Fantasy Football 2012: Why You Must Draft Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown

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Fantasy Football 2012: Why You Must Draft Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Mike Wallace is the Pittsburgh Steelers wideout drawing all the headlines this offseason, but Antonio Brown is the receiver fantasy football players should be reading up on.

Brown, not Wallace, led the Steelers in targets last season. His 123 targets tied for 18th in the NFL.

Brown, not Wallace, was voted team MVP last season. He didn't even start until Nov. 13, but still broke the Steelers' single-season record for all-purpose yards with 2,048.

Wallace is perceived as Pittsburgh's speedy downfield receiver with Brown pigeonholed in the slot. But Brown finished 2011 averaging 11 yards at the catch, compared to 9.7 for Wallace.

Wallace's contract situation does matter, of course. Please do pay attention to it. Brown needs him to draw safeties away from his side of the field. ESPN's KC Joyner picks Brown as one of his five breakout players for 2012 and explains why the complimentary skills of Wallace makes him especially dangerous.

Come draft day, however, skip Wallace in the early rounds and see what "Brown can do for you" later on.

Brown managed to score at least six fantasy points (standard scoring: one point for every 10 yards, six points per touchdown, no points per reception) in 12-of-16 games last season despite making only two trips to the end zone. He went over 100 yards three times, totaled 90 once and finished in the 80s twice.

Don't make the classic mistake of evaluating a player based on previous touchdown totals. This is a highly volatile statistic that fluctuates from year to year.

Fantasy owners were burned last year for chasing Michael Vick's nine rushing touchdowns in 2010 as he rushed for just one in 2011. Tampa Bay wideout Mike Williams saw his total of 11 touchdowns in 2010 drop to just three in 2011.

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Brown's proven consistency in targets and yardage is what you should be focusing on here. A track record like that is even more valuable at the always-volatile receiver position. The touchdowns will come. When they do, a fantasy stud will rise.

Five more touchdowns in 2011 would have given Brown a more-than-reasonable total of seven for the year. Those extra scores would also boost him into the top 13 among fantasy receivers. Add two more and he cracks the top 10.

Bucky Brooks writes for NFL.com that Brown will raise his game under new Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who has developed some of the finest receivers in the NFL with his tough-love approach. His list of pupils includes Pro Bowl players Keyshawn Johnson, Terrell Owens, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Dwayne Bowe.

"Brown, a third-year pro, has equally impressive speed, quickness and elusiveness. He is a dangerous playmaker with the ball in his hands, and the Steelers do a terrific job of giving it to him in space. Using crossing routes over the middle of the field and quick hitches on the perimeter, the Steelers frequently put Brown in the position to make catch-and-run plays. Haley will continue putting Brown in motion to generate big gains. When he was the offensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals, Haley routinely used stack and bunch formations with an assortment of crossing routes to create mismatches for his receivers in space. By aligning Brown in various positions within the offensive formation, he can guarantee a free release for the slippery receiver, leading to more production."

ESPN ranks Brown No. 25 among fantasy receivers while projecting him for 128 points (80 receptions, 1,045 yards, four touchdowns). He is currently being drafted in the seventh round (ADP 64.2) in Yahoo! leagues as the 26th receiver off the board.

Brown's consistency gives him limited downside. His ability to break off big plays adds high upside. At such a cheap price, investing in Brown will pay huge dividends.

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