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AB Saga Continues!

This morning, you heard the news:  Antonio Brown was cut by the Raiders.  If you’ve been following this drama as it has unfolded over the past week then this was not a surprising result.

By, now you’ve heard the new news:  Antonio Brown was signed by the Patriots.

Let’s take a quick look back at how we got here. 

  • December 2018

AB & Roethlisberger get into a scuffle in practice over an interception / AB running the wrong route from the previous weeks game. This is the latest in a series of altercations between the two.  The following week AB doesn’t report to practice and is benched for a Week 17 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals.

  • Spring 2019

Following the week 17 loss AB begins to publicly air his grievances with the team and Big Ben.  This culminates in a trade to Oakland on March 10th,  just days after AB torpedoed a trade to Buffalo (which was reported to include a much better haul for the Steelers than the 3rd & 5th round picks they got from the Raiders).  The Steelers are ridiculed for accepting the deal. 

  • Summer 2019

Brown keeps himself in the news with his bizarre behavior. He arrives to training camp in a balloon.  He gets severe frostbite on his feet by improperly using a cryotherapy chamber.  He threatens retirement and fights the league over his desire to wear a helmet that doesn’t meet current safety standards.

  • September 2019

AB misses several consecutive practices.  When fined by the team, he engages in an altercation with GM Mike Mayock which reportedly included the use of racial slurs.  AB makes an emotional apology and seemingly avoids suspension.

  • 9/6/19

Brown posts a dramatic YouTube video including a seemingly unauthorized recording of a conversation with coach Jon Gruden.  This too seems to blow over despite much speculation of discipline.

  • 9/7/2019  

The football world awakes to more social media drama from AB.  In an apparent response to the 200k + fine (and voiding of all contract guarantees) by the Raiders for “conduct detrimental to the team” Brown posts a cryptic rant to his Instagram story.  It includes references to “the system that has failed me” and ends in a direct request to the team to be released.

The team obliges, cutting their star WR at 11:56 am.

  • 9/7/19 5 pm

Antonio Brown signed by the New England Patriots

1 year, 15m, 9m signing bonus is guaranteed.

What’s Next?

This morning, Drew Rosenhaus said (via Albert Breer) “Antonio is looking forward to a new beginning” and the pair were looking for a new team.

Apparently, that team is the New England Patriots. 

The 31-year-old four-time All-Pro and his media circus are moving to Foxborough.  As per Ian Rappaport, the Patriots signed AB to a one-year, 15m deal with a 9m fully guaranteed signing bonus. 

Pittsburgh saw fit to let Brown walk following a 15TD, 1297 yard season.  Clearly, they didn’t think the drama was worth it anymore.  Oakland is comfortable taking the loss on the 3rd & 5th rounders they just invested in him, his off-field issues were too much.  The word is that AB is too much of a distraction, that his talent isn’t worth it. 

The Patriots beg to differ…

Don’t forget:  even at 31 years old, perhaps on the back nine of his career, Brown is still really, really good. 

How good?  Well, when Ezekiel Elliot signed with the Cowboys earlier this week, the spread for their game against the Giants, the spread didn’t move.  So Vegas didn’t think that the arguable best running back in football significantly changed the outcome of the game. 

When the news came that AB wasn’t playing Monday (earlier this week, after the Mayock fight) the spread for Raiders – Broncos changed by three points.  That’s a huge shift, usually reserved for a QB injury. 

Vegas knows it, and Bill Belichick does too: Antonio Brown is a generational talent, and he wins football games.

Fantasy Implications

Let’s break down some of the fantasy fallout of these events. 

Antonio Brown

If you are in a draft this weekend, should you draft AB?  

Well, as of the most current ADP data available, he’s still going in the second round.  I’m not there with him yet.  

He did go at 2.11 in a high stakes draft as of 6 pm 9/7/19.  He went at 3.02 in another draft at the same time. 

For me, there’s a non-zero chance that AB gets cut.  The Patriots are big on second chances, but Belichick isn’t putting up with drama.

If you are drafting and he falls past that  I’m comfortable taking him a bit later, in the late third or fourth.  There’s a decent probability he finishes as a high-end wr2 or even a low-end wr1, but the range of outcomes is too much for me to invest more than that. 

If you already have AB?

Sell if you can get a good offer. I just got an offer of Mike Evans + a second piece.  I’m fishing for extra value, but I’m taking the trade- Mike Evans is a sure thing, and AB is not.  The Patriots offense is difficult to learn;  he could take a few weeks to catch on;  they already have Edelman and Gordon with established roles; they want to run the ball.   There’s a lot of questions there, and I don’t like questions with my WR1. 

If he sticks around past a few weeks, he will likely have a great season, but right now I’m taking a bird in the hand over two in the bush.

Should I buy AB?

If you can sneak a lowball offer in right now, feel free, but it’s unlikely to work unless that owner is asleep. That AB owner has visions of Brady -> AB TDs dancing in his head.  I’ll buy him cheap, but I’m not paying up for him.  I doubt I will add any shares. 

Julian Edelman, James White, Josh Gordon

This is one of the most interesting questions to me- if AB sticks, what happens to Edelman? What about White & Gordon?

