What to Make of Antonio Brown for 2019 Fantasy Football?

Credit:

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Antonio Brown

In a recent NFL edition of The Action Network Podcast, Sean Koerner and I were joined by Matt Harmon of Yahoo Sports.

On the show, we talk about Matt’s approach to wide receivers in 2019 fantasy football drafts, and we do a full breakdown of the top-12 wide receivers by average draft position.

Near the end of the episode, we discuss Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown, whether he has declined as a player in recent years and what to expect from him in 2019.

I think it’s worth highlighting some of the points we touched on in this conversation.

Is Antonio Brown Still Good at Football?

Late last season, I argued that Brown was overrated in two articles that are still relevant.

Was I aggressive in saying that Brown had fallen off a cliff and that there are 10 receivers better than him? Maybe.

But the wise fantasy investor will likely approach Brown with prudence this year.

Within our Fantasy Football Draft Kit, we have 2019 projections for every fantasy-relevant player.

If you look at the 2019 projections for Brown, you’ll see we’re projecting him for around 95 receptions, 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns.

On the one hand, that’s a good season. That would likely make Antonio a top-eight (maybe top-five) producer at the position. On the other hand, that would give Brown his worst season since his injury-impacted 2012 campaign.

And that’s a median projection, indicating what we might expect to happen roughly half the time. Within his range of outcomes, Brown could do significantly worse.

Antonio Brown vs. Other Top-Tier Wide Receivers

Of all the receivers being drafted within the first two rounds, Brown has the most potential downside.

  • He is the oldest of the cohort at 31 years old.
  • He is with a new team, and receivers tend to struggle when they change teams.
  • He is without quarterback Ben Roethlisburger, the only NFL passer with whom he’s ever had success.
  • He is a volatile (potentially team-destroying) locker-room presence with additional off-the-field concerns.

Here’s Koerner’s analysis of Antonio from his Best Ball Tiers.

Brown is a bit of a question mark heading into 2019.

In 2015, Brown had to go a four-game stretch without Big Ben under center and was the WR45 over that stretch.

I’ve always felt Brown has benefited from the mind meld he has with Big Ben, so going to a new team and a new QB could hurt his production a bit. I still think Brown will see enough volume to mask the lack of chemistry between him and Derek Carr their first season together. But I’m also a bit concerned Brown’s personality has the potential to create some problems with that.

There are too many red flags for me to load up much on AB this season.

Next to the other top-tier wide receivers, Brown is a guy who is hard to select in 2019 fantasy drafts.

Matt Harmon’s Take on Antonio Brown

Through the lens of Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception methodology, Brown was still a dynamic route-running technician in 2018.

Harmon believes that — in a vacuum — Brown is probably close to the player he was in 2013-17. Last year, he was still strong versus man-press coverage. He was still able to create separation. He was still strong as an outside receiver.

But even Harmon believes that Brown’s trade from Pittsburgh to Oakland will hurt his fantasy value.

On the show, I asked Harmon this question: “Out of the nine wide receivers we’ve talked about so far (DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams, Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr.,  JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mike Evans and Brown plus Tyreek Hill), if one of them is to finish outside of the top 30 yet still play at least 14 games this year, that guy has to be Antonio Brown, right?”

Here’s what Harmon said.

Yes, I would say so. If there’s just a complete disaster situation, I think the disaster situation is an easier and more believable story to tell for Antonio Brown than probably any of these other players.

If even Harmon is saying that Brown is the likeliest of the top-tier receivers to bust, that doesn’t speak well for the diva wide receiver’s 2019 fantasy prospects.

The Action Network Podcast with Matt Harmon

Be sure to listen to the rest of our episode with Harmon.

Here’s a quick guide to time codes for specific topics within our conversation:

  • Tyreek Hill News (2:45)
  • Draft Strategy (9:30)
  • Hopkins (15:00)
  • Adams (17:30)
  • Thomas (25:00)
  • Jones (29:00)
  • OBJ (31:45)
  • JuJu (35:15)
  • Evans (40:30)
  • Brown (43:45)
  • Hilton, Thielen, Allen and Green (51:00)

And also check out the previous episodes in our extensive positional breakdowns.

Next episode, we will dive into the rest of the fantasy wide receivers. Be sure to tune in!

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