Shuffle Up: How I learned to stop worrying and love Antonio Brown

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Ain't it a kick in the head? (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

 

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"The Shuffle Up series is all about going-forward value. These are not Week 5 ranks, they're "if we drafted today" ranks. 

Players at the same price are considered even. Be careful not to give someone a 10-15 percent upgrade (or downgrade) just because they're on your fake football team. 

Prices for now, commentary up shortly. If you're looking for the Quarterback Shuffle, click here. The running backs and tight ends will be Shuffled in even-numbered weeks. 

$32 Antonio Brown
$32 Jordy Nelson
$32 Julio Jones
$31 Demaryius Thomas
$31 Dez Bryant
$30 A.J. Green
$29 Calvin Johnson
$28 Brandon Marshall
$28 Alshon Jeffery
$25 Randall Cobb
$24 Kelvin Benjamin
$24 Jeremy Maclin
$21 Keenan Allen
$20 Michael Floyd
$19 Emmanuel Sanders
$19 Percy Harvin
$18 Steve Smith
$18 Pierre Garcon
$18 Vincent Jackson

















Brown is underrated in some circles because he's a mere 5-foot-10, 180 pounds. His touchdown upside is lower than some of the other Tier 1 receivers. He's not going to physically dominate in the red zone, out-jump defenders, box out cornerbacks. 

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But there's something to be said for lateral agility. And there's definitely something to be said for consistency – the biggest feather in Brown's cap. 

We want the biggest stat haul we can get over the course of a season, of course, but we also want a smooth distribution of those points. You're probably better off collecting 18-18-18 points over a three-week sample than 32-18-4. Brown has turned into the rare wide receiver where the volatility rules don't apply; in a world where "boom or bust" can be trotted out for most of the players, Brown is just about bust proof. 

Brown had at least five catches in every game last year, and he's recorded 5, 7, 10 and 7 catches in his 2014 starts. That's 20 games in a row at five grabs or more, an NFL record. He's seen double-digit targets in 13 of his last 18 games. Volume is a virtual lock here. 

And it's not like Brown can't get into the end zone. He's spiked 12 times over his last 13 game (including one kick-return score), a nifty mix of long-distance and red-zone scoring. He only had one red-zone score last year, but he's already collected three this season (from the 7, 7, and 11-yard line). He can still get open in a constricted area. 

So what if Brown doesn't have the size and raw power of some other wideouts? He's been too good for too long. He deserves this spot in the first tier. I can't see any wideout I clearly prefer over him for the rest of the season, though he has plenty of company at the top of the sheet.  

It's a little strange to have Megatron down this list, but we have to wonder if he'll be 100 percent at any point in 2014 . . . Nelson is the full package, a dynamic blend speed, power, size. He scores more than his share of long touchdowns, but he's also the NFL's leader in red-zone targets and inside-the-10 targets (though an extra game helps). And when you beat your defender, Aaron Rodgers will find you . . . Bryant is capable of dominating from any part of the field and on any kind of route, but Tony Romo's inconsistency (and cranky back) might hold the story back a little bit . . . I don't see anything to worry about with Thomas; he's still tied to an elite quarterback and he's already had his bye (Seattle is also out of the way). If you were lucky enough to buy on him during the Week 4 holiday, I salute you. But to be fair, I can't imagine any rational observer who's not a full believer of his . . . I was more bullish on Allen in the summer, but the Chargers don't look like a team that will force the ball to anyone. Allen still is on the borderline of WR 1/2 on my clipboard, but I can't hold onto the upside I saw in August . . . It's funny to hear Floyd over Fitzgerald trumpeted as some gutsy call, when I don't know anyone who would prefer Fitzgerald at this point. I initially worried about Floyd keeping his relevance with Drew Stanton at QB; that hasn't proven to be a problem. Stanton actually has the highest percentage of long throws in the league (by far); according to Pro Football Focus, he chucks the ball 20 yards or more about 30 percent of the time. Advantage, Floyd. 

$17 Mike Wallace
$17 DeAndre Hopkins
$16 Michael Crabtree
$15 Julian Edelman
$15 Roddy White
$15 Golden Tate
$15 Victor Cruz
$14 Andre Johnson
$13 T.Y. Hilton
$12 Brandin Cooks
$12 DeSean Jackson
$12 Wes Welker
$11 Sammy Watkins
$11 Reggie Wayne
$10 Terrance Williams
$10 Brian Quick
$10 Cordarrelle Patterson
$9 Larry Fitzgerald
$8 Eric Decker

















Hopkins over Andre Johnson is another version of Floyd/Fitzgerald; some think it's a novel idea to have Hopkins higher, but most measurements are pointing to Hopkins already. Hopkins is collecting 11.6 yards per target (AJ is at 7.7), and he's spiked three times (AJ's at zero). Johnson still leads the team in targets, but I'd be shocked if that continued much longer. And for all of Johnson's terrific production through the years, you know about his modest returns in the touchdown column. Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't reversing that trend. 

