As you rigorously prepare and research leading up to each fantasy football season, sometimes it’s fun to take a step back and look towards the future of the NFL. This feature is going to do just that, and while its focus won’t be fantasy related, maybe it sparks some thoughts for those of you pondering a keeper league strategy or something of that nature. The idea is simple: rank the top trade assets in the NFL (only including players at the skill positions on offense: QB/WR/RB/TE). Again, this has nothing to do with fantasy trades, this is in terms of how valuable these players are to their actual teams in the longterm. Yes, this means names like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will be left off since it’s my list. I’m sure there will be plenty of debate, as everyone’s picks are likely different. So sit back, and enjoy the ride!
No. 7: Antonio Brown — WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Antonio Brown is the only WR on the list that doesn’t qualify as your typical big, jump ball, down field pass catcher (like a Calvin Johnson for example). However, the 5’10”/185 lb receiver has the ability to make as big a play as anyone else in the league, despite his lack of size for his position.
Brown was primarily a return man during his rookie season in 2010, working both on kickoffs and punt returns. Antonio put his versatility on display in 2011, catching 69 passes for over 1,000 yards and also combining for over 1,000 yards in the return game.
Brown only had three total touchdowns that season, but the Steelers knew they had something special. After missing some time in 2012, Brown was unleashed the following season, becoming one of the most relied upon players in the NFL.
In 2013, Brown racked up 110 receptions for 1,499 yards and eight touchdowns — all while remaining the primary punt returner, which led to 409 more yards and another trip to the end zone. The perception was that Brown had reached his ceiling, but he wasn’t done growing his game yet. 2014 had even more in store for the shifty playmaker, to the tune of 129 grabs for 1,698 yards and 13 touchdowns. Again, even dealing with all the touches, Brown continued returning punts for another 319 yards and yet another TD.
Brown’s most important attribute (right above his amazing versatility) is his ridiculous consistency — something that holds even more value to a real football team than a fantasy football team. In 2014, Brown had nine games with 100+ yards (if you include rushing yards), and a season-low of 74 yards. Only three times did Brown have less than 100 yards without scoring a touchdown. Bad performances are very rare when it comes to Antonio Brown, especially when 74 yards is your worst one of the season.
When it comes down to it, nobody is as versatile or consistent as Brown on a game to game basis. When you can boast that as a WR who led the league with almost 1,700 yards, there’s not many other weapons a team would rather have.
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10. Cam Newton