No star wide receiver has had a bigger change of scenery than Oakland Raiders wideout Antonio Brown. Brown, a longtime star for the Pittsburgh Steelers, arrived in Oakland after wearing out his welcome with the black and yellow. Instead of catching passes in a star-studded offense led by Ben Roethlisberger, he’ll be operating with Derek Carr and an adequate supporting cast. Brown’s been the consensus top wide receiver in fantasy for the past few seasons, but can he carry that success into 2019?
2019 Fantasy Football Outlook: Antonio Brown
As expected, Antonio Brown was one of fantasy football’s top wide receivers in 2018. Playing in 15 games, Brown finished the year with 104 receptions for 1,297 yards and a league-leading 15 touchdowns. His fantastic campaign made him the WR2 in standard scoring formats and the WR4 in half-PPR formats. This ridiculous stat line wasn’t out of the ordinary, as Brown has finished with over 100 receptions, 1,250 yards, and eight touchdowns in each of the past six seasons.
While his final numbers were elite, his efficiency wasn’t. According to Sharp Football Stats, Brown finished the season with an 88 passer rating and a 49% success rate when targeted. Both rates were below league average and were second-worst on the team to James Washington. Basically, Brown’s fantasy performance was due to a ridiculous amount of volume rather than a high-level efficiency.
Brown faced an absurd amount of double teams, and this defensive focus accounts for some of his inefficiency. However, that alone doesn’t completely explain away his lack of efficiency. Brown saw similar coverages in 2016 and had a 109 passer rating and a 51% success rate when targeted. Similarly, Brown recorded a 101 passer rating when targeted and a 55% success rate in 2017.
Antonio Brown is in a significantly worse situation in 2019 than he was in 2018. Instead of catching passes from future Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Brown is now catching passes from Derek Carr. Defenses will still do everything in their power to take Brown out of the game, but the jury is still out on whether Carr can get the ball to Brown Roethlisberger could.
For what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus ranked Derek Carr as the most accurate deep ball passer in 2018. While some of that is due to Carr’s conservative play style, it’s obviously encouraging that Carr could do it in a small sample. Additionally, Carr’s never had a receiver as good as Brown. With a legit outside target, perhaps Carr will get more aggressive on his deep throws.
There’s going to be a drop-off, simply because no realistic way to expect Brown to continue to put up the best numbers in the world on a new team with a lesser quarterback. However, Carr is good enough to keep Brown going as a WR1. Even though he’s entering his age-31 season, Brown still has plenty left in his tank and should finish the year as one of the better receivers in football.
Antonio Brown Average Draft Position
As of this posting, Fantasy Football Calculator projects Brown to go off the board with the 22nd pick in standard scoring formats. This second-round placement puts him right next to Mike Evans and behind guys like Juju Smith-Schuster and Odell Beckham.
This feels like the place to grab him, although nobody would blame you if you took him closer to the top of the second. Brown is still an elite wide receiver, even if he’s on a new team and his efficiency dropped in 2018. Antonio Brown has been the unquestioned top receiver in fantasy football since 2014 and he’s still got enough left in his tank to be a true WR1. Even in Oakland, he’s still an elite talent capable of singlehandedly winning fantasy matchups.
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