Antonio Brown was traded to the Oakland Raiders on Saturday night for a third- and fifth-round pick, moving the NFL's best receiver to the West Coast and leaving fantasy football players to ponder how Brown's value will be impacted.
With Ben Roethlisberger throwing him passes, Brown was a fantasy legend, registering six straight seasons with at least 100 receptions, 1,200 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. But Roethlisberger is a future Hall of Famer, while Derek Carr's career, to this point, has been largely inconsistent.
That raises the first question: How much will Carr impact Brown's fantasy output?
Evan Silva @evansilva
Thoughts after Antonio Brown trade: * AB/Rosenhaus by far biggest winners with big raise & > $30M guaranteed * Great deal #Raiders on paper but Gruden team building remains nonsensical * AB wont like playing w Derek Carr * #Steelers squandered insane amt of talent last decade
Let's look at the top fantasy wideouts from each of Carr's five seasons:
- 2014: James Jones (73 receptions for 666 yards and six scores)
- 2015: Amari Cooper (72 receptions for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns) and Michael Crabtree (85 receptions for 922 yards and nine scores)
- 2016: Cooper (83 receptions for 1,153 yards and five touchdowns) and Crabtree (89 receptions for 1,003 yards and eight scores)
- 2017: Jared Cook (54 receptions for 688 yards and two scores), Cooper (48 receptions for 680 yards and seven touchdowns) and Crabtree (58 receptions for 618 yards and eight scores)
- 2018: Cook (68 receptions for 896 yards and six touchdowns) and Jordy Nelson (63 receptions for 739 yards and three scores)
Most of Brown's upside is dependent on which Carr shows up for Oakland in 2019—the player from 2015-16, who threw for 60 touchdowns to just 19 interceptions and was an MVP candidate in the 2016 campaign, leading the Raiders to the playoffs before a season-ending injury, or the player who has struggled mightily the past two seasons (41 touchdowns and 23 picks).
Carr wasn't good in 2018, though he wasn't entirely to blame. The team traded Cooper midseason, his best wideout, and in general Carr was bereft of weapons. Still, going from Roethlisberger to the Carr we've seen the past two seasons is a downgrade, no questions asked. That will hurt Brown's output at least slightly.
JJ Zachariason @LateRoundQB
OAK had 556 pass attempts last season. PIT has averaged 625 over the last three years, with the single-season low being 590. Would expect Raiders to be more pass-heavy, but the point is AB has less room for error in target share. Needs a bump to get close to old fantasy value.
The other factor to consider is that Brown will be 31 during the 2019 season. While he's shown little sign of slowing down—he caught 15 touchdown passes last year, for heaven's sake—he won't be able to produce at an elite level forever. It seems unlikely that next year will be the beginning of an inevitable decline, but it's certainly worth monitoring.
Finally, Oakland doesn't have any other dangerous weapons—at least for the time being—to take the focus off Brown. In Pittsburgh, defenses had to worry about JuJu Smith-Schuster and either James Conner or Le'Veon Bell.
In Oakland, at present, Brown is the team's only elite weapon. That will garner him a level of attention from defenses he didn't receive in Pittsburgh, unless Oakland improves in that regard as the offseason progresses.
These are all concerns, but Brown has earned your trust. He may not be fantasy's top receiver this season, but he should still be a top-10 option. It's fair to move him out of the first round in drafts, but continue to treat him like a WR1.