In my continuing mission to spare Commanders fans the heartbreak and disappointment that comes from setting unrealistic expectations, I have been examining the statistical reality of the hype developing around a few of the team’s most unproven players heading into training camp.
In some cases, the hype seems to be driven by hopefulness that this year will finally be different. In others it might be reluctance to give up on a once promising dream. And in at least one case, it might be a desperate attempt to cling to the belief that, surely, the team leadership would not enter the season without a full complement of viable starters at key roster positions.
The final player in the series takes us back to the hopeful dream category, although not to the same extreme as Chase Young. Wide receiver Dyami Brown was selected with the 82nd overall pick in the third round of the 2021 draft. As Sam Howell’s favorite target at UNC, Brown established a reputation as one of the top deep ball threats in college football. He topped 1,000 receiving yards in each of his final two seasons in college, with 20 receiving TDs, and averaged an amazing 20.1 yards per reception. As a junior, in his final season at UNC, Brown led the ACC in receiving yards and finished 6th in the NCAA.
In the lead up to the 2021 draft, The Athletic’s Consensus Big Board, drawn from 70 draft analyst’s rankings, had Brown slated as a late second-round pick. When he fell to the Football Team in the middle of the third, buzz quickly developed among big name media analysts that he could one of the steals of the draft (e.g. Chris Collinsworth, PFF, Daniel Jeremiah – comp to Terry Mclaurin). That buzz quickly spread through the Washington fanbase.
Two years later, things haven’t quite panned out as well as we might have hoped. Brown couldn’t have hoped for a better opportunity in his rookie season, landing on a team that had just upgraded its QB position by signing journeyman gunslinger Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was not afraid to throw it deep. He was also drafted by a team with one established starting WR, Terry McLaurin, and an open competition for WR2 and WR3 positions due to a lingering injury to recently signed veteran Curtis Samuel.
Brown started the first three games of his rookie season. In the first half of the opening game, Fitzpatrick suffered what turned out to be a career-ending hip subluxation and was replaced for the remainder of the season by backup Taylor Heinicke. Brown was targeted 12 times in his first three games, but only managed to catch four passes for 32 yards, resulting in a disappointing 33.3% catch rate and a woeful 2.7 yards per target. He was replaced as the starter in Week 4, when Curtis Samuel briefly returned from injury, and then struggled with injury for the next five weeks.
Following his return from injury in the Week 10 game against Tampa, Brown played sparingly for the remainder of the season. He was replaced as the third wide receiver by a platoon of players including Dax Milne, DeAndre Carter and Cam Sims. He only started one more game, and finished his rookie season with a stat line of 25 targets, 12 receptions (48% catch rate), 165 yards (6.6 yds/tgt) and 0 touchdowns.
In his second season, it got much more challenging for Dyami to get playing time when the Commanders drafted Jahan Dotson in the first round and Curtis Samuel came back from injury. Even so, Dyami managed to see the field on 169 offensive snaps, equivalent to around 2.5 to 3 games’ worth of starting time. In somewhat limited opportunities, Brown failed to distinguish himself, catching only 35.7% of passes thrown his way, for a total of 143 yards and two touchdowns. While he did manage to post a respectable 10.2 yards per reception and a seemingly impressive two touchdowns per five receptions, 73.4% of his receiving production and both of scores came on two passes in the Titans game. Aside from those two plays, he had three receptions for 38 yards for the rest of the season.
Dyami did finish the season as the fourth leading receiver among Washington’s wideouts, but was only seventh on the team in receiving yards. Through his first two seasons in Washington, he has started six games, and caught 17 passes for 308 yards and 2 TDs, with a 43.6% catch rate and an average of 7.9 yards per target. He has also played around 14% of special teams snaps each season.
What Should We Expect from Dyami?
Dyami enters camp as the fourth WR on the Commanders’ depth chart. What should we expect of a WR4? At a minimum, the fourth WR on the depth chart should be a player who can spell the starters when needed in games, contribute as a role player and fill in when a starter becomes unavailable. He should also contribute on special teams. Given the flashes we have seen from Brown, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see him to carve out a role as a deep-ball specialist this season.
In an ideal world, the fourth WR on the depth chart would be a player on a rookie contract who can push the starters for playing time and eventually replace one who gets lost to injury, free agency, or just gets too expensive to keep.
To see how Dyami rates as a WR4, I compiled the receiving statistics for all the wide receivers who ranked fourth on their teams in receiving yards in 2022.
This isn’t quite the same as a list of WRs who are fourth on the depth charts of their respective NFL team. A few of these players are WR2s or WR3s who got injured. Chase Claypool’s receiving total would make him the WR3 on most teams in 2022, but he got traded in Week 9 and only played six games in Chicago. I don’t think any of those quirks are actually a problem, because this list is a true reflection of reality.
The average WR4 in 2022 ranked around 6th on his team in receiving yards, usually after a TE and a RB in addition to the top three WRs. On average, WR4s played in around 12 games last season, but only started three. The average WR4 was targeted 29 times and caught 18 of the passes (61.6% catch rate) for 225 yards and a touchdown.
Compared to the average WR4, Dyami played in three more games, but started 3 fewer (0). He got half the number of targets as the average WR4 and had 27% as many receptions. His catch rate (35.7%) was only a little above half that of the average WR4 (63.1%).
After two NFL seasons, Dyami hasn’t yet reached the performance standards we might expect of a WR4. But he is still young, and he is stuck behind three established starters on the depth chart.
