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Fade To Black & Silver: AB To Oakland

Few situations this offseason have garnered as much attention as the Antonio Brown saga in Pittsburgh. Immediately following the conclusion of last season in which Brown sat out the final game of the season news began to leak out of the Steele City of a rift between their two-time Super Bowl winning QB and their enigmatic star WR. It did not take long for the rumors to be confirmed and for the departure of one of the game’s preeminent WRs. Antonio Brown has now been granted his wish and been traded to the Oakland Raiders. This move will cause a shift in the dynasty landscape across multiple teams and multiple positions. Let us take a look at the effects.

Pittsburgh:

QB: While it seems likely that Ben Roethlisberger will be happy to rid himself of his troublesome teammate his fantasy outlook will undoubtedly take a hit. Brown has been one of the most productive WRs in NFL history catching over 100 passes in each of the last six seasons. Ben will have to make due with up and coming JuJu Smith-Schuster and 2nd year player James Washington. Roethlisberger will undoubtedly remain a useful fantasy QB but his career will likely take a downward trajectory from a numbers prospective.

RB: One of the big winners from this trade will be the Pittsburgh RBs. It stands to reason that the Steelers will attempt to mask the loss of their dynamic playmaker by shifting their focus over to the run game. Both James Conner and Jaylen Samuels will likely see a healthy amount of work as the staff seeks to maximize the talent on the roster. The presence of Smith-Schuster on the outside will likely keep Defenses honest and allow the running game to take center stage.

WR: The biggest winner of the trade has got to be JuJu Smith-Schuster. Over the course of his two years in Pittsburgh the former USC Trojan has blossomed into one of the league’s best up and coming WRs. Last year’s team MVP posted a sparkling 111/1426/7 line cementing his superstar status. The former Biletnikoff Winner James Washington is also a big winner of the AB trade. Last season the talented 2nd round pick was buried on the team and was unable to make a significant contribution. The writing seems to be on the wall for Washington to assume a much larger role going forward.

TE: Vance McDonald will likely also be a beneficiary of added targets following the departure of AB. Last year in his first full season in Pittsburgh the talented TE posted a career best 50/610/4. Antonio Brown soaked up 169 targets last season a portion of which will likely be allocated to the talented McDonald moving forward likely cementing him as a fringe TE1 for fantasy purposes.

Oakland:

QB: One of the biggest winners of this trade will undoubtedly be the young Oakland QB Derek Carr. Just a few short years ago Derek Carr was looked upon as one of the game’s best up and coming signal callers. A devastating broken fibula ended his 2016 season and his career has spiraled downward ever since. Fast forward to last season when the new Raiders brass traded away his only game changing receiver and Carr was left with very little help at all. Oakland will likely still look to add additional help at the receiver position in the upcoming draft. Brown will certainly buoy both Carr and his fantasy appeal as he will finally have the assistance of a game changing weapon on the outside.

RB: It is uncertain who will be the starting RB in Oakland at the start of next season. Whomever is carrying the rock for Jon Gruden will find their sledding much easier with the addition of Antonio Brown. The respect which Brown garners around the league will force Defensive Coordinators to game plan for the passing game thereby freeing up room for the backs to work their craft. Last year teams were able to consistently bring extra defenders into the box in order to stack the numbers against the running game. The addition of AB should be a net positive for the Oakland running game.

WR: Prior to acquiring AB the receiver cupboard was bare in Oakland. With the exception of the aging veteran Jordy Nelson there is very little competition for targets for AB among his new teammates. While the prospects for Brown winning football games will take a drastic hit, his opportunities to soak up garbage time stats will be through the roof. Oakland needs a top to bottom rebuild and Brown will be able to rack up stats in games where Oakland is forced to play catch-up on the scoreboard. There will be no JuJu Smith-Schuster to take away the limelight or targets from the enigmatic AB. I fully expect Oakland to continue to surround their QB with quality receivers and to spend at least one relatively high pick on the position at the upcoming draft.  

TE: The Oakland TE positon is currently in flux with Jared Cook still yet unsigned. I fully anticipate Gruden and the Raiders making a play to bring back the talented veteran. The Raiders could also be players for one of the early round prospects in the coming draft such as Noah Fant or T.J. Hockenson. No matter who the starting TE is in Oakland next season he will benefit from the presence of AB on the perimeter. Gruden and Derek Carr featured the TE last season and will likely look to replicate some of the success the team showed when targeting that positon.  

Conclusion:

There is an old adage to beware what you wish for because you might just get it. Antonio Brown has forced his way out of Pittsburgh and will be departing a perennial Super Bowl contender for a team in search of its new identity. Oakland is seeking to build their franchise around their young signal caller Derek Carr and are pulling out all the stops to equip him with the tools needed for success. Antonio Brown has been one of the best WRs in NFL history over the past half-decade as evidenced by his numbers.

What remains to be seen moving forward is how Antonio Brown embraces the trade. The Oakland Raiders players and fans will seek to embrace Brown as a franchise-altering player. Brown has the ability to help bring back this proud franchise to some of its former glory if he is willing to embrace the challenge. His mercurial attitude in recent months will leave many questions about the fit in the Black Hole. Only time will tell if it is a good fit or the beginning of the end for one of the game’s best receivers.


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