The Redraft Roundtable is back and ready to attack the 2019 season. What better way to kick things off than to go over some of the big splashes in free agency and blockbuster trades. The Redraft Team of Anthony Zaragoza, Mitch Lawson, Aaron Larson, Michael Stephenson, and Kalib Drake answer some great questions regarding the recent moves around the NFL. Enjoy!
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Anthony Zaragoza: I’m expecting a top 10 WR finish for Antonio Brown. There will be a slight drop off for the former Steeler though. Instead of Big Ben throwing him the ball, Derek Carr is in charge of getting “Mr. Big Chest” the football. There won’t be a Juju Smith-Schuster taking attention away from Brown. He will now have newly acquired Tyrell Williams doing his best to move the safety over on deep routes. Because of this, I don’t see Brown being a top three WR in fantasy like in years past. But he’s so talented and gifted. A top 10 finish is doable.
When it comes to Derek Carr, this is the year he could get things going. 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns are within his grasp. These aren’t numbers that scream QB1, but for a guy who might go undrafted in most 12 team leagues, Carr could be a guy who surprises everyone.
Mitch Lawson: It all comes down to Antonio Brown’s attitude this offseason. He got what he wanted; he’s out of Pittsburgh, he is the highest paid WR in football. If he goes into this season ready to work with his new team and is motivated to send a message to the league about what type of player he is, then this could be an incredible season for him. Derek Carr might have been next-to-invisible this past season, but he is NOT a bad quarterback. He has been constantly held back by inconsistent receiver performance and an underwhelming offensive attack.
This match has a high potential return for everybody. The Raiders would do well to continue building this offense, and trim the fat that doesn’t noticeably help this team. Gruden and company own three first-round picks, plus a high-second round pick. If they do their homework, they could be in the right spot for a quick rebuild.
I am willing to say that it’s worth holding onto Brown in dynasty leagues as his value will take a hit with this news, and he’s still a guy I will consider taking in redraft if he’s on the board in the second round of drafts.
Aaron Larson: I expect Brown to have a solid fantasy season, but it will be a step down from his recent performances. Over the past six years, he’s averaged just over 1,524 yards, 114 receptions, and 11 touchdowns per season. This record-breaking success, however, came while Brown was surrounded by other elite offensive talents. Le’Veon Bell, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, not to mention Ben Roethlisberger throwing him the ball.
While their off the field relationship may have degraded, Big Ben never had a problem connecting with AB on the field. The situation in Oakland is less than ideal in comparison. Brown should still put up WR1 numbers in Jon Gruden’s offense, but you shouldn’t expect him to be in the top three.
As for Carr, I expect him to have a career season in 2019. Not many people noticed, but Carr quietly put up career highs in completions (381), yards (4,049), and completion percentage (68.9) in 2018. Those numbers should only improve in his second year under Gruden, especially considering Oakland is also adding wideout Tyrell Williams. As long as Brown doesn’t tear the Raiders locker room apart from the inside, Carr could be a sneaky late round pick with QB1 upside.
Michael Stephenson: It would not even slightly surprise me if AB finished as the WR1 again this year despite the switch to Oakland. Brown will be fed the ball at every available opportunity, and he’s good enough to make the most of it. AB has been the undisputed WR1 for six straight years, averaging an obscene 1,524 yards and 11 TDs per season over that time. Unfortunately, Derek Carr is no Ben Roethlisberger, and in 10 career games without Big Ben, Brown has averaged just 5.9 targets, 3.3 receptions and 43.9 yards per game, scoring just one touchdown in the 10 games without Roethlisberger.
Carr is better than a back-up though, and it is easy to forget we are just two years removed from Carr being a legitimate MVP candidate. The Raiders have been busy this off-season, and in addition to Brown they have brought in the talented and often overlooked Tyrell Williams, and also bolstered their woeful O-Line by making ex-patriots LT Trent Brown the best paid offensive lineman in the NFL. While the offense around AB is a step down from what he has been used to in Pittsburgh, AB/Tyrell/Lynch is a huge leap forward from where they were a year ago. Antonio Brown does not have a bad fantasy finish in him so I’ll bump him from WR1 to WR5 at worst, he is going to be a great value in 2019.
