By Pat Gaughn
There is no question who the best fantasy WR is – Antonio Brown. I mean, have you seen his new custom $500k Rolls Royce? You know you’ve made it when you roll up to training camp with your signature across a matte black and yellow Phantom.
The stats speak for themselves. A.B. was the #1 fantasy receiver in 2014 and led all major statistical categories. He finished with 129 Receptions, 1,698 Yards, 178 Targets, and 13 Touchdowns. He was only 2nd in TDs behind Dez, but otherwise led the league. This was a step up from his 2013 campaign were he finished in the top 5 in PPR, top 10 in standard scoring leagues.
The Steelers offense was successful last season behind Brown’s 107 yards per game and buoyed by Le’Veon Bell’s 138 yards per game. Midway through the season, Pittsburgh had a pair of back to back games where Roethlisberger threw for 6 TDs. In the first of those games, Antonio caught 10 passes for 133 and 2 TDs against the Colts. A week later against the Ravens, another 11 catches, 144 yards and a touch. No big deal.
More of the Same
With the Steelers extending Head Coach Mike Tomlin this offseason and all key players still intact from last season, there is no reason to think this offense won’t reach similar heights – even with Bell’s 2 game suspension. See what I did there? If anything, we should see progression from young WRs like the speedy 6’4” Martavis Bryant, rookie Sammie Coates and 3rd year Markus Wheaton.
Now there is an argument to be had that with so many talented players, it will be hard for Roethlisberger to continue to feed Antonio the lion’s share. But I will contend that A.B. is not only one of the most consistent fantasy receivers, he’s one of the most consistent WRs in the NFL.
Not that you need more of a reason to draft or try to trade for A.B., but did you know he currently holds the longest streak of games with 5+ catches? Yes, he has had 5 or more catches and at least 50 yards in his past 33 games! You’d have to go back to Week 17 in 2012 to find a game where he had less than 5 receptions. You want to talk about a consistent fantasy option? His floor is set – 5 catches, 50 yards = 10 points every week in PPR leagues. But don’t let consistency fool you into thinking he’s a high-floor, low-ceiling type of guy. He still puts up multiple games of 10 catches, 100 yards and a score = 25 PPR points. Again, there is a reason he was a top fantasy wideout the past 2 seasons.
WR – Changing of the Guard
For so long the NFL has had its prototypical WR – BIG. All of the best receivers were 6’2” and above, just look at some the all time greats: Michael Irvin – 6’2”, Jerry Rice – 6’2”, Cris Carter – 6’3”, Randy Moss – 6’4”. Personally, I’m a big fan of Michael Irvin and as a HoF WR and current analyst on NFL Network, I think we should all value his opinion, especially when it comes to current WRs.
Case in point – Irvin’s 2015 Pro Bowl team roster: Antonio Brown (team captain), Golden Tate, Randall Cobb – all 5’10”, Emmanuel Sanders – 5’11” and OBJ – 6’ 0”. I won’t speak for the man himself, but the tides have changed when describing the prototypical WR – PLAYMAKER.