Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Antonio Brown
- Steelers WR Antonio Brown is having his least efficient season in recent memory.
- Matthew Freedman dives into the numbers and makes his case for why we're overrating Brown and lists off all of the NFL wide receivers who are currently better than him.
In Week 13, I suggested that Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is falling off a cliff — and then he went off for a 10-154-1 receiving performance against the Chargers as a home favorite on Sunday Night Football.
In retrospect, my timing wasn’t great. The extent to which I was trolled on Twitter was nothing short of delicious. I must’ve looked like a flammable third-string cornerback with all my backpedaling.
In the burnt aftermath of Antonio’s season-best performance, I spent a significant amount of time on three podcasts talking about, defending and atoning for my #hottaek.
- The Taekcast with Davis Mattek
- RotoViz Radio with Dave Caban
- The Action Network NFL Podcast with Chris Raybon
And then, in Week 14, the Antonio short sellers got a big win.
Do I actually think that Antonio is falling off a (metaphorical) cliff? Yes and no.
Antonio Brown Looks Slower
I don’t put a lot of stock in #TeamWatchTheTape. That’s not to say I don’t watch games or respect people who break down film, but it’s too easy for people who don’t watch tape in a systematic way to be led astray by their biases.
I’m not a tape-grinding expert, but to my untrained eye, Brown this year has looked slower, which would make sense: He’s 30 years old.
And he was never particularly fast to begin with. At the 2010 combine, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.57 seconds, which is slow for a guy who is 5-foot-10 and 186 pounds. He displayed good agility with his 6.98-second three-cone drill — and his quick-twitch ability has been evident for years in his fantastic route-running — but Brown’s athleticism (I believe) is starting to go.
If you see something different when you watch the tape, that’s fine — and that’s why I usually don’t talk about what’s on the tape: It’s too subjective. We can always disagree on what numbers mean, but we can’t disagree on what the numbers are. With tape, there’s less uncertainty.
But for what it’s worth, regardless of whether Brown has lost some of his physical dynamism, Pro Football Focus through Week 14 has graded this season as Brown’s worst ever as a receiver on a 0-100 scale.
- 2018: 74.8
- 2017: 91.3
- 2016: 89.0
- 2015: 92.6
- 2014: 91.2
- 2013: 90.0
- 2012: 80.5
- 2011: 87.7
- 2010: 82.0
You can disagree with PFF’s methodology, accuracy, etc., but PFF breaks down each play systematically and grades it in a way that accounts for a variety of factors, including quarterback, scheme and defense.
I’m not the only one saying that Brown has significantly declined this year. With its grading system, PFF is also saying that Brown isn’t one of 2018’s best wide receivers.
And regardless of who you are or whatever you’ve seen when you’ve watched Brown play this year, you’re probably not as good as PFF is at breaking down film.