Every year fantasy pundits throw blows over who they like/dislike in drafts. Yahoo’s cast of characters is no different. Throughout the picking season, we’ll provide two sides to the story to help you decide between Player A or Player B. Read. React. And choose a winner.
Today’s showdown: Wide receiver wrangle — Antonio Brown (23.3 ADP, WR9) vs. Mike Evans (20.5, WR8).
Brad: You’ll regret not drafting Antonio Brown
When it comes to Brown, he’s the factory with the sign that reads “X number of days without an incident,” except the digit displayed is always zero. Every day, it seems, the Mariah Carey of wide receivers, screaming for attention, feels it necessary to feed his inner diva. From his toasted feet to the helmet controversy to clapping back at Ben Roethlisberger on Twitter, he mires in self-created drama. As a result, many fantasy managers believe his egomaniacal behavior will only hamper his on-field production and as such, they’ll continue to pass on him in drafts.
Do so, and you’ll be filled with regret.
Similar to his former teammate, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Brown is in the running to set the league pace in targets. Last season in Pittsburgh, he elicited an obscene 169 throws from Big Ben, once again proving his mettle as one of the game’s true receiving elites. His quick-chopping footwork, prominent red-zone success (No. 4 in end-zone target percentage in ‘18), downfield capabilities (WR8 in air yards) and jukes after the catch (WR7 in YAC) all point to continued dominance. He’s as consistent as they come.
According to Matt Harmon’s #ReceptionPerception, he’s posted a 77 percent or higher success rate every year since 2014. Whether in Gucci loafers or standard-issue cleats, the man gets grabs. When the lights turn on, he cranks the production. As seen on Hard Knocks, Jon Gruden will continue to do everything in his power to keep his best player satisfied, whether on the field or off. And don’t fret over Derek Carr. The QB finished No. 4 in deep-ball completion percentage in 2018. He and AB are an excellent pairing.
Bottom line, with the possibility of 190 targets on the horizon, Brown is bound to top 100 receptions and finish inside the WR top-10 for the seventh consecutive season. He’s a fantastic Tier 1 RB complement slipping into Round 3. Don’t be scared. - Brad Evans
Scott: Avoid the headache and take the layup
We want our early picks to have floor as well as upside, and Brown simply can’t check that first box right now. How much time has he spent getting comfortable with his new team and quarterback? How committed is he to the 2019 Raiders? What crazy, potential Brown headline would you not consider as plausible?
And don’t overlook the upside Evans has. He was the WR1 in 2016 — not one of the WR1s, but THE top guy — and he can get there again. Tampa has one of those narrow usage trees, and Jameis Winston has no problem forcing the ball to his playmakers. This is the best setup Evans has ever been tied to, and he’s coming off a ridiculous 1,524-yard season. (Brown’s 2018 season showed slippage in the metrics, but it was cosmetically masked by touchdown deodorant. Have fun with Derek Carr, 84.)
Evans is also five years younger; we love getting in on players in their prime years. Bruce Arians over Jon Gruden? Yes, please. Tampa Bay has a spotty defense and no obvious answers in the running game; while Brad is sweating the Brown circus, I’ll be cackling at the Tampa Bay carnival. The Bucs should be in regular high-scoring affairs, playing at a fast pace, chasing the game. Punch me a ticket. - Scott Pianowski