The Cases For And Against Antonio, Julio, and Odell For #1

Antonio Brown

There’s three guys that should be in contention for the first overall pick in your fantasy football draft.

Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and Odell Beckham Jr. They finished one, two, and three respectively in PPR points per game for receivers last season, and most expect them to land in the top-3 once again.

To clarify, this is only for PPR leagues. If you’re still playing in a standard league, or some other format not as conducive to receivers, then there’s not a lot for you here so might as well go back to Pokemon GO or whatever you were doing.

In PPR leagues, these three players outscored every running back as well as all but two quarterbacks (if you use 4-point per TD scoring for QBs). There is every reason in the world to draft one of these three receivers first overall. But then the question becomes, which one?

Antonio Brown

The Case For

This one is pretty simple. He’s been the number one fantasy receiver in the league for the past two seasons and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, it almost seems like he’s getting better. He’s getting open more frequently more than any receiver in the NFL and his quarterback knows it. Big Ben has been feeding him with incredible volume and efficiency.

In Ben Roethlisberger‘s last 16 full games Antonio Brown has had 152 catches for 2,039 yards (h/t Evan Silva).

That would be an NFL record in both categories and would equate to 22.25 fantasy points per game before adding in touchdowns. That would’ve been good enough for the WR3 last year. Again, without touchdowns. He’s quite simply next level.

The Case Against

Go back a few sentences and read the qualifier at the start. “Last 16 full games”. Roethlisberger missed 4 games last year and only has three full seasons in his 12 years in the NFL.

Oh, and these are his splits with and without Le’Veon Bell.

Antonio  Brown

As you might expect, when the Steelers have their starting running back, the stats of their number one receiver dip quite a bit. Bell has had his share of injuries as well, but Brown’s fantasy resumé isn’t quite flawless. Close, but not quite.

Now, Brown has been able to dominate the NFL for the last three seasons even with these factors, so there’s no reason to drop him out of the top three. In fact, I would personally still take him number one. But there are a couple reasons to be every so slightly critical.

Let Julio Jones carry you to victory! (Getty Images)

Should Julio Jones be the number one pick in PPR Leagues?  (Getty Images)

Julio Jones

The Case For

Julio Jones was only seven total points shy of Antonio Brown last season. In his first healthy season since 2011, Jones was the absolute freak everyone was expecting. He’s the closest thing the NFL has seen athletically to Calvin Johnson possibly ever.

Not coincidentally, Jones had the second best season ever in terms of receiving yards, only behind Johnson.

Jones and Brown actually had incredibly similar seasons, with the exact same amount of receptions and only a difference in yards of 37. The biggest difference was the touchdown total. Brown had 10 and Jones had 8. So if Jones can just boost his touchdowns slightly, he could overtake Brown with relative ease. Relative being the operative word.

For a guy his size, Jones has actually been somewhat underwhelming in his ability to score touchdowns. But his last three seasons were significantly lower than his first two in terms of touchdown rate (touchdowns per target). He scored on under four percent of his targets each of the last three seasons, while in his first two years he was at 8.4 and 7.8 percent.

If Jones has a similar number of targets, which, granted, is somewhat unlikely, and improves his touchdown rate to just six percent, he would have 12 touchdowns. Adding four touchdowns to his total would have boosted him to just under 400 fantasy points, easily taking him past Antonio Brown.

The Case Against

That perfect storm is rather unlikely. I actually do expect Jones’ touchdown rate to rise to somewhere around six percent or higher, but it’s just not realistic to expect him to get over 200 targets and over 1,800 yards again.

Since targets data is available, there have only been five seasons in which a player has received more than 200 targets and only four in which a player has more than 1,800 yards. Nobody has ever been on either list more than once.

If Jones does hit that 12 touchdown mark, but his other stats drop to 125 receptions and 1,725 yards, he would finish with almost the exact amount of points he did in 2015. So it’s certainly attainable. Just not probable.

Odell Beckham Jr

Is Odell Beckham Jr. the name you should call with the 1.01? (Getty Images)

Odell Beckham Jr.

The freak. His 2014 season in just 12 games is one of the most absurd statistical streaks ever. In just 12 games Beckham scored 295 fantasy points, good for 24.6 per game. That’s the best ever.

He has the most touchdowns in the NFL since he came into the league and he’s only played 86 percent of the games.

Pro-Football Reference

Pro-Football Reference

Beckham is so far and away the most efficient target for Eli Manning that he will be fed the ball. He received 158 targets last year and I expect that number to rise. Plus, the Giants just drafted receiver Sterling Shepard in the second round, who is an elite route runner. This should take at least a little bit of pressure off Beckham and will allow him to work in slightly more space.

He’s a great route runner, amazing in the red zone, and dynamic after the catch. We’ve already seen the ceiling in 2014, not the question is can he do that for a full season?

The Case Against

The best ever is pretty hard to maintain, especially over 16 consecutive games. While it’s still very early in his career, odds are Beckham’s 2015 season is more predictive of the future than 2014. A touchdown rate of over nine percent is just hard to replicate.

Plus, Beckham has had nagging hamstring injuries his entire career. It’s what caused him to drop slightly in dynasty rookie drafts and it’s what’s caused him to miss the first four games of 2014. While past injuries aren’t necessarily predictive of future ones, hamstring injuries can be hard to shake. And when we’re talking about the best of the best, any missed games can be a huge negative.

While Beckham’s ceiling is as high as anyone’s, he averaged two points per game less than Jones and Brown last season, and missed a game.

With players performing at such an elite level, the biggest differentiator is almost personal preference. If I’m on the clock at 1.01, I’m taking Brown and feeling very confident about it, but each of these guys has a legitimate claim at best in the game.

You can tell Jackson why he’s wrong on Twitter @JacksonSafon.


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