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Antonio Brown’s Fantasy Outlook as a Raider

Fantasy owners have been anxiously anticipating the onset of free agency, as the ensuing player movement supplies sizable ramifications for players, their teams, and fantasy owners who are either managing rosters or preparing for their draft process.

The team at RotoBaller shares your enthusiasm for this exhilarating phase of the offseason, which is why we have been compiling statistics and generating analysis as part of our unrelenting efforts to help you win your leagues in 2019. That includes our commitment to deliver immediate and detailed analysis of significant roster transformations during free agency.

We will also provide breakdowns that examine how the movement of specific players has altered the fantasy landscape, whether their value has ascended or dropped, and what the implications are for both their new and former teammates. No player’s status has been scrutinized more extensively than Antonio Brown, and here is his fantasy outlook in the aftermath of his surprising trade to Oakland.

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Brown Gains Separation From Pittsburgh

Once it became apparent that the relationship between Brown and the Steelers was becoming increasingly fragmented, each new comment or social media update by Brown provided an additional layer of drama, while simultaneously cementing the inevitability of his departure from the franchise that he had performed with for nine seasons.

As the launch of free agency loomed, it was clear that Brown’s tenure with the team was on the verge of conclusion. The only uncertainty concerning his situation pertained to the identity of the franchise that would secure his services moving forward, and the number of resources that would be necessary for Pittsburgh to finalize a trade.

The fact that Oakland was able to extract Brown's game-breaking talent and still safeguard their most valuable picks in April’s NFL Draft (Round 1, Picks 4/24/27-Round 2, Pick 35) for just a third and fifth round pick underscores how thoroughly diminished Pittsburgh's leverage had become due to the series of comments made by Brown in the offseason.

The surprisingly modest cost of obtaining Brown now provides an opportunity for the Raiders to invest their coveted resources toward bolstering the roster that surrounds him. It would appear the Raiders are already a team on the rise despite a horrid showing in 2018.


What Brown Can Do

Brown’s voluminous list of achievements includes leading all receivers in fantasy scoring from 2014-2017 while averaging 118 receptions, 1,587 yards, and 11 touchdowns during that span. He has generated at least 100 catches every year since 2013 while accruing 1,284+ yards and accumulating 67 touchdowns throughout that span.

His ability to assemble exceptional numbers continued in 2018, even as (then) teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster ascended into the select grouping of highly productive WR1s. Brown led the NFL with 15 touchdowns and finished at WR2 in standard scoring. His 168 targets also placed him second overall and left him just two behind league leader Julio Jones – even though Brown was sidelined during Pittsburgh’s Week 17 matchup.


An Evolving Raiders Roster

Whether Brown’s enormous talent will be sufficient for him to maintain the same degree of success this season, or even achieve production that sustains his presence among the league’s WR1s is hugely dependent upon the effectiveness of other components that will exist in Oakland’s offense. The Raiders ranked 23rd in total offense last season (336 YPG), 18th in passing offense (234 YPG), and just 28th in scoring (18.1 PPG), as Derek Carr surpassed 4,000 yards for the first time in his career, but only manufactured a substandard 19:10 touchdown to interception ratio.

Carr is unquestionably the teammate whose value will be impacted most by Brown's westward migration but Oakland’s signal caller must be provided with additional receiving weaponry in order for both players to reward their owners with potent weekly scoring.

The specific composition of Carr’s receiving options will be developed in upcoming weeks, although Jordy Nelson could function as the team's WR2. Nelson will be turning 34 in May, but he did operate proficiently during Weeks 13-17 when he collected 48 of his 88 targets (9.6 per game).

Seth Roberts' responsibilities as Oakland slot receiver could be altered during free agency, as there are more reliable alternatives. The tight end position is also unsettled as Jared Cook is a free agent after finishing as the team leader in targets (101), receptions (68), receiving yards (896), and touchdowns (6).

Amid the positional upgrades that will occur during free agency, it would not be surprising if the 2019 stable of running backs appears remarkably similar to the collection of runners that were deployed during 2018. Marshawn Lynch's official status is unconfirmed, although one more season of home matchups in Oakland dramatically increases the likelihood that he will perform with the team for one more year. Doug Martin's 4.2 YPC exceeded the expectations of virtually everyone except Jon Gruden once he assumed lead back responsibilities from Lynch last October, and he could easily be re-signed.

Jalen Richard should also function as the team’s receiving back after tying for seventh among all runners in targets (81), and also finishing seventh with 68 receptions. Undrafted free agent Chris Warren actually led the NFL in rushing yards during the 2018 preseason, before spending the season on IR (knee). He also provides an intriguing possibility within the backfield mix.

While the Raiders will make modifications at wide receiver and tight end, the team must also improve the proficiency of its offensive line. The potential scenario that would transpire if this does not occur will be troubling for anyone who owns Brown.

Beyond the stellar play of center Rodney Hudson, Kelechi Osemele must be replaced at left guard, while the proficiency at both tackle positions must improve dramatically in order for Carr to have any semblance of a comfort zone. If Carr finds himself under duress with any frequency, then it is likely that he will not respond well. That, of course, will negatively impact Antonio Brown. However, the record signing of Trent Brown is a big step toward accomplishing the goal of revamping the O-line.


Brown’s Outlook

Brown's sustained excellence has been on display on a weekly basis since 2013, and he just assembled another highly productive season in 2018. Any questions concerning his value after the trade do not involve his explosive talent, and instead, are the result of visible deficiencies on Oakland's roster. But even though some of those inadequacies will be addressed in upcoming weeks,  Brown has currently lost his standing among first-round draft selections.

Brown’s current ADP of 19 places him eighth among all wide receivers. DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams, Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, Tyreek Hill, Odell Beckham Jr., and former teammate Smith-Schuster all reside above him through the initial 18 selections in the draft process. As of now, that is the earliest that he should be chosen.

If the offensive line is a massive liability during Tom Cable's second season as the positional coach, then Carr will encounter some disappointing outings, and the ceiling on Brown’s output will be lowered during those matchups. That would result in Brown’s value dropping further, with an ADP that dwells near the bottom of Round 2, or enters the upper region of Round 3. That would place him adjacent to Mike Evans, T.Y. Hilton, A.J. Green, and possibly former Raider Amari Cooper.

However, we have yet to reach the halfway point in March, and the Raider offense should have different components on the depth charts as opposed to how the current roster appears today. The team has the aforementioned draft picks and sufficient cap space to improve their current personnel in multiple areas.

As a result, the conjecture that is occurring in terms of Brown's decline in value will be rendered irrelevant as the roster becomes reshaped during free agency and the upcoming NFL Draft. The belief from here is that the surrounding weaponry and line play will improve, which will help Carr perform sufficiently for Brown to achieve favorable numbers.

As a result, the projected output is 102 receptions/1,050 yards/9 touchdowns. That will keep Brown among the low-end WR1s, with the knowledge that his forecast can be altered depending upon the perceived results of Oakland's roster transformation.

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