Breaking down the trades of Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham and the fantasy fallout of both moves.
NFL free agency kicked off on Monday with a flurry of activity but the biggest moves over the past 72 hours have been the trade of two of the leagues biggest stars in Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham.
While the Brown move was months in the making, Beckham’s trade to the suddenly formidable Cleveland Browns was a bit of a stunner. Both moves fetched far less than either player is worth; Brown torpedoed his own value with a series of bizarre social media posts and demands while Beckham was given away by a GM who is clearly out of his mind.
For fantasy purposes, there will be an impact on both players. Brown goes to an offense that is far less fantasy friendly than the one he has played with in Pittsburgh. Derek Carr presents a significant downgrade from Ben Roethlisberger and Oakland is an abysmal offense. Beckham, on the other hand, upgrades from noodle-armed Eli Manning to alpha male gunslinger Baker Mayfield and the play calling of Freddie Kitchens.
Antonio Brown Trade Impact
Brown has has at least 101 catches and 154 targets in each of the past six seasons in Pittsburgh. In that time he has established himself as being arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL and a clear top-5 fantasy pick. Though his catch rate has been on the decline the past five seasons and he turns 31 in July, Brown has been the best combination of ceiling and floor of any player in the NFL.
That said, some of those numbers will take a hit moving to Oakland. The Raiders ranked 26th in scoring offense last year and they averaged almost a touchdown less per game than the Steelers. From a volume standpoint, Jon Gruden has never had a receiver with more than 153 targets in a season. This may lead to AB’s target floor becoming his new target ceiling:
- Tim Brown (1998) – 153 Targets
- Joey Galloway (2005) – 153 Targets
- Tim Brown (1999) – 145 Targets
- Keyshawn Johnson (2002) – 142 Targets
- Tim Brown (2001) – 140 Targets
Whether or not he can produce with his targets now coming from Derek Carr is probably the biggest question mark. Carr threw just 19 touchdowns last year and the Raiders were held to 20 points or less in 10 games. If Brown is going to maintain his status as an elite fantasy option a couple things will need to occur:
- Carr will have to feed him targets. Even without the same supporting cast he had in Pittsburgh, he is no stranger to double coverage and he can move around the formation. Brown should be the weekly centerpiece of the offense.
- The Raiders will need to upgrade the supporting cast. Outside of Brown and the newly signed Tyrell Williams, their offensive talent is thin. They have to acquire more skill position players or points will continue to be at a premium.
- Gruden will need to continue throwing the ball on early downs. Oakland ranked 6th in the NFL on pass attempts on 1st Down (right behind Pittsburgh) in 2018. Getting AB involved early in the possession should lead to increased offensive production.
Setting a projection for Brown is difficult given the downgrade in QB and offensive prowess. It seems like a lot of industry minds are bullish on him though:
Initial Antonio Brown projection with #Raiders:
96-1,149-8 on 160 targets
WR9 in PPR
— Heath Cummings (@heathcummingssr) March 11, 2019
Early Raiders WR Antonio Brown 2019 projection: 161 targets, 102 receptions, 1,333 yards, 10 TD
Full trade breakdown: https://t.co/XcuLkjj5FZ
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) March 10, 2019
For what its worth, Brown hasn’t had much success without Roethlisberger. Its a small sample of just six games but the numbers are horrific:
- 26 Receptions (50 Targets)
- 309 Yards
- 0 TDs
- Average: 4.3 Receptions/51.5 Yards
Given all this, Brown’s value is going to take a hit. He is no longer a top-5 WR and because of the likely decrease in touchdowns, his time as a top-10 WR might be coming to an end as well. While his target share will likely be astronomical (30% or more – maybe as high as 35%), it is fair to wonder how efficient those targets will be. I am more cautious in my approach to projections so here is my safe outlook:
152 Targets/92 receptions/1,242 yards/8 TDs
In PPR Brown would settle in around WR9 with 264.2 points. Do with that number what you will.
- Stock Up: Derek Carr, JuJu Smith-Shuster, James Washington
- Stock Down: Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown
Odell Beckham Trade Impact
The Cleveland Browns pulled off perhaps the best move in franchise history (aside from taking Baker Mayfield #1) in acquiring Odell Beckham Jr. last night. The immediate beneficiaries are Beckham, who gets away from Eli Manning, and Baker Mayfield. The Browns’ offense is loaded and would be hard to replicate even on Madden:
- QB: Mayfield
- RB: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Duke Johnson
- WR: Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway
- TE: David Njoku
Beckham gets a significant upgrade at QB and an offense that isn’t stuck in the stone age. Even if he is unable to garner more than a 27% target share (which seems fair), Beckham will likely amass 150+ targets with a QB that averaged 2 more yards per attempt than Eli Manning in 2018. At just 25, his arrow is now pointing towards the sky and he could ascend to again being one of the top-3 WRs in fantasy football.
Unlike Brown, I think it is safe to assume that Beckham’s production is more likely to mirror what we have been accustomed to seeing at his peak performance. The Browns should score points in bunches with Beckham being a beneficiary of his new system. Reuniting him with his buddy Jarvis Landry should also be a boost for both receivers as they will now work in tandem to form the AFC’s best 1-2 combination.
That said, early projections for Beckham seem to be a little conservative in the yardage category :
Early 2019 Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. projection: 152 targets, 95 receptions, 1238 yards, 10 TD
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) March 13, 2019
I think he has a 1500 yard ceiling in this offense but that is a top-5% outcome for him next year. The only issue I see is that there will be a lot of mouths to feed in the Cleveland offense, making his Red Zone usage a little cloudy. Njoku’s presence can’t be ignored and the fact that Chubb, Hunt, and even Mayfield will get goaline looks means Beckham’s TD ceiling takes a blow. Still, if I were a Beckham owner I would be ecstatic over this move. The situation in New York and the organization being married to Eli Manning was going to deteriorate all season. Now he gets away from that mess with the chance to soar:
2019 Projection for Odell Beckham: 157 Targets/97 Receptions/1328 Yards/9 TD
That would be good for fringe top-5 WR territory. His FFPC ADP currently sits around 23 overall so if you are drafting today or this weekend, you might want to take advantage because it won’t be there for long. This is also a great time to do two things: Sell Beckham and jump into some Best Ball drafts and hope people overreact to the news. You have a chance to profit off both scenarios right now.
- Stock Up: Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr., Saquon Barkely, Evan Engram (way up), Sterling Shepherd
- Stock Down: Duke Johnson Jr., Jarvis Landry, Eli Manning (as if he had any to begin with)