Antonio Brown successfully escaped football purgatory with the Oakland Raiders to latch on with the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. Brown is one of the most talented receivers in the league and was one of the best fantasy football weapons over the past six seasons. However, Brown’s fantasy stock dropped in the offseason due to his new surrounding and dip in quarterback play. Now that he’s in New England, what should you expect from Antonio Brown in fantasy football?
Fantasy Football: Antonio Brown Outlook With Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Say what you will about Antonio Brown the person, but Antonio Brown the football player is one of the most dynamic and explosive players in the league. He’s not eligible to play in Week One, but he should be out on the field in Week Two. He’s going to see his share of targets, but how heavily will New England utilize their newest weapon?
Pass Game Usage
The New England Patriots have a false reputation as a run-first team. In the opinion of the masses, New England turned to their running game and first-round pick Sony Michel to take some pressure off Tom Brady. In reality, that narrative couldn’t be further from the truth. The Patriots had the 24th-highest rushing rate on early-down situations in close games. For better or worse, this team still lives and dies by the right arm of Tom Brady. Brady is better than Ben Roethlisberger, so theoretically Brown has a higher ceiling in New England than he did in Pittsburgh.
A few select NFL teams, 2018
Total rush rank vs. rush rate rank on early downs in close-game situations
Patriots: 3rd, 24th
Texans: 4th, 16th
Saints: 5th, 25th
Bears: 7th, 19th
Rams: 8th, 22nd
Cowboys: 10th, 17th
Colts: 17th, 29th
Chiefs: 23rd, 31sthttps://t.co/RjG2iN9d8w
— Cowboys Stats & Graphics (@CowboysStats) August 23, 2019
The Patriots are going to throw the ball, and Antonio Brown should see a large share of the targets. Julian Edelman is going to see the largest target share, but the second spot is completely up for grabs. Learning New England’s system on the fly isn’t easy, but history shows it can be done. Last year, Josh Gordon arrived in Foxboro early in the season after missing essentially four years of football. Despite the unfavorable situation, Gordon managed to record 40 receptions for 720 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games. Some players struggle to pick up New England’s system, but Brady will throw you the ball if you understand coverages and do what he expects.
Say what you will about Antonio Brown as a person, but Antonio Brown is a smart football player. Brown turned himself into one of the NFL’s elite players thanks to his work ethic and high football IQ. Brady and Brown have a documented respect for each other’s game, so these two should develop chemistry rather quickly. Put simply, he’s going to be a featured part of one of the best offenses in the NFL.
When Can You Start Antonio Brown in Fantasy Football?
Antonio Brown is going to be a big part of the offense, but it might not happen overnight. If we’re using Josh Gordon as precedent, it’s worth noting that Gordon sat out Week Three before seeing a reduced snap count in Weeks Four and Five. This three-week timeline is probably a worst-case scenario for Brown, as Gordon needed to not only learn the offense but also get into football shape. Chances are, Brown’s going to see a partial workload in Week Two before taking a full share of the snaps in Week Three.
The Patriots always adapt to the strength of their roster, which means New England is going to run a lot of three-receiver sets once Brown’s fully acclimated in the offense. With Rob Gronkowski gone, the Patriots essentially won’t use a tight end for anything other than blocking. Brown, Edelman, and Gordon should be the target leaders in the offense, and Brady throws the ball enough to keep every player relevant for fantasy purposes. That said, if anyone takes a dip, it’s going to be Gordon.
You should probably keep Antonio Brown on the bench in Week Two. New England probably won’t give him a full workload that quickly, and the Patriots are facing off against the Dolphins. The Patriots should blow Miami out of the water, which means they’re going to run the ball once the game is out of hand. You can start Brown in Week Three and expect a WR1 performance on a weekly basis.