Antonio Brown has ranked amongst the elite in fantasy football since 2014 during his time in Pittsburgh. With the rift stemming from Week 17, Brown forced the Steelers into trading the All-Pro wide receiver to the Oakland Raiders.
The trade sends Brown to Oakland for a third-round pick (No. 66 overall) and a fifth-round pick (No. 141).
With a player of Brown’s magnitude, his presence is bound to positively and negatively affect certain players’ fantasy production numbers.
So what should you think for some key players, including Brown, when it comes to their fantasy outlooks in 2019?
The centerpiece of the trade, Antonio Brown leaves a situation where he’s finished no lower than third at the wide receiver position (12th overall) since 2014 in terms of fantasy points in non-PPR leagues. To expect him to put up similar numbers in an Oakland Raiders‘ uniform is a tough ask. His quarterback isn’t on the same level as it was in Pittsburgh, the other receivers aren’t as good, the division as a whole is a lot better. Particularly on the defensive side of the ball in the Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos.
Brown joins an offense that severely lacks a weapon on the outside since trading Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys in week seven. The leading receiver option was tight end Jared Cook, who tied for the most catches as well as the most receiving yards and touchdowns on the team. Meanwhile, Jordy Nelson was the only wide receiver to eclipse 500 yards and three touchdowns in 2018.
I expect a regression from Brown’s 100+ catches, 1200+ yards and close to double-digit touchdowns fantasy owners are accustomed to. That’s not to say he can’t put up WR1 numbers like he has his entire career, but the expectation shouldn’t be a top five season out of Brown. He should instead be looked at as a low-end WR1 that’s drafted behind the likes of DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., Michael Thomas, Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, Juju Smith-Schuster and potentially Mike Evans/Adam Thielen.
In his first season under Gruden, Derek Carr was mixed as he had a career-high in completion percentage, yards and yards per attempt, but also had a career low of 19 passing touchdowns on the way to a 4-12 season for the Raiders. Aside from a promising 2016 season where he finished the year ninth in fantasy points for quarterbacks, Carr has hovered around the 15-20 ranking at the position.
With the addition of Brown, Carr has by far the best wide receiver he’s had in his career. Plus, it appears to be a make or break year for Carr as the talks of Jon Gruden wanting to move off him will only amplify the longer he struggles, which means he should be looking for Brown early and often.
As a whole, the Raiders offense is one you should look to avoid outside of Brown and in Carr case. He should only warrant consideration in 2-QB leagues or a bye week/injury fill-in based on the matchup.
The main scapegoat that led to the deal being done, Ben Roethlisberger loses the best receiver he’s had in his career. Brown has eclipsed 100 catches, 1250 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in each of the past six seasons. This isn’t unchartered territory for Roethlisberger though, as he’s dealt with the losses of other receivers. Big names such as Emmanuel Sanders, Mike Wallace, Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes and others have left the Steelers and Ben has continued to produce. It’s about that next man up mentality as well as the greatness of Roethlisberger that he’s able to put up top-13 fantasy numbers in eight of the last 12 seasons despite the constant change at the wideout position.
Ben Roethlisberger has put up at least 207.4 PPR points in every season as a starting QB with the Steelers, including his career-year in 2018 pic.twitter.com/Ea6K8NlZAU
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) February 27, 2019
I do feel that Brown’s absence will lead to regression for Roethlisberger, who put up a career-high 341 fantasy points which were the 3rd most for quarterbacks last season. But, he’s proven that one receiver leaving doesn’t significantly change his fantasy performance. If you’re looking to get Roethlisberger on your fantasy roster, I’d look to go get him around where Jared Goff, Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson are being picked. He’s more a bottom end QB1, but also could be faded in his entirety due to the depth at the position with 13 very high-level players available to be drafted.
The biggest winner (besides Brown due to his contract extension) is Juju Smith-Schuster who now becomes the clear-cut No. 1 option on one of the best passing offenses in the league. Coming off a pro bowl season where he recorded 111 catches, 1426 yards and seven touchdowns, Smith-Schuster can count on at the very least his 166 targets to raise as Brown leaves 169 of those up for grabs in his departure.
With the trade, Smith Schuster enters the discussion as a top five wide receiver option in fantasy and could push for the overall WR1 title. He’s got a good rapport with Roethlisberger, which was one of the alleged reasons for Brown’s unhappiness, and the expected high volume of looks with a very inexperienced receiving core outside of him should lead to a lot of opportunities to put up fantasy points.
I don’t have any receiver definitively over Smith-Schuster, but his supporting cast of weapons and Ben’s injury history makes me worried when deciding to draft him over some of the elite, but he’s firmly in the top seven at the position.
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