The Oakland Raiders have a new weapon. All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown was obtained from the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday night for third and fifth round draft picks. The Raiders will also extend Brown with a $50m ($30m guaranteed) contract over three years.
Regardless of how we got here (“I deserve more money” tantrums from players who have forgotten they agreed to a bonus-heavy contract are never a good look), Brown is suddenly the centerpiece on a Raiders offense that remains a big unknown going into 2019. It certainly affects his dynasty value – but in what way and how much?
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The Raiders were pretty awful in 2018. They won just four games in total and only one against a team with a winning record (the Steelers, ironically). Their performance in London – a 27-3 demolishing at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks – might have been the single worst team game in the NFL.
They were 23rd in offensive yards in 2018 – which shows the general lack of effectiveness. They were 17th in passing attempts and 18th in passing yardage. So this is not an offensive juggernaut which AB gets to ride on.
It’s possible that Jon Gruden is right, and he walked into a terrible situation with awful players. But the fact Gruden (allegedly with his own draft board) drafted so poorly doesn’t hold up much hope. Rookie left tackle Kolton Miller was historically bad as a pass protector. He’s firmly in place moving forward.
There are very few other significant weapons on this team. The top targets last season were Jared Cook (UFA), Jordy Nelson (34 years young) and Jalen Richard (unexciting). Brown is very likely going to walk into a huge volume of targets.
Brown has had at least 150 targets every season since 2013 onwards so he’s at least used to it. And of course, he’s delivered 1,200 yards receiving in each of those years too. At first glance, it looks very much like the same thing will happen again given the current roster.
However, with free agency and the NFL Draft coming up, we can expect the Raiders to make moves. Wrongly or not, Gruden has been proven to be very willing to make moves and with Mike Mayock in his first job, they are going to be players in both markets. On top of that, the Raiders are flush with high draft picks in a class loaded with wide receiver talent. It will be a shock if they don’t spend one of those four top-40 picks on an offensive weapon.
Derek Carr is installed as the franchise quarterback – for now. Jon Gruden has always said the right thing but rumors of a split persist. Let’s assume for now Carr is the man for 2019 at least.
Last year was an odd season for him. He was excellent with a clean pocket but poor when under pressure. He had a very low average depth of target but was highly accurate deep. He did well with tight windows but poorly with wide open receivers.
Ultimately Carr is a fairly conservative quarterback who can play well within a game plan but does not tend to play well out of structure or make big plays off his own back. If that plan is “throw the ball to AB”, he’ll be fine.
It’s difficult to see the potential for a truly special season in Oakland because the team is just not good enough on recent evidence to produce anything special. But by the same token, we can expect them to be trailing often with their approach to that being to toss the ball to their one established playmaker.
His floor would appear to remain fairly intact with 150 targets, 100 catches and 1,200 receiving yards very achievable. The one big difference will be his TD potential which takes a hit. Five might be a good season as opposed to the 13 or so he’s averaged over the past half-decade.
Ultimately Brown is still a WR1 in dynasty terms and should produce like it for at least another year.
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