By Chris Foster (@FootballNuke)
Months of drama surrounding the best wide receiver in football recently culminated with the Pittsburgh Steelers dealing Antonio Brown to the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders in exchange for a 3rd and 5th round pick. Congratulations to Mike Mayock and the Raiders on that win. I’m not here to analyze the trade, however. What I am here for is to look at the impact Brown will have as a fantasy asset and answer the question of where the former number one fantasy wideout should be ranked now. In order to do this, we must look at who Antonio Brown currently is, and examine the organization Brown is now a part of.
Who is Antonio Brown?
Widely considered to be the best wide receiver in the game, the thirty-one-year-old receiver is coming off another stellar season, playing fifteen games, amassing 104 receptions for 1,297 yards and leading the league with 15 touchdowns. Brown’s average yards per catch was 12.47.
Is Antonio Brown slowing down?
AB’s productivity continues to be exceptional. Brown has put up 100+ catch seasons over the past six seasons. The lowest yardage output over that timespan was in 2016 when he finished with 1,284 yards in 15 games. Brown had almost the same numbers in 15 games this past year. Additionally, Brown is extremely reliable. He hasn’t played fewer than 14 games in one season since 2012. Is Brown slowing down? Quite simply, there is no evidence to suggest that.
Is Brown’s new quarterback Derek Carr capable of getting him the rock?
Derek Carr’s quarterbacking ability will draw opinions from all sides. Some say he’s a franchise QB. Others say he is barely above replacement level. Odds are he is probably somewhere in between. When trying to project his productivity, there are some not-so encouraging numbers. For instance, the 28-year-old has only eclipsed 4,000 yards passing in one season (2018). Second, Carr’s touchdown passes have declined over the past four years from 32 down to 19. Carr ranked 20th in the NFL last year in yards per attempt (7.3) and 26th in TD percentage (3.4).
Despite those numbers Carr posts a few stats that suggest he may be able to perform better. His completion percentage has increased over the past four seasons from 61.1% to 68.9%. That 68.9% was the 5th best percentage in the NFL last year. He also finished 6th in completions and 12th in passing yards. That is not a lot to be excited about. Carr’s stats suggest that for him to be more effective, he needs protection and time.
Is Carr going to have time to get the ball to Brown?
Carr was sacked fifty-one times in 2018 making him the third-most sacked QB in the league behind Deshaun Watson (65) and Dak Prescott (56). Unlike Watson and Prescott, Carr is not a scrambler, so he needs good protection to be effective. The Raiders practiced some addition by subtraction sending All-Pro Kelechi Osemele to the Jets a few weeks ago. They then added LT Trenton Brown, RT Denzell Good and G Jamar McGloster in free agency. I look for them to enhance the line via the draft as well. The quality of the line in 2019 should be improved with a solid left tackle watching Carr’s back, but by how much is anyone’s guess at this point. The thing to keep in mind is how the offensive line goes is how Carr will go. If Carr is doing well, the benefactor will be Antonio Brown.
What about Brown’s new coaches?
The Raiders’ offensive coordinator is Greg Olson. Looking at his coaching history, that is not an exciting prospect for fantasy football fans. In his eleven years as an OC, only one time has he led an offense that ranked higher than 18th in the league. His best year was with the 2006 St. Louis Rams where he led the offense to the number six overall ranking. That is the abnormality, however. In order, here are the rankings for all Olson-led offenses: 27, 6, 24, 28, 19, 21, 23, 32, 18, 23, 23. Anyone feel good about this? At this point, I’m wondering how Olson continues to get hired. He has, somehow, developed a reputation that has kept him in the league. If the offense struggles out of the gate, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a change during the season. Ranking in the bottom third of the league is not going to work this year.
Putting it all together – is Antonio Brown going to live up to his 2019 ADP?
At the time of this article, Brown’s ADP is 2.09, dropping him almost exactly one round from last year. Brown is, however, still being drafted as a WR1. Here is the list of guys I currently have going ahead of him:
Odell Beckham, Jr.
Tyreek Hill (pending allegations)
Brown will be worth that late-round second as long as Derek Carr can get him the ball. There are some risky pieces at play (Olson, the Raiders offensive line) that could put living up to that ADP in jeopardy, but for some reason I find myself believing in new GM Mike Mayock and his ability to land the right players for the Raiders offense to experience a resurgence.
2019 Fantasy Impact Projection – Antonio Brown