Update: Hours after this analysis was published, Antonio Brown signed a one-year, $15 million deal to join the New England Patriots. He is ineligible to play in Week 1, due to the timing of joining the Pats. It’s probably for the best in fantasy football, since his knowledge of the offense would be almost zero. A meeting with Pittsburgh would have been a blast, in theory!
Brown should be given a crash course on the offense in the coming days. The system is complex, so it may not happen immediately, but expect to see the same ole AB once he gets up to speed. It will be interesting to see how he and Tom Brady sync up, though. Brown is notorious for freelancing routes, which one has to imagine will drive TB12 insane. At any rate, it’s amazing to see how quickly the offense goes from looking boring to potentially one of the most exciting in the league.
Julian Edelman remains a WR2, even with Brown in the fold. Brady has known chemistry with him, and Brown will see plenty of doubles, forcing Brady back to his comfortable checkdown target. Josh Gordon probably takes the biggest hit in fantasy, but he already was a rocky No. 3.
The Oakland Raiders released Antonio Brown, and he is now free to sign with any team of his choosing. Being a vested veteran, he does not need to clear waivers. So much has occurred over the past few days, but we won’t bother rehashing how we came to this point in time.
What’s next for Oakland?
From a fantasy football perspective, the Raiders now promote Tyrell Williams to the No. 1 receiver spot. He stepped up admirably in 2016 for the then-San Diego Chargers when Keenan Allen was lost for the year, finishing with 69 grabs for 1,059 yards and seven scores in his second season. He was relegated to second fiddle in the years since, and he’ll now get a chance to show what he can do as a No. 1 with a full offseason of work in his fifth year.
Chances are you are no longer drafting a team, but he would be good for about a sixth-round pick at this point. The season-long outlook places him somewhere around a WR2 or No. 3, depending on the league size and scoring. His profile is better in non-PPR setups.
Rookie Hunter Renfrow will be thrust into a huge role in the slot, and he easily could emerge as the best fantasy target of this group. Since Williams was drafted in virtually all leagues, Renfrow is the guy you want to run to the wire to add. He’s best in PPR leagues. Hands of glue and a knack for making the big play are his hallmarks. Treat him as a possibly weekly flex candidate.
Wideouts J.J. Nelson and Ryan Grant enter the picture as borderline fantasy targets. Nelson is a shifty deep threat, and both players can lineup all over the field. Grant is built like a running back and, like Nelson, has flashed a few times in his NFL career. Despite being only 5-foot-10 and a buck-60, Nelson lined up in the slot just 9 percent of the snaps over the last two years for the Arizona Cardinals. Part of that is because Larry Fitzgerald lived there, but the point is that Nelson is very capable of playing on the outside.
For now, neither player is worthy of more than a watch on the wire. There’s a good chance Oakland looks to the wire to sign someone. Unfortunately, the pickings are pretty slim at this point.
Tight end Darren Waller will see an uptick in action, and the Raiders will throw more to the backs. Jalen Richard could be a weekly contributor in PPR setups at this point. Check your wire for Waller, but he was getting enough play toward the end of draft season that he’s probably already owned. Richard should be available in a majority of leagues.
The biggest loser in this situation is quarterback Derek Carr. The Raiders should pass less and rely on running back Josh Jacobs more, which is a bonus for his owners. Carr went from having tremendous sleeper potential to being no better than a low-tier backup. Look for a better option on the wire if he is indeed your primary backup.
As for AB himself, he’ll get a shot somewhere. Hang on to him in all fantasy leagues. That kind of talent doesn’t go unsigned. Early speculation points to the New England Patriots, the New York Jets and the Cleveland Browns. We can be sure of two teams he will not play for in 2019.
In some ways, this will be a blessing in disguise for the Raiders. They weren’t expected to challenge for a playoff spot this season, and now the younger players will be given a chance to fast-track their careers. It won’t be pretty for fantasy most of the way, but there are new opportunities to be seized.