A.J. Brown the best WR in NFL according to advanced stats originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Looking at the 2022 NFL regular season, you can make an argument for a few wide receivers being the best. Justin Jefferson of the Vikings immediately spring to mind: he led all players in catches (128) and receiving yards (1,809). Raiders WR Davante Adams had 14 TD catches to lead the NFL. Miami’s Jaylen Waddle averaged 18.1 yards per catch, finishing seventh in total yards, despite being out of the top 25 in receptions.
But looking at the total picture, you can make the argument that Eagles star and 2nd-team All-Pro A.J. Brown had a better season than anyone.
ESPN Analytics uses player-tracking data from NFL Next Gen Stats to evaluate every play in every game. Using that data, website fivethirtyeight.com places a value on every route run by wideouts and tight ends, attaching a score on the three major phases of the play – getting open, making the catch, and yards gained after the catch – on a scale from 0 to 99.
Brown’s overall score for 2022 was a 90, five points better than Jefferson, six better than Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs and Tyler Lockett of the Seahawks. Brown’s teammate DeVonta Smith ranks fifth overall with a total score of 82.
The Eagles’ main offseason acquisition finished the season fourth in the league in receiving yards (1,496), third in yards per catch (17.0), and tied for third in TD catches (11). He also finished second to Dolphins WR Tyreek Hill in yards per route run (2.9), and fifth among wide receivers in yards after catch per reception (6.6).
Using the 538 values, Brown had a 92 “open score,” ranking third in the NFL. He tied for second in “YAC score,” topped only by Deebo Samuel of the 49ers.
Jefferson’s counting numbers tower over Brown’s (and that of the rest of the league), but it’s important to note than he was targeted more than any other receiver in the game. Jefferson had the ball thrown his way 184 times this season, or nearly 11 per game. Brown finished with 145 targets, about 8.5 per game.
This evaluation underscores Howie Roseman’s move to trade for Brown on draft weekend last April. In fact, this rating system goes back to the 2017 season. In Brown’s four NFL seasons, he had scores of 92, 82, 78, and 90. All of those seasons rank in the top 30 of all receivers over the past six seasons.