The Tennessee Titans made a shocking move in the 2022 NFL Draft, and are now the guinea pigs for a new WR philosophy.
The 2022 NFL Draft was a calm, straightforward draft for the first ten selections. Everything went wild when the Saints moved up, and two trades shook the NFL world. The second, done by the Tennessee Titans, featured moving superstar wide receiver AJ Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles for picks 18 and 101.
Brown, like a majority of the 2019 class, was gearing up for extension talks and wanted to be paid as one of the top receivers in the league. It’s not hard to see why, as Brown has had two 1,000-yard seasons in his career, and nearly three if not for nagging injuries in 2021. His physical style of play, impressive explosiveness, hands, and YAC ability make him one of the best young receivers in the NFL.
The Eagles certainly thought so in trading for Brown, giving them a great duo with Brown and Devonta Smith. Brown got the deal he wanted from the Eagles in a four-year, $100 million extension with $57 million guaranteed. Committing to build around Jalen Hurts (or whoever plays QB in 2023) is great to see in Philly.
With that 18th pick, the Tennessee Titans selected Treylon Burks, a receiver who had received some comparisons to Brown. Burks had a productive final season with the Razorbacks, catching 66 passes for 1,104 yards and 11 touchdowns against SEC competition. Burks has the size and speed to beat press, position himself well at the catch point, and eviscerate angles post-catch with his speed. The question is the release/route running prowess, which is a major work in progress.
He doesn’t have the finer points down of understand leverage and where to stem to move defenders, which will come up whether he’s in the slot or not. Working those leverage steps along with top-of-route manipulation will help him in the long run, but it likely means we’ll see a lot of schemed touches in 2022.
Receivers are slowly becoming the new running backs with some teams starting to believe that they are pretty easily replaceable. Receiver classes in the NFL Draft are staying pretty flush with talent, and the strategy to trade away stars while accruing draft capital is becoming commonplace. It is splitting the league into two camps, those who will pay the big contract and those who won’t.
Replacing Brown with Burks straight up starts up that new philosophy at the wide receiver position, and the Tennessee Titans are the guinea pigs. Can Burks do enough in this offense to replace the talent and difference-making skill Brown provided? That remains to be seen, and could be the reason the Titans stay in AFC contention or fall into the shuffle in an increasingly deep conference.