2012 Fantasy Football Profile and Projection: Steelers WR Antonio Brown
After posting 16 receptions for 167 yards as a rookie, Brown finished second on the team in both receptions (69) and yards (1,108) last year and trailed Mike Wallace by only three receptions and 85 yards for the team lead. Although he had only two (receiving) touchdowns, he ranked 15th in the league in yards.
Brown is not a big receiver (5-foot-10, 186 pounds), which means he's unlikely to ever approach Wallace's touchdown numbers, an average of eight scores per season.
That said, it's nearly impossible for him to score fewer than two touchdowns this year, right?
Of all the receivers in the NFL that had more than 61 receptions, Brown is the only wide receiver to score two or less touchdowns last year. Since 2000, only seven other wide receivers caught at least 65 passes and finished with two or less touchdowns in a season.
In addition to his two receiving touchdowns, Brown returned a punt for a touchdown, ranked fifth in the league in kickoff return average (27.3 yards), and raked 10th in punt return average (10.8). Many fantasy leagues don't reward individual players for special teams production, but if your league does, Brown has the potential to give you a few extra points above what his receiving numbers produce.
While Brown had a good season across the board, his second-half numbers were even better than his first-half stats in 2011.
Finishing 2011 Season Strong
In the final half of the season, Brown led the team in receiving in six of eight contests. During that eight-game span, Brown led the team in receptions (35) and yards (677). Wallace finished second in both categories with 29 receptions and 393 yards.
Only seven NFL receivers had more receiving yards than Brown in their final eight games of the season.
From Week 7 through the team's playoff loss, Brown had at least 59 yards in every game except one. That 34-yard performance, however, coincided with one of Brown's two receiving touchdowns. In other words, he finished the season with 11 straight games with five or more fantasy points to close the year and had three 100-yard games during that span.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a propensity to hold on to the football and extend plays. Although he takes plenty of hits and sacks, he buys time for his receivers so they can make plays down the field.
The only active players to have a higher yard-per-attempt average than Roethlisberger (8.02) are Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers (8.22) and Dallas' Tony Romo (8.04). By drafting Stanford's David DeCastro and Ohio State's Mike Adams with their first two picks in this year's draft, Big Ben should have even more time to find an open receiver.
As productive as Brown was last year, Wallace is the receiver that opposing defenses will worry about the most. That should mean even more open looks for the former sixth-round pick. In fact, it was Brown (123) that had more targets last year than Wallace (113).
Strength of Schedule
Based on the cumulative fantasy points allowed to wide receivers last year by all of the Steelers opponents this year, Brown and the Steelers' receivers have one of the five least favorable schedules from a fantasy perspective and the 16th-most favorable schedule in the fantasy postseason (Weeks 14-16).
The knock on Brown last year was his lack of touchdowns (three if you count his return TD). With my glass half-full view, it would be hard for Brown to finish with less touchdowns in 2012. Since wide receiver is such a deep position in fantasy football, you can get a 1,000-yard receiver like Brown as your WR3 in a 10-team league.
Only 25 years old, Brown likely has several 1,000-yard seasons ahead of him. As noted above, he's never likely to be a big touchdown guy, but he should be a solid and consistently productive receiver for you for a long time.
Projection: (Receiving) 80 Receptions, 1,125 Yards, 4 TDs; (Rushing) 25 Yards
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