Unless you have been living under a rock, by know you know, after season ending drama, that one of the best wide receivers of ALL TIME is taking his talents to Oakland and subsequently to Las Vegas (what can possibly go wrong?).
Since the announcement Antonio Brown has been falling in draft ADP. According to Fantasy Football Calculator AB is going 21 overall at pick 2.08. One of the biggest reasons I am hearing for the fall is the (somewhat exaggerated) drop in quarterback play.
Ben Roethlisberger has been slinging the rock to Brown since his rookie season, including 2018, where he missed a game and still ended with the fourth most points (half PPR) and only 12.8 points off leader Tyreek Hill. In fact, Antonio Brown finished 2018 with the second highest points per game with 18.1 (Davante Adams led with 18.3). They have the kind of on-field chemistry that excites fantasy football fans AND Steelers fans alike.
Antonio Brown, by name, has never had a “bad” quarterback. Big Ben has fluctuated from being average to being a star during his 15 season career, which includes 6 Pro Bowls and winning 2 Superbowls. Take a closer look, though, and his home/away splits are drastic. Lets take a look at Roethlisberger from 2014-2017, the years where those splits were the most pronounced.
Ben Roethlisberger has been known to be much better at home than away for fantasy players. From 2014 to 2017 he averaged 24.0 points per game at home and 14.7 points per game away. That is a difference of 9.3 fantasy points each week, dependent ONLY on the location of the football game. In real life his passer rating fell from 105.9 at home to 86.6 on the road. That is a difference of 19.3 points and a LOT of real life production. To compare, 105.9 is just better than the 105.5 rating Phillip Rivers put up in 2018. The 86.6 is closest to Andy Dalton (89.6 in 2018). For arguments sake, Antonio Brown (for purposes of this article) HAS played with 2 different quarterbacks. Good Big Ben and Bad Big Ben.
Moving forward, for clarity’s sake, I will refer to these splits as “Good Ben Roethlisberger” (for home games) and “Bad Ben Roethlisberger” (for away games).
From 2014 through 2017 Antonio Brown played 30 home games (with Good Ben) and 31 away games (with Bad Ben). During games with Good Ben, Brown accumulated 244 catches for 3,374 yards and 30 touchdowns. That averages 8.1 receptions, 112.5 yards, and 1 touchdown in each game. During that same stretch of time, while playing with Bad Ben, AB has 228 grabs for 2,975 yards and only 14 touchdowns. That stats out to 7.4 grabs for 96 yards and .45 touchdowns per game.
So what does this mean for Brown moving forward? Where would that put him in a full season with Good Ben or Bad Ben?
Over 16 games at this rate (which we have a good sample size, 30 games each) Good Ben Roethlisberger would send Brown on his way to a line of 130 receptions for 1,800 yards and 16 touchdowns. That would land him as the WR #1 in 2018, 56.5 points more than Tyreek Hill.
What about Bad Ben Roethlisberger? The one who looks like Andy Dalton? There is regression to Antonio Brown’s stats. He would see 118 catches for 1,536 yards and 7 touchdowns. That would total out at 254.6 fantasy points, or WR #6 (1.6 points ahead of Michael Thomas in 2018!).
So, does quarterback play effect Antonio Brown? Of course. No player is immune to the changes around him. Should he be fallling down draft boards to the back end of the second round? Absolutely not.
Derek Carr will be a step down at quarterback in 2019 for Antonio Brown. They will need time to get on the same page and adjust, but, after all, isn’t that what camp is for? With all the new faces in Oakland should we expect a GIANT step in 2019?
No. But they will be better.
Antonio Brown will line up opposite Tyrell Williams in a much improved receiving duo. Rookie Josh Jacobs could see a big workload behind better offensive line. Oakland looked to improve their pass rush and secondary with picks like defensive tackle Clelin Ferrell, cornerback Trayvon Mullen, and safety Johnathan Abram. Jon Gruden had three first round draft picks and looks to win more than four games in 2019.
That leaves one man. Derek Carr.
Carr has a career passer rating of 88.6 (slightly better than our old friend Bad Ben Roethlisberger) which went up to 93.9 during the 2018 season. That is .3 points behind Cam Newton and 2.6 points behind the man himself- Ben Roethlisberger.
Now that we have full circle, I can say with certainty, to draft Antonio Brown without fear. He will do what he has always done and will be a top five wide receiver in 2019, and his new location will have no effect on his production.