The Fantasy Impact of the Antonio Brown Trade

Mar 12, 2019
The Fantasy Impact of the Antonio Brown Trade

Now that the Antonio Brown Saga is finally over, we can begin to evaluate what his arrival means in Oakland and how his departure will impact his former teammates in Pittsburgh.

Impact on Derek Carr

Brown’s arrival is great for Carr, but is it enough to turn him into a QB1? His career was certainly trending that way after a No. 14 finish in his second season (2015) and a No. 13 finish in (2016). Since then, he has posted back-to-back disappointing finishes (No. 22 and No. 18) in the last two seasons, and there were serious questions about whether Gruden was committed to Carr as his franchise quarterback.

It appears now that Gruden will move forward with Carr. Brown’s presence in Pittsburgh served to raise Roethlisberger’s FP/PA by 10.2%, so if Brown sees a similar target share and posts similar per target production in Oakland, then Carr’s per attempt production should rise by about the same amount. Assuming the same volume, that sort of rise would have made Carr the No. 15 QB instead of the No. 18 QB in 2018, so a QB1-type season is within reach if Carr exceeds expectations or Gruden cranks up his volume.

Impact on Ben Roethlisberger

Let’s revisit a stat from earlier:

Over the past two seasons, Roethlisberger has averaged 0.63 fantasy points per pass attempt directed at Brown. He has averaged 0.46 fantasy points per pass attempt to all other Pittsburgh wide receivers, including JuJu Smith-Schuster (0.59 FP/PA).

Brown’s departure is certainly a blow to Roethlisberger’s fantasy outlook, but the good news for Big Ben is that he has another very talented receiver on the roster in Smith-Schuster who can pick up some of the slack. Vance McDonald was also a good target (0.50 FP/PA) in 2018, and he should see a much larger role with Jesse James departing via free agency. The question is whether James Washington (0.34 FP/PA) will be ready to be the No. 2 or No. 3 option or if that production will have to come from elsewhere. Update (3/13): I watched most of Washington's late-season targets and he certainly looks capable.

In other words, Brown’s departure is a downgrade for Roethlisberger, but it’s certainly not a death knell to his fantasy value.

Impact on the Steelers' Remaining Receivers

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