Treylon Burks: Targeting the Alpha in a Low-Volume Passing Attack

Jun 30, 2023
Treylon Burks: Targeting the Alpha in a Low-Volume Passing Attack

Good receivers in bad offenses tend not to carry lofty ADPs. The upside is limited by the talent, or lack thereof, around them and volume alone isn’t always enough. However, at a certain point, even alphas on a bad offense can be startable in fantasy football. Players that are drafted to be your WR3 or even WR4 can have league-winning upside. Can they also never see a starting spot on your roster? Sure, can! Let’s dive into WR Treylon Burks and figure out if WR36 in ADP is too rich.

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Reviewing His Rookie Year

When looking back at Burks’ rookie year, it’s helpful to remember he struggled to get up to speed essentially from the moment he was drafted due to his asthma. That's not exactly ideal! He struggled with weight and asthma throughout most of the summer before dealing with injuries during the season. His final totals were 33 catches on 54 targets for 444 yards and one touchdown in 11 games played.

Again, not ideal!

Burks averaged 1.8 yards per route run in 2022, per SIS, good for 38th in the league as a rookie. He was sandwiched between Nico Collins and Brandin Cooks of the Texans if you are looking for a frame of reference there. His 7.7% drop rate was 16th in the league, just behind former teammate Robert Woods. The one number that was close to elite for Burks was his 15.2% Broken Tackle + Missed Tackle Rate, per SIS, which was good for 20th out of qualified receivers. So while the scheme may not be great and some of his surroundings may not be great, Burks does have the ability to break plays and his yards per route run wasn't a red flag.

I’d also like to cite Matt Harmon’s take on his route-running.

In total, it was a rough rookie year for the 18th pick. That’s not even getting into the quarterback play that he dealt with. Burks has a lot to improve on in 2023, but there is hope.

Buying The Camp Hype?

So far this off-season we’ve seen generally positive headlines from Burks. Thankfully, it looks like his asthma issues are in the past, or at least under control. His conditioning seems to be better from all reports, as well. He also has the benefit of having Ryan Tannehill under center to start the year instead of Malik Willis. The Titans also didn’t bring in much, if any, competition for targets. They released Robert Woods and Austin Hooper, and only added WR Chris Moore in free agency and Josh Whyle, TE out of Cincinnati, in the fifth round, and Colton Dowell, WR out of UT-Martin, in the seventh round.

Woods and Hooper were the only players on the team to see more than Burks’ 55 targets and both are gone now. WR Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and TE Chigoziem Okonkwo are the only other players on the team to see more than 16 targets returning this season. Okonkwo is probably the only real threat on the team for targets, and even then it isn’t likely he leads the team. So the opportunity and volume for Burks will definitely be there in 2023, even in a lower-volume passing offense. He should realistically double his targets – assuming Malik Willis or an emergency QB like Josh Dobbs doesn’t see multiple starts.

Will We See Levis?

The upside for Burks comes with Tannehill under center, even in a rush-first offense, and with his own limitations, Tannehill provides a starting-caliber quarterback who can make enough plays to keep his top receiver in the WR2 conversation. A.J. Brown finished as WR24 in fantasy points per game in 2021. While that’s not quite a league-winning upside, getting WR2 production out of someone you drafted to be your WR3 or WR4, certainly helps.

That’s the ceiling case. However, there is a real possibility things will go south again for Tennessee, even in a weak AFC South, and the coaching staff brings in second-round pick Will Levis. Personally, I wasn’t high on Levis, but that’s not as important as the league passing on Levis in the first round. At one point, he was the betting favorite to go No. 2 overall in the draft and not only did that not happen, he had to wait until Day 2.

Rookie quarterbacks tend to struggle, and rookie quarterbacks that aren’t first-round picks have an even bigger learning curve in the league. An already low-volume passing attack would likely lean heavily on RB Derrick Henry and Tyjae Spears if Levis were to take over at quarterback for Tannehill. That would obviously be a massive hit to the fantasy prospects of Burks and the rest of the pass catchers.

The Bottom Line

  • Burks had a disappointing rookie season that’s a cause for real concern. However, his conditioning and health both seem to be improved in 2023.

  • Burks will be the alpha in a low-volume Titans passing attack with little competition.

  • As long as Ryan Tannehill is starting, he has the upside to finish as a WR2.

  • In our staff expert mock draft, Burks went as WR32 at 6.10, ahead of his current 8.10 ADP. If I didn't reach for Trevor Lawrence, I had planned on taking Burks at 6.6.

  • The looming threat of Will Levis is the only thing holding me back from aggressively drafting Burks at his current ADP.

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