With a shiny new left tackle and the best receiver in football, Derek Carr has no excuse to not have a career year. He is coming off a season with a career-high in completion %, which was mostly due to being forced to check the ball down on most plays, his average depth of target is just 6.6 yards. If we see the return of 2016 Derek Carr, he could be a sneaky QB1 this season.
Kalib Drake: I expect AB to maintain WR1 status next year, but for different reasons than most. AB will be hyper-targeted in 2019 and will see A LOT of garbage time. I do not think this trade magically makes the Raiders good. Their defense was second to last in the league last year, and they haven’t done anything this offseason to address that problem. The Raiders will be playing from behind a lot this next season, which means we should be able to pencil AB around 160-180 targets, which should net him a minimum of 100 receptions and put him over 1,000 receiving yards. Derek Carr will be wrapped around his finger next year, which should result in him seeing a LARGE share of red zone targets. Right now, I have AB finishing as the WR7 next season.
Derek Carr was sacked last season 51 times. The Raiders had the third worst offensive line last year and haven’t done much to address that problem this offseason either. People are excited about his career high in both passing yards (4,049) and completion percentage (68.9). If you go back and watch the tape both of those numbers are pretty easy to explain. Carr’s average depth of air yards per target was only 3.8 yards. His completion percentage was so high because he had to dump it off to his check down the majority of pass attempts because of the constant pressure. AB does most of his damage down the field with his supreme route running skill, which requires the QB to hold onto the ball longer. Long story short, yes, with the added weapons his fantasy value will increase but until they fix the O-line? I want nothing to do with him in 2019.
If you have the #1 pick in your league this season, are you considering Le’Veon Bell?
Anthony Zaragoza: Le’Veon Bell is as talented as any running back in the league right now. For that reason, he’s in consideration. But because the Jets offense is still finding its own identity, taking a chance on Bell at #1 is too risky. I’ll go with guys like Barkley, McCaffrey, Elliott or Kamara instead. But if I’m picking late in the draft order, grabbing him late in the first round feels better.
Aaron Larson: The key word here is “considering.” As of right now, I would consider taking him number one overall, but I’d more than likely land on somebody else. With so many question marks, it will be difficult to take Bell over the likes of Saquon Barkley or Christian McCaffrey. They’re both arguably just as vital to their teams’ offenses and as skilled catching the ball, but are considerably younger and aren’t coming off of a year-long hiatus. Bell’s situation is still great; Adam Gase has a track history of success with pass-catching running backs, and he should be the focal point of the offense. If I have the number one pick in any drafts, I’m sure his name will cross my mind, but right now I think Saquon is my guy.
Mitch Lawson: Not a chance. James Conner showed how overpowering that Steelers’ run game is regardless of how talented of a running back you have. Is Bell better than Conner? Absolutely. But will he be able to bring his perennial top three fantasy RB pedigree to a team with a fraction of the offensive output of the Steelers? Nope. Bell isn’t even a first round pick for me in redraft, he should be sliding down your draft boards too, as his ceiling has shrunk considerably with his move to New York. His rap career though? New York will be fantastic for that. He is trending way up.
Kalib Drake: No, I can honestly say I wouldn’t even consider it. Will Bell finish in the top 12 RBs next season? Sure, but when I am drafting at the 1.01. I am going for someone with a much higher week to week floor, with RB1 upside every single week. Here are all the other RBs I would rather have as of right now in front of Bell: Barkley, Gurley, McCaffrey, Kamara, Zeke, Mixon, Gordon and D. Johnson. The wide receivers I would draft before him: Hopkins, JuJu, OBJ, AB, M. Thomas, D. Adams & Julio.
I wouldn’t even consider drafting him in the first round, let alone the 1.01. Don’t get me wrong the RB1 upside is there, but there is just too much risk for me to want to gamble on him. I don’t like the fact that he sat out a full year, I think he will have an adjustment period to try and get back into the swing of things. I also don’t like that he just got paid a ton of guaranteed money, a lot of players have been known to decline drastically because they are no longer playing for those contract incentives. Most importantly though, I do not like that he is playing for the Jets. There are a lot safer picks at the 1.01 with the same RB1 upside, so I strongly recommend NOT gambling on him at the 1.01.