So here you are in a 2019 fantasy draft and it’s your turn to pick a wide receiver. The top 5 ranked wideouts (Hopkins, Adams, Beckham, Jones, Thomas) are off the board and you have the choice between once teammates; Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster. What you need to do is forget about Brown’s past seasons and make your choice using statistics.
Targets. Targets. Targets. All I want is targets. Did I mention I want targets? The target opportunity, and sure both are the 1st options on their respectful teams; therefore, the targets will be close to identical for both players. Brown, who is arguably the best wide receiver to ever play the game of football, is now on a team with a lot of question marks. The biggest question mark starts with the quarterback Derek Carr. Carr is not a terrible quarterback by all means, but he is an obvious downgrade from Ben Roethlisberger. Brown will demand Carr to throw him the ball no matter the coverage just like he did with Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, the only difference is I don’t believe Carr can be as successful as Roethlisberger.
The other thing we must look at is the “talent” the Raiders have on their roster outside of Brown. They all left last year under Gruden’s management. The teams that will play against the raiders will only need to focus on Brown, as he is the only threat on that team. I can guarantee that with the Raiders, Brown will see double coverage a lot during the season and won’t have as much freedom as he did with Smith-Schuster taking some of his pressure off. The next point is one we all seem to forget but it shouldn’t go unnoticed. Antonio Brown is now 30 years old, while that doesn’t mean he is past his prime, it does mean that he has a lot of miles under him and decline is expected. Take into consideration that the Raiders have one of the worst offensive lines in football which will directly impact Carr’s time in the pocket. Carr will see a lot of pressure and might not have enough time to throw to already double-teamed Brown.
I always see it as a bonus when a player is aware of us fantasy players and wants to help whoever drafted him win, Smith-Schuster is that guy. Schuster is humble and focused on the game of football which is what you want in fantasy, someone who won’t frustrate you throughout the season. I personally won’t hesitate for a second to take the younger and proven Smith-Schuster, who’s on a better team and is ready to be the go-to receiver.
As for Brown, it took one decision to see himself out of a top 5 wide receiver discussion. With his new team Brown barely makes my list as wide receiver 9 beating out Mike Evans. Think of the Larry Fitzgerald situation, an amazing receiver with a bad quarterback. Brown on the Raiders will receive same rate of targets as he did last season, but the looks will be less appealing and will be thrown in double coverage. Sometimes you must forget what you saw from a player’s last season, wipe the slate clean, and look at him with new set of eyes. That is the case with Brown, since he is no longer on a fantasy producing offense, his stats will suffer across the board.
I predict his numbers on the 2019 season will be; 160 targets with 105 recorded, 1000 yards (because he is still Antonio Brown and will demand the ball from Carr), and 10 touchdowns at best. Avoid drafting him in the 1st round as you have better options. He should be drafted in mid-2nd round across all formats and still produce wide receiver 1 stats but expectations should be tampered.
By - Gevorg Shakhmelikyan, Contributor