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Antonio Brown Is Gone, What Now for the Raiders?


Antonio Brown’s tenure with Oakland was frequently high in drama but exceedingly low in contributions during his abbreviated time with the Raiders. Brown confined his offseason performances to stages that were located away from the field, and his erratic words and actions also deviated from the type of impact that Jon Gruden and the Raider organization had envisioned when they acquired the seven-time Pro-Bowler. The departure of Brown eliminates a massive level of volatility that had existed during his brief relationship with the team. But it also removes the most critical resource and the lone explosive weapon that would have been operating within the team’s attack.

Now, the 31-year-old Brown will begin his 10th NFL season as a New England Patriot, which has left Oakland scrambling in the aftermath of a calamitous experiment. The Raiders are now forced to abandon their strategic approach just as Week 1 game action begins. This involves transforming an offense that has extracted an elusive superstar, who was previously considered to be its centerpiece.

The sudden flip of the script for Brown and his now-former team creates a distinct impact for fantasy owners. Brown's value remains static but what about the remaining Raiders who must carry on without AB there to distract defenses?

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Just Win?

Some of you who had invested in other components within the Raider offense will now benefit from a higher percentage of opportunities being designated for those players. Other owners will find your Raiders now contending with more sizable hurdles in their pathways to productivity. Because opposing defenses will not be required to focus their resources on accounting for Brown’s route-running acumen through diverse areas of the field.

A primary beneficiary of Brown’s departure will be Tyrell Williams, who instantly becomes the Raiders WR1. Williams' most productive season occurred in 2016 when he led the Chargers in targets (119), receptions (69), and yardage (1,059). Williams capitalized on his opportunity for an expanded role that season, after Keenan Allen suffered a torn ACL in Week 1. Williams is a legitimate downfield threat who has played in 16 games for three consecutive seasons. He will be confronted by more extensive coverage without Brown. However, he will also function as Derek Carr’s primary receiving weapon. Expect a tradeoff between higher target volume and decreased efficiency.

Hunter Renfrow will also receive an expanded role and could challenge Williams for the team lead in targets. Carr could be in frequent need of a safety valve while performing behind an offensive line that is coached by Tom Cable. Renfro can be the dependable outlet that Carr requires, and the rookie's favorable blend of route running and reliable hands could elevate him into WR3 status for his owners.

Darren Waller should also garner more targets, as Gruden attempts to utilize his unique combination of size and speed. Waller is a converted wide receiver that presented owners with an enticing late-round option during their recently completed draft process. He provides a 6’6 245-pound presence, and also delivered a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash during the 2015 NFL Combine. This can create nightmares for overmatched defenders, and Waller can conceivably rise to low-end TE1 status at a position that desperately needs productive options.

Fourth-year back Jalen Richard has averaged 342 yards as a rusher, and 352 yards as a receiver during his career. While he is unquestionably behind Josh Jacobs on the depth chart, Richard should now collect more targets and snaps in comparison to his numbers if Brown was contained in the lineup. The Raiders’ talent depleted offense will combine with a vulnerable defense to create frequent game scripts that require the team to play from behind. Richard finished seventh among backs in targets and receptions last season (81/68) and will join Renfro in providing Carr with dependable safety valves.

Owners in Superflex leagues who selected Carr as your QB2 should review your current options on the waiver wire, although the results will likely be underwhelming. If you must proceed with Carr as a starter, it is wise to brace for production that is well below the results that he would have attained with Brown in the lineup.

Josh Jacobs owners can expect him to remain the recipient of an enormous workload. Unfortunately, he will now encounter eight defenders in the box far more routinely. Oakland will also be forced to throw more frequently than originally expected when Jacobs owners made their investment, and Richard’s touches will rise at his expense.

The initial installment of Oakland's reconstituted attack will appear on Monday Night. If you own Williams, Renfrow, Waller or Richard, remain patient if their numbers are disappointing in Week 1. They are all in position to provide higher output than expected as the result of Brown's departure.

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