A year from now, maybe sooner, we’re going to look back at theacquisition of and wonder how more teams weren’t willing to offer the draft picks and new contract that it took to get this deal done.
The’ options were limited, which was evidenced by the reported agreement with the Bills that Brown may or may not have nixed himself. That might explain why all Pittsburgh got back was a third- and a fifth-round pick. However, it doesn’t excuse the tepid trade market for a receiver who’s been viewed as one of the best to ever play the game.
Brown’s a much-needed addition to an Oakland pass-catcher depth chart that’s been lacking an impact talent since Amari Cooper was jettisoned midway through last season.
My apologies to a declining and soon-to-be 34-year-old Jordy Nelson, seventh-rounder Marcell Ateman, limited slot receiver Seth Roberts, or anyone from the roster bubble trio of Keon Hatcher, Rashard Davis, and Saeed Blacknall.
The Raiders are also allowing tight end Jared Cook, the team’s leading receiver in 2018, to reach free agency, leaving behind an underwhelming crop that includes Lee Smith, Derek Carrier, and Darren Waller.
New general manager Mike Mayock certainly isn’t done reshaping his offensive roster, but at the moment Brown will face little competition for targets, which is good since he’ll need all the volume he can get to maintain his elite production.
Brown has had at least 101 catches, 1,284 yards, and eight touchdowns in each of the last six seasons. He’s also coming off a campaign in which he led the league with 15 receiving scores.
The perception of Brown may have taken a hit with his trade demands, blonde mustache, and bizarre pay-to-record personalized videos, but poring over advanced metrics reveals very little drop-off occurred in his game.
Brown got what he wanted in a new team and a renegotiated contract, so presumably he should be content in Silver and Black. His social media accounts certainly indicate he’s pleased with hisand .
Carr represents a downgrade from Ben Roethlisberger, who Brown’s spent his entire career catching passes from. Though Big Ben may have contributed to Brown’s unhappiness in Pittsburgh, the veteran signal-caller led the league in passing yards in 2018 and nearly doubled Carr’s touchdown total, while attempting 122 more passes than his Raiders counterpart.
The efficiency of Brown’s targets in Oakland is likely to recede, but as mentioned earlier, a slight increase in passes thrown his way could offset that. Brown’s target share dipped to 26 percent this year, his lowest mark since 2012. You can expect the Raiders to take full advantage of their new star, pushing that number closer to the 30 percent range where it hovered for several seasons prior to 2018.
Perhaps the bigger challenge will be playing in an offense that projects to be in scoring position far less than the Steelers, threatening Brown’s incredible touchdown consistency.
Oakland was a bottom-five team in points per game last season, while the Steelers were tied for sixth in that same category. Those numbers should change for both clubs with Brown changing jerseys, though it’s hard to picture the Raiders becoming a prolific attack unless Brown’s presence helps draw several big-name free agents to the Black Hole. We know former teammate Le’Veon Bell is looking for a home.
Seeing Brown line up for the Raiders will take fans back to Jon Gruden’s previous stint as the team’s head coach when he had Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Tim Brown in his offense. Passing stats weren’t as abundant back then, but Gruden always managed to get solid numbers from his top receiver whether it was Rice, Brown, Keyshawn Johnson, Joey Galloway, Keenan McCardell, Michael Clayton, or Antonio Bryant. From 1998 to 2008, Gruden’s No. 1 wideout averaged 78 receptions, 1,155 yards, and eight touchdowns.
We’ll give him a pass for the 2018 season, since the Raiders dealt Cooper, but over the final five games, even a past-his-prime Nelson was playing at a shocking 122-catch, 1,235-yard pace. That was thanks to just under 10 targets per game over that stretch, which Brown should eclipse.
Despite the optimism, Brown will fall a few spots in the next rankings update, from WR3 to WR7 – or more specifically at the bottom of the elite tier that features DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams, Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, Tyreek Hill, and Odell Beckham.
And for the first time in a while, Brown will be available for a second-round pick in fantasy drafts, an area where you should be excited to select him.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers – The initial reaction for many will be to project a boost for Smith-Schuster, who takes over as the Steelers new No. 1 option. However, he’ll receive more attention than ever with Brown no longer drawing coverage to his side of the field. An uptick in targets will balance out the added defensive pressure, keeping Smith-Schuster as a low-end WR1.
James Washington, WR, Steelers – Washington has a chance to be the biggest winner of anyone in this situation as he steps into a starting role. The Steelers will likely bring in competition, but the sophomore wideout will be the favorite entering camp after ending the season with over 60 yards in two of his final three outings. Washington will be someone to monitor throughout the offseason as top-30 production is well within reach.
Vance McDonald, TE, Steelers – When calculating where Brown’s 168 targets will be redirected, don’t forget about McDonald, who was a low-end TE1 in 2018 and hasn’t come close to his ceiling yet. This trade gives him an excellent opportunity to remain a fantasy starter.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers – There’s no way losing a Hall of Fame receiver still in his prime can be seen as anything other than a massive loss for Roethlisberger’s fantasy value. After finishing with the second-most fantasy points among quarterbacks behind only Patrick Mahomes, Big Ben becomes more of a QB2, unless the Steelers make a splash at receiver in free agency or the draft.
Derek Carr, QB, Raiders – Roethlisberger’s loss is Carr’s gain. But don’t get too excited about the Raiders quarterback just yet. There’s a possibility that Carr gets traded, as Oakland’s been rumored to be one of the teams interested in drafting Kyler Murray. If Carr remains the starter, he’ll still be near the bottom of the QB2 ranks, but this helps his chances of being a streaming option.
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