Antonio Brown Remains a Top-Five Fantasy WR with the Oakland Raiders - Roto Street Journal
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Antonio Brown Remains a Top-Five Fantasy WR with the Oakland Raiders

The Raiders sent the Steelers third and fifth round picks to acquire an all-time WR in Antonio Brown. Though his fantasy value takes a slight hit leaving a near-perfect Pittsburgh set-up, Brown should remain a Top-Five WR in Oakland. He remains an elite Individual Talent (30/30), and the Usage should stay sky-high, considering Jon Gruden‘s past successes with WR1s. Despite some “Surrounding Talent” and “Floor” downgrades, AB still grades out at 92 via our Stock Formula. He should be treated as a fringe first rounder, while spearheading the second-tier of WRs.

Despite all the off-field antics, Brown’s talent remains indisputable. He pairs league-best route running with glue-like hands, effortless acceleration, and insane body control, making him an impossible cover at every layer of the field. Brown’s not only one of the top WRs still active, but one of the best to ever play this game.

Usage-wise, many expect Brown to take a hit after he’s been bathed with an average of 171 targets as Pittsburgh’s passing-game anchor since 2013. Still, this should be largely unaffected under Gruden. Despite coaching in a run-heavier era, Gruden’s top-targets vacuumed 131 looks on average — not too far off from Brown’s Steelers volume. Plus, with Jared Cook‘s team-high 101 targets removed and a ragtag bunch of WRs behind him, there’s simply no one else to throw the ball to in Oakland. Brown should receive his usual 160+ targets in Oakland, with the upside to lead the league in looks if the Raiders frequent garbage time.

Brown’s high Coaching Scheme score also remains largely in-tact in Oakland, thanks to Gruden’s historic success utilizing his No.1 WRs. Prior to last year’s debacle, 11/11 of Gruden’s WR1s went for 1,000 or more yards, with 4 of those 7 guys — over half — setting career bests under Chucky. He moves his targets all over the formation, and now has the ultimate do-it-all weapon in Brown. Gruden himself noted this prior to their Week 13 matchup, gushing:

“You can move him around everywhere, you don’t know where he’s going to be. He can run every route you can dream up… but the greatest thing is the hardest working man I think in football, hardest working player I’ve ever seen, practice … I’ve seen Jerry Rice, I’ve seen a lot of good ones, but I put Antonio Brown at the top.” 

Yes, the “Surrounding Talent” downgrade is undeniable. Ben Roethlisberger is a future HOFer, and for all the pair’s off-field drama, they’ve always displayed beautiful on-field chemistry. Still, many may overexaggerate the slide. Derek Carr is just a couple seasons removed from MVP discussions, and sneakily set career bests in passing yardage (4049) and completion percentage (68.6%) under Gruden this season… with legitimate garbage at wide receiver. Brown drops -2 points on our “Surrounding Talent” scale, from 14/15 to now 12/15, but Carr is certainly talented enough to preserve Brown’s WR1 worth.

Brown’s “Floor / Risk” score also takes a -2 hit after his tumultuous end of 2018 and early offseason. Brown used to be among the safest fantasy investments, but quitting on his team and running amuck all offseason create at least minor Red Flags. Still, Brown got paid, likely feels valued, and takes immense pride in his game. There’s now greater risk of him shutting down, but I don’t expect it.

The Upside for a generational talent like Brown is always astronomical. He of course could threaten for the WR crown in 2019. Still, Brown’s Fantasy Stock Score does dip slightly. He falls from the Tier 1 WRs (DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams, Julio Jones), and now spearheads Tier 2 (Brown, Tyreek Hill, Michael Thomas, JuJu Smith Schuster). My projections for Brown in Oakland are:

Ceiling Projection: 115 catches (180 tgts), 1650 yards, 12 TDs

Floor Projection: 90 catches (140 tgts), 1100 yards, 8 TDs

Actual Projection: 108 catches (170 tgts), 1400 yards, 11 TDs

All-in-all, Brown’s Individual Talent, his expected high Usage, and Gruden’s track record with No.1 WRs all have me confident Brown will remain elite in 2019. Any fantasy discounts because of an “uglier” home or his offield antics should be capitalized upon.

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