Here’s why Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown could finish as the overall WR1 in fantasy football

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Detroit Lions receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown catches during an NFL football practice, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023, in Allen Park, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Amon-Ra St. Brown has gone from a relatively unknown fourth-round draft pick in 2021 to being one of the NFL’s top wide receivers, and the fantasy football community has taken notice.

St. Brown followed up a strong finish to his rookie year with an excellent sophomore season in which he finished as the seventh-highest-scoring wide receiver in PPR fantasy football leagues in 2022. While St. Brown wasn’t quite on the level of top-scoring wide receiver Justin Jefferson, it’s possible that 2023 will lead to even greater success for the Detroit Lions’ wideout.

Here’s why I see a path to St. Brown finishing as the No. 1 overall wide receiver in fantasy football in 2023:

Statistics trending up

St. Brown’s rookie season was a tale of two halves, as he didn’t flash elite ability until the final six games in which he established himself as the Lions’ top target.

There were questions heading into last season if St. Brown would be able to carry over that success, but he answered the doubters with consistently strong numbers that now have him in the conversation with the NFL’s elite wide receivers.

St. Brown recorded over 100 catches, 1,100 receiving yards and even added 95 rushing yards, which would’ve put him even higher in the fantasy points finishing order had he scored more than six touchdowns.

Year three is usually when wide receivers start to hit their statistical peak, so it’s not out of the question for St. Brown’s numbers to continue trending up.

Expanded route tree

As strong as St. Brown performed last season, the main knock against him was that a limited route tree saw him operate out of the slot and not stretch the field as much as other elite wide receivers.

St. Brown’s yards per reception was only 10.95, but there’s a chance that number goes up this season considering that he’s spent this offseason working on expanding his route tree to create more downfield opportunities.

Some might scoff at this and say that it will hurt St. Brown’s fantasy value since he thrives in the slot, but it could lead to more scoring opportunities and make him a more complete receiver to where he’ll offer more upside.

Ample opportunity

St. Brown was the clear leader in targets for the Lions last season, and that isn’t expected to change in 2023 considering they didn’t do much this offseason to upgrade the wide receiver position.

Second-year wideout Jameson Williams will be in the fold, but he’s suspended for the first six games and likely won’t command a high enough target share as a vertical deep threat to where St. Brown shouldn’t still be the focal point, even after Williams returns.

Detroit also brought in veteran Marvin Jones and saw Josh Reynolds and Kalif Raymond return, but none of those guys are difference-making wide receivers.

Rookie tight end Sam LaPorta is another name that could be involved, but St. Brown should once again see all the targets he can handle since he’s been trusted as the clear-cut leader of the Lions’ pass-catching group.

Bottom line

While it will be tough to top the likes of Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase, St. Brown is a serious threat to put up a huge statistical performance whenever he takes the field and appears to have room for growth.

We’ve yet to see the best of St. Brown if the expanded route tree is any indication, and the Lions clearly believe in him to be the top playmaker in an offense that took a major step forward in 2022.

St. Brown has also been very durable having only missed one game so far in his career, so there aren’t many wide receivers more reliable than him right now that also have the upside to finish as the position’s highest scorer.

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