As of August 9th, 2019, Antonio Brown‘s antics have officially overshadowed how excellent of a football player he is. With the latest antics, fantasy football owners are wondering how they should proceed.
Since the end of last season, Brown has: demanded a trade from the team that made him the best wide receiver of this generation, suffered a self inflicted frostbite injury, and threatened to retire from football if he was not allowed to wear a 10-year old banned helmet (not to mention the wacky nicknames and blonde mustaches along the way). But this isn’t just any wide receiver we’re talking about here. Antonio Brown is the best in the biz.
What is on the line for fantasy owners?
Throughout the last six seasons, Brown has averaged 1,524 yards and 11 touchdowns per year, while only missing four games. He is the definition of the word consistent. In normal circumstances, that kind of production would put somebody in the 1.01 conversation, but nothing about this situation is normal.
If Brown plays 16 games, he will still be a top 12 wide receiver. His new quarterback, Derek Carr, is also better than he gets credit for. Last season, Carr threw for over 4,000 yards with minimal talent surrounding him. Despite the high yardage totals, Carr finished the season with only 19 touchdowns, leaving plenty of room for improvement.
The Raiders have improved their offense tremendously, and Carr is in line to have an even better season in 2019. Antonio Brown wasn’t the Oakland Raiders only offensive upgrade, but he is the most important one. It would have a negative impact on the whole team if he missed any time.
Brown’s frostbite is less of a concern than him retiring over this helmet issue. Assuming his helmet issue works itself out, his feet are expected to be ready in time for week one.
When you consider everything, it’s tricky to figure out where exactly you should draft Brown this year. After the helmet news broke, I adjusted my rankings and moved Brown down to my 37th overall PPR player. As with anything in fantasy football, you need to stay fluid and be open to new information. With Brown, you also always need to expect the unexpected.
Some people are still high on Brown because they believe he is bluffing with the retirement threat, and some people have taken him off of their board entirely. I am somewhere in the middle with my rankings. I believe it would be downright irresponsible to take Brown in the top 20 picks in your fantasy draft. On the other hand, letting Brown slip out of the top 60 in your draft would be equally irresponsible. The job of the informed fantasy football player is to figure out where you are comfortable with the risk and plan accordingly.
If you believe in Brown’s talent and think the craziness is all for show, you still need to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. If you are willing to draft Brown in the third round, you should take a safe approach in the first two rounds, then target the right upside receivers in the mid-rounds.
Two names I would look to pick up would be Dante Pettis and Robby Anderson. Those guys possess incredible upside and would be sufficient insurance policies in case things with Antonio Brown take another weird turn. If you completely remove Brown from your draft board, you need to be comfortable knowing you passed on a potential top-three receiver in the fifth round.
How to use the situation to your advantage
I do expect Brown to play this season, and I do expect him to be great. However, based on how wild this offseason has been so far, this will certainly be a situation to monitor until it concludes.
A smart fantasy owner is always thinking ahead. If you are in a dynasty league or if you drafted already, this is the perfect time to see if the Brown owner is scared enough to sell for pennies on the dollar. Buying low on Brown now can end up being a league-winning move down the line, but proceed with caution. If you already own Brown, I wouldn’t panic yet. You should be willing to entertain trade possibilities, but don’t jump ship unless you get a fair offer. The more confidence you project in him returning, the more value you could get in a trade.
Fantasy football can be strange sometimes, and it’s undoubtedly stranger when Antonio Brown is involved. At this point, nobody has any idea what will happen next, but we’re all on the edge of our seats.
Corey Every is a writer for the Pro Football Network covering fantasy football. You can follow him @FootballHead18 on Twitter.