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Fantasy Owners Should Seriously Consider Sitting Antonio Brown

brownPrior to the start of the 2015 NFL season, Antonio Brown was a household name due to what he had done the previous year: 129 receptions, 1,698 yards receiving, 106.1 yards per game and 13 touchdowns. With the exception of touchdowns (Dez Bryant led the league with 16), Brown was the leader in all of those stat categories.

The numbers didn’t exactly come out of nowhere as Brown had established himself as a top of the line wide receiver in 2013, with his first 1,200 yard+ and double-digit reception season of his career. But while Brown emerged as a decent, better than average, fantasy threat, it wasn’t until last year that he cemented himself as elite.

Due to the back-to-back career years and last season’s dominance, according to FantasyPros, Brown was projected, unsurprisingly, to be the first non-running back taken off the board with an ADP in the #6-8 range in most standard drafts. In PPR formats, Brown, who averaged 11.3 targets and eight receptions in 2014, was going even higher, in the #2-5 range.

A member of last year’s most prolific offense, Brown was a prospect that provided too much promise for owners to pass up. His teammate Le’Veon Bell, also off a career year with Pittsburgh’s NFL best offense, was a consensus #1 in all formats, despite the suspension that would cause him to miss games one and two.

Pittsburgh’s offensive success had Ben Roethlisberger going as the sixth QB off the board and guys like Martavius Bryant, Markus Wheaton, Heath Miller and Darius-Heyward Bey all ranked within the top 200. After week one, even DeAngelo Williams became a hot waiver-wire pick-up as, in Bell’s absence, he ran for 127 yards on 21 carries in the team’s seven-point loss to the undefeated New England Patriots.

The Steelers’ offense was humming and looked just as good as the prior year, and Brown was doing even better, averaging almost 10 catches and almost 12 targets a game. With an average of over 145 yards in his first three games, Brown was even on pace to challenge Calvin Johnson’s record for yards in a single-season, which was set in 2012.

But all of that, as well as the hopes for fantasy owners who used their first round pick on Brown, came to a crashing halt when Roethlisberger injured his left leg in the third quarter of the Steelers’ victory over the St. Louis Rams.

This was an initial blow to Roethlisberger’s owners, but now with three weeks passed, it has become evident that the fantasy teams hurting the most, are those who own Brown.

In the two and a half games with Michael Vick under center (Vick got injured in the second half of game three), Brown has a total of 20 targets and a total of nine catches.

Against the Baltimore Ravens, Brown caught five passes for just 42 yards, breaking a streak of 35-straight regular season games in which he had caught at least five passes for 50 yards. In fantasy terms, if you had Brown in a PPR league, for the past 35 games, which dates back to the final game of the 2012 season, the 27-year-old wide out was getting you at least 10 points.

But with Vick and now Landry Jones, Brown has failed to get double digit fantasy points in PPR formats in two consecutive weeks doing so for the first time since weeks seven and eight of the 2012 season. Add in yesterday’s game in which Brown had a season-low 24 yards and season-low five fantasy points, and it’s the first time since the end of the 2010 season, his rookie year, in which he has gone three consecutive weeks without hitting double digits.

While some of this production dip can be attributed to fewer targets, part of it has to do with Vick and Brown just not connecting the same way he did with Roethlisberger. Vick is just 9-of-22, when throwing to his top weapon whereas Roethlisberger was 29-of-34. Jones is 2-of-3 but the sample size is just too small to put any weight in that just yet.

Fantasy owners don’t know yet if they can trust Jones, and they know for a fact they can’t trust Vick. The only certainty is Roethlisberger, who came back to limited practice this week.

Until Big Ben does make his return however, fantasy owners should seriously consider sitting Brown, as ridiculous as that may sound.
But it’s true what they say. Once is chance, twice is a coincidence and third time is a pattern. And for Brown’s fantasy owners and their playoff aspirations, this is one pattern that doesn’t look like it’s going to end until Roethlisberger returns.

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