It’s a definite downgrade.  Those targets have to come from somewhere, and they’re not all coming from Gronk’s vacated targets.  If I am redoing my Patriots projections entirely, I would project substantially more pass plays- how can you not throw more often?- but I’m finding well over 100 targets for Brown, and most of those are still coming from the established pass catchers. 

The 2018 Patriots threw 574 times.  If we bring them up to 595, we still need to find a whole boatload more targets to make AB happy (if such a thing is possible).

I assume that Gordon will slide into the WR3 spot. I assume Edelman and AB, ideally, become more of a 1A – 1B role. 

We can make the projections make sense with Edelman and AB each getting a 22% target share, winding up with around 137 targets.  For Edelman, this would lose about 15% of his production, sliding him down into mid wr2 range.  I would give AB more TDs, so he’ll likely finish a bit ahead of Edelman if they both play 16.

Josh Gordon will be a WR5. He will have some good weeks, but for the most part, he will be a bench stash, unless your league is very deep.

White takes a hit on the target volume as well.  I brought him down to about 13%, which would leave him with 79 targets.  It’s not a huge difference, but he should be slid down a few spots in rankings.

Of course- this is all if AB sticks- about which I am dubious.  But, then again, I was on record as saying he was not “in a 1,000,000 years” going to the Patriots!

This does create a nice buy low opportunity on Edelman or White, particularly if you’re in the camp that AB will be gone in a few weeks.  It’s worth taking a shot at the owner to see what you can do. 

Gordon might hit the wire in shallow leagues.  He’ll make a great stash if he’s there. 

If you’re still drafting, keep an eye on these guys;  Edelman and White aren’t dead in the water, but they will have to drop past their previous ADPs to make sense. 

Other Patriots Pass Catchers

Dorsett, N’Keal Harry, and Demaryius Thomas are now backups at best.  Someone will get cut- possibly Dorsett, as his 600k dead cap makes him a likely casualty to the deal.  The other players are now un-rosterable in redraft.

In dynasty, you were already looking at Harry as a long-term prospect, so no sweat there.  In fact, Harry might be an even better buy-low than he was a few days ago.  Take a shot, see what you can do. 

Sony Michel

For Sony, this should be a neutral situation or an upgrade.  The offense should improve, giving the Patriots more scoring opportunities.  AB is a monster in the RedZone and will soak up some of those points, but Sony still has easy double digits TD upside. 

Sony might also be a buy. Let it slip to the owner that they’ll be throwing more in the end zone.

Brady

If you have Brady, congratulations!  A happy & productive AB will propel him back into QB1 status.  We should easily add several TDs and a few hundred yards to his projections. 

If you are in dynasty, and the Brady owner’s team is weak, he might be a great acquisition.  Yes, he’s a one-year rental, but the ceiling for 2019 Brady just went way, way up, and the cost for a 41-year-old QB is still low.  

Tyrell Williams

Tyrell Williams just became the WR1 for his team. Congrats, Tyrell!  We’ve only rarely seen him in that role, but, when he was thrust into a lead spot in San Diego, he produced.  In 2016 he put up a 119 catch, 1059 yard season while Keenan Allen was injured.  

That should be his floor in Oakland.  Carr is not the same caliber QB as Rivers, but he should have all the volume he needs.   

Williams is  good buy opportunity right now in both redraft and dynasty.  He’s still on the wire in some redraft leagues; go look now!

Hunter Renfrow

In dynasty, Hunter Renfrow might have just become one of the bargains of the 2019 draft.  He had solidified himself as the wr3 before this news.  Look for him to get a substantial target share this year.  We’ll see what he does with it, but he could be worth a trade offer before his value blooms this week. 

In redraft, check your wires: Renfrow could be a high-value pickup for deeper leagues.  In standard redraft leagues, he’s not likely worth dropping a player, but keep an eye out Monday to see how he does.

Darren Waller

It’s hard to say much about Waller as we’ve hardly seen him on the field in the NFL.  But he is an athletic freak in the mold of Evan Engram or Noah Fant, John Gruden loves him, and that Jared Cook role just opened up in full. 

If he sees the 100 targets that Cook saw last year he will be an excellent “buy-high,” even at the inflated value, you’re going to need to offer.  He could be a steal in dynasty.

Great late-round flyer TE in redraft.

Josh Jacobs

This is a mixed bag for Jacobs.  On one hand, this offense will now run through him.  The volume will be there. 

On the other hand, I’m not sure how well this offense will move, and there is a definite net loss in scoring opportunities for the team and for Jacobs. I see it as a slight downgrade.

If the team can’t get the offense going at all, Jacobs could be a buy-low at the end of the season for dynasty players. 

If I’m an owner, and I get a great offer for him now that helps me win this year, I’ll probably let him go.  It’s all about winning the ‘ship.    

Derek Carr

In all this Carr is the biggest loser.  He just lost his best playmaker; AB was supposed to be the engine that resurrected Carr’s career. 

Many analysts had high hopes for Carr this season, but those hopes are now wreckage in the smoking crater AB has left behind in Oakland.  Unfortunately, Carr’s job might find itself in that crater as well;  he’s already on a short leash, and another bad season could kill him entirely.  If he struggles the Oakland front office will choose to rebuild in Vegas around one of the talented rookies in the 2020 draft. 

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