17.5 PPG in PPR leagues. He also had an elite target share, finishing 5th in the league with a 28.7% share on a Philadelphia Eagles team that led the NFL in WR target share at 69.5%. Of his 145 targets, only 95 were considered “catchable”, meaning he caught 92.6% of “catchable” targets. I believe Brown has even more upside, considering QB Jalen Hurts is emerging as one of the top Quarterbacks in the NFL, having cliimbed from 61.3 to 66.5 in completion percentage over the last two seasons. At only 26 years old with a 25 year old QB, Brown still has several years left of high caliber football to play, as he should be entering his prime years.
With positives, there always comes negatives. AJ Brown is not the only high-end WR in Philly. DeVonta Smith will always eat into AJ Brown’s target share. As awesome as Brown’s target share was last season, Smith also had a 26.9% share himself…good enough for 10th highest in the NFL. Jalen Hurts is also a very effective runner, so he doesn’t have to remain in the pocket and look for downfield targets in order to move the offense down the field. In 2022, Hurts ran the ball 165 times, which was most in the league for a QB. Hurts also ran the ball nearly as many times in the Red Zone as he passed it (44 carries to 46 pass attempts), meaning AJ Brown’s RZ usage isn’t as high as what it potentially could be (7 receptions on 15 targets). His 7 RZ receptions were 24th in the NFL and his 15 RZ targets were 17th in the league.
Waddle has had consecutive superb seasons in Miami, even with some uncertainty at the Quarterback position. Tua Tagovailoa has never played a full 17 game season, as he has dealt with a plethora of injuries (most notably concussions). Despite the injury issues with Tua, Waddle has amassed 179 receptions, 2,371 yards, and 14 TDs in his two seasons with the Dolphins. In 2022, Jaylen Waddle led the NFL with 18.1 yards per catch and was 8th in total air yards with 842 yards and 5th with 514 yards after catch. In 2023, Miami’s QB position should be a bit more solidified, as they have signed Mike White to back-up Tagovailoa. White was very solid in the back-up role while with the Jets and has shown he can put up big numbers (405 yards against Cincinnati in 2021, 315 yards against Chicago in 2022, and 369 yards against Minnesota in 2022). In 2023, Waddle should remain highly productive.
Now the cons…Waddle is the WR2 in South Beach. While Tyreek Hill is in town, Waddle will likely never surpass Hill’s production. Waddle was 24th in the league in target share with a 24.8% share and saw his targets drop from 140 in 2021 to 117 in 2022. His reception total also took a hit with Hill around, as he went from 104 catches in 2021 to 75 in 2022 and became much more of a field stretcher in 2022. Waddle is also not a Red Zone threat. He was only targeted 8 times in the RZ, finishing 58th in the league.
While both are highly elite Wide Receivers and I would be very happy with either guy on my roster, I lean towards AJ Brown when comparing Brown and Waddle. Brown being paired with Jalen Hurts is much more attractive than Waddle being with Tua, who is often injured and has an uncertain future. Not to mention the fact that AJB is the WR1 in Philadelphia, while Waddle is the likely WR2 in Miami. The age difference is a non-factor for me, as Brown is only 17 months older than Waddle.
Recently, I have put my money where my mouth is regarding these two. In a c2c league, I traded Penn State QB Drew Allar and Jaylen Waddle for Texas QB Quinn Ewers and AJ Brown. I don’t necessarily have a lot of separation between Allar and Ewers of Brown and Waddle, but the allure of a better QB situation and better WR pecking order in Philly makes Brown a better fit for me.