The NFL’s strangest wide receiver has outdone himself this time. After dealing with an entire off-season of weird Antonio Brown news, the star wideout is at it again. Since the start of training camp, news broke that Brown has frostbite on his feet after a mishap with a cryotherapy session and he might retire if he can’t wear his old helmet. Brown always came with his share of off-field issues, but he’s always been one of the most dependable wideouts in terms of on-field production. Brown’s draft stock is falling across every platform – is this the time to buy low on Antonio Brown in fantasy, or should you stay away from the newest Raider?
Antonio Brown Fantasy Football Outlook
The Latest News
In case you’ve been living under a rock, Antonio Brown is making all the wrong news in training camp. First off, the wide receiver posted an image of his frostbitten feet (it’s disgusting, I’m not linking it) and isn’t practicing at training camp. Additionally, Brown is currently in a battle with the NFL over the use of his old helmet. For whatever reason, Brown loves this helmet and said he’d retire if he cannot wear it. As if all that wasn’t enough, some reports indicate that the Raiders themselves don’t know what Brown’s doing. WPXI’s Chase Williams reported that Brown has gone “radio silent” on the Raiders organization, although Raiders beat reporters have yet to confirm this report.
Let’s start by breaking down the foot injury. The circumstances behind Brown’s frostbitten feet are certainly strange, but he’s not the first athlete to undergo something like this. Back in 2011, US Olympic sprinter Justin Gatlin suffered a similar injury and said it took him “months” to reach full strength. Gatlin added that his foot looked similar to Brown’s, so it’s safe to assume a similar recovery time for Brown. This means he’s likely missing regular season time in the upcoming season.
This alone is a huge red flag, but Brown is also threatening retirement over his helmet. Normally, you’d just assume this was a bluff, as no sane person would turn down tens of millions of dollars over a helmet. However, this is Antonio Brown we’re talking about. Logic doesn’t apply to this man, so he’s probably serious. As of this posting, nobody definitively knows why Brown is so attached to the helmet. However, this helmet clearly means a lot to him, and there’s a very real chance he won’t be playing if the NFL won’t let him use his old helmet.
Update: he’s not retiring
On-Field Reasons for Worry
Brown’s off-field problems are legitimately worrisome, but there are on-field factors which should also give you pause. For one, Brown is joining a new team with a downgrade at quarterback. Say what you will about Ben Roethlisberger, but he’s a significantly better quarterback than Derek Carr. Roethlisberger led the league in passing attempts last season, and Carr won’t be doing that in 2019. The longer Brown sits out, the less time he’ll have to develop a rapport with his new quarterback.
Even if Carr could feed Brown at the same rate as Roethlisberger, there are plenty of reasons to believe he’ll regress in 2019. Brown finished as the WR4 in half-point scoring last season, but nothing about his success was sustainable. He was one of the most inefficient receivers in football, posting an 88 passer rating and 49% success rate when targeted. Brown owed his entire success to a ridiculously high target count and a career-high 15 touchdowns. Both the targets and touchdowns will go down in 2019, meaning that he’s due for his worst season in quite some time.
Normally, buying low on a talented player is a good way to win your fantasy football leagues. However, this is the exception to the rule. All of Brown’s red flags are very real, and you should stay away at all costs. Both on and off the field, all signs point towards Brown not being worth the gamble in 2019. Unless he falls into the late rounds, you’re better off drafting somewhere else.
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