I would tell you to trade Johnson for Hopkins, but I doubt the Hopkins owner would go for it. If there's one person in your league who's hip to Hopkins's growth, it's him.

Williams is a tricky player. You love the four touchdowns, but he's buried in target share (a mere 17.8 percent). Consider some of the players with bigger market shares in their cities: Allen Robinson, Mohamed Sanu, Donnie Avery, Jeremy Kerley. Obviously this can go a few different ways: maybe the Cowboys will start throwing to Williams more, but given the presence of Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray, Williams probably won't be fed a ton of targets. This is a type of player I'd always like to try to sell high (if you can); someone who's scoring well but it's largely tied to an unrealistic rate of touchdowns. 

It's maddening to have Patterson priced this way, but he's already five games into the season and the Vikings can't figure out how to use him. Maybe the extended break before Week 6 will get things going, but I'm not going to pay for that until I see it. I realize Patterson is still raw in many technical areas, but there are simple paths to touches, too. Norv Turner has failed us to this point . . . I loved Decker in August but it was obviously predicated on a healthy season, something we're not getting to this point. Yes, hamstring injuries tend to be nagging injuries – you know, like pretty much any other injury.

$7 Andrew Hawkins
$7 James Jones
$7 Eddie Royal
$7 Markus Wheaton
$6 Anquan Boldin
$6 Rueben Randle
$5 Torrey Smith
$5 Allen Hurns
$5 Jordan Matthews
$5 Justin Hunter
$5 Marques Colston
$4 Dwayne Bowe
$4 Allen Robinson
$4 Hakeem Nicks
$4 Kendall Wright
$3 Marvin Jones
$3 Mike Evans
$3 Miles Austin
$3 Andre Holmes
$3 Josh Gordon


















I'm giving it one more week with Hunter (and I'm thinking the Sankey/Greene tide might be about to turn, too). The Ken Whisenhunt-directed Chargers offense was slow to accept some things last year, such as Allen's budding talent. Sankey is too good to drop anyway, but I implore you to wait a week on Hunter, too.

It's almost silly to put a price on any slow-developing stock like Gordon because his value is heavily tied to context even more than the ordinary player. If you have huge benches or you're off to a 3-1 or 4-0 start, sure, stash away. But if you're below .500 and already feeling the pinch, a liquidation play makes sense. You have to season this one to taste, but generally today is underrated in fantasy sports, and tomorrow is overrated.

In most cases, I'm going to Play for Today. Take advantage of what we know right now, not what we imagine will be true months from now. No league constantly reshuffles like the NFL. 

Hurns has the high volatility that you get with deep route runners, but heck, he's already scored three times and he should have two other scores. He dropped perhaps the best pass Chad Henne threw all season, a sure long touchdown at Washington, and he bobbled a Week 4 catch that should have been a 46-yard score rather than the 44-yard gain it turned into. Obviously the drops are a concern, but the Jags will keep playing Hurns – they like his ability, he already knows the offense from his University of Miami days, and so many other options are hurt anyway. With Blake Bortles settling in, I like Hurns as an upside play in leagues that start three or four wideouts.

I'm worried about it being a cliff season for Colston. He's in his ninth year. The Browns received too much credit for Colston's target-less bagel in Week 2; when you don't get a single look on a day where your QB throws 40 passes, you're doing something wrong. 

$2 Greg Jennings
$2 Doug Baldwin
$2 Brandon LaFell
$2 Mohamed Sanu
$2 John Brown
$2 Davante Adams
$2 Jeremy Kerley
$2 Cecil Shorts III
$1 Malcom Floyd
$1 Robert Woods
$1 Andre Roberts
$1 Jermaine Kearse
$1 Jerricho Cotchery
$1 Brian Hartline
$1 Devin Hester
$1 Harry Douglas
$1 Jarius Wright
$1 Marqise Lee
$1 Odell Beckham Jr.
$0 Donnie Avery
$0 Nate Washington
$0 Kenny Stills
$0 Riley Cooper
$0 Jarvis Landry
$0 Louis Murphy
$0 Tavon Austin
$0 Stevie Johnson
$0 Donte Moncrief
$0 Kenny Britt
$0 Jarrett Boykin
$0 Aaron Dobson





























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