Expectations for Dyami in 2023 and 2024
Barring injury or some other unexpected catastrophe, Washington’s starting lineup at WR would seems to be set for 2023. So it would be unreasonable to expect Dyami to produce like a starter. What would be reasonable is to expect him to raise his production to the level of the average WR4.
Ideally, we would like him to show enough on the field this season to give the coaching staff confidence that he can replace Curtis Samuel as the third starting WR in 2024, possibly even upgrading the position long term, and saving $3.2m against the cap compared to the starter he replaced.
To estimate the chances that those expectations are fulfilled, I used historical player data to estimate that chance that a wide receiver with similar production to Dyami in his first two NFL seasons will:
- Achieve average WR4 receiving production in his third NFL season, and;
- Play well enough to be the Commanders’ starting WR3 in his fourth season.
What’s the Chance that Dyami Achieves Average WR4 Production in 2023?
To answer both questions, I searched for all wide receivers who had comparable yardage production through their first two seasons with their second season in the decade from 2011 to 2020. Then I asked what their production looked like in Years 3 and 4 of their careers.
Let’s start by addressing the first expectation. The two WRs with the closest yardage totals to Dyami after two years were Marquise Goodwin (325 yards) and Chris Moore (294 yards). Looking 20% either way from Dyami’s total of 308 yards only netted four more players, all with lower totals. To get a big enough sample for the results to have any chance of being meaningful, I therefore broadened the criteria to players with 50% more (up to 462 yards) or 50% less (down to 154 yards) receiving yardage than Dyami. That yielded the following players, shown with the receiving totals in their third and fourth seasons.
As we saw above, the average WR4 in 2022 had 225 receiving yards and 1.2 touchdowns. Only three out of 17 wide receivers with roughly comparable yardage totals to Dyami through their first two seasons had more than 225 receiving yards in their third seasons. Justin Hardy came close, and also exceeded the average TD total. But I’m not awarding runners up. Therefore, only 17.6% of WRs with comparable stats have produced at least as well as the average WR in their third NFL seasons. If we’re feeling generous and accept Hardy as coming close enough, that figure increases to 23.5%.
Those fans hoping for a rosier outlook might be comforted to know that eight of the 17 comparable WRs (47.1%) scored one more TDs in their third seasons, giving them comparable scoring production to the average WR4.
These numbers don’t mean that Dyami can’t produce at least as well as the average WR4 in 2023. They just mean that, if he does, following the relatively slow start to his career, he will have done what only 17.6% of comparable players have done in a decade.
What’s the Chance that Dyami Produces Like an Average WR3 or Better in 2024?
The Commanders started three wide receivers in nine of their games in 2022. In order to crack the starting lineup, Dyami will need to replace the production of Washington’s third starting receiver. Last season, Jahan Dotson had the third most receiving yards on the team. However, his receiving totals took a hit when he missed five games to injury. In all likelihood, he will become Washington’s WR2 for several years to come.
That makes the man to beat Curtis Samuel. As we’ll see in a minute, Samuel’s receiving production last season would place him near the top of the WR3 rankings. It would be great if Dyami could exceed Samuel’s 2022 numbers in his fourth season and upgrade the WR3 position. But I’m not going to set the expectation that high, to start. Rather, let’s start by seeing how many players have performed like the average WR3 in their fourth NFL seasons after having comparable stats to Dyami through their first two seasons.
To do that, we first need to calculate the average production of the NFL’s WR3s. The following table shows receiving stats for the WR with the third most receiving yards on each NFL team in 2022.
If Dyami is to become the Commanders’ third starting WR, we would hope that he would have at least 418 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns in 2024. How likely is that? We’ve already seen the answer. Referring back to the Dyami Brown Comps table in the previous section, only three of the 17 comparable players exceeded the average WR3 receiving yardage total in their fourth NFL seasons: Travis Benjamin, Marquise Goodwin and Parris Campbell. All three also matched or exceeded the average touchdowns benchmark. Therefore, over the past decade only 17.6% (3/17) of players with similar stats to Dyami have achieved production equal to or better than the average WR3 in their fourth NFL seasons.
Now, let’s move the bar a little higher. What’s the chance that Dyami exceeds Curtis Samuel’s 2022 receiving totals in his fourth NFL season? Last season, Curtis had 64 receptions for 656 yards and four touchdowns. Out of 17 comparable players only Travis Benjamin did better than that in his fourth season. Therefore, I estimate the chance of a WR with Dyami’s production through two seasons making Curtis Samuel expendable in his fourth season at around 1/17 = 5.9%.
Dyami Brown joined the Football Team amid fanfare that he might be one of the steals of the draft. He got the opportunity to start early in his rookie season, but failed to gain traction, then got pushed further down the depth chart by the addition of Jahan Dotson and the return to health of Curtis Samuel in 2022. In relatively limited playing time through his first two seasons, he has flashed deep threat potential at times, with three receptions over 20 yards in his rookie season (long 48), and two touchdown passes of 30 or more yards in his second season (long 75). However, entering his third season he has yet to demonstrate that he can be a consistently productive receiver.
Using historical data from wide receivers with comparable stats to Dyami in the past decade, I estimate Dyami’s chance to produce like the average NFL WR4 this season at around 17.6%.
The estimated chance that he achieves production of the average WR3 in 2024 is the same, 17.6%.
Last of all, the chance that a player with stats like Dyami becomes good enough to replace Curtis Samuel’s production in 2024 is around 5.9%.
As Washington fans, we should all be cheering for Dyami to beat the odds. I just wouldn’t recommend betting money on it.
Over/Under Dyami Brown 225 receiving yards in 2023
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Who will be Washington’s third leading receiver in 2024
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