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Can Antonio Brown challenge Jerry Rice's unbreakable records?

By Matt Kelley (@Fantasy_Mansion)
Special to Yahoo Sports

Antonio Brown did it again last week. Ten receptions, 169 yards, and two touchdowns in prime time. Time to put Brown’s greatness in proper context.

Game Changer

After his 38.9 PPR fantasy point eruption in Week 12, Brown’s 249.5 total fantasy points position him 26.1 points ahead of this season’s second best fantasy receiver, DeAndre Hopkins. Brown and Hopkins are the only fantasy receivers to eclipse 200 PPR fantasy points in 2017. Julio Jones’ 189.4 fantasy points is a distant third place.

While Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell, and Alvin Kamara look like league-winning running backs, Brown will show up on a significant percentage of 2017 champions. A cursory review of fantasy production by position shows the RB1 (Todd Gurley) to R12 (Lamar Miller) differential is 82.6, meanwhile the WR1 (Brown) to WR12 (Michael Thomas) differential is 87 so far this season.

In a season where most wide receivers underperformed their ADP, Brown offered fantasy games an unmatched competitive advantage this season. The top-36 wide receivers averaged 226 PPR fantasy points in 2016. The top-36 receivers project to finish the 2017 season averaging 219 total points. This drag is primarily the result of lackluster production from the elite receiver class from Jordy Nelson to Mike Evans to Dez Bryant.

As running back valuations surge and receivers collapse, Brown’s fantasy football value proposition will warrant strong first overall pick (1.01) consideration in 2018 in his age 30 season.

Metrics Outlier?

I am often asked the question: How did the advanced metrics miss Brown? My response, “They did?”

Antonio Brown Advanced Metrics Prospect Profile on PlayerProfiler.com.

The most predictive metric on a receiver prospect profile is Breakout Age, and by breaking out at 19.2, Brown cleared the 80th percentile. Rushing production and special teams versatility also indicate wide receiver success at the next level. Brown finished his junior season at Central Michigan with 1,539 yards from scrimmage and 12 total touchdowns. He has been #GoodAtFootball since 2007.

Simply The Best

Since Brown became the Steelers’ primary receiver in 2013, he’s dominated his NFL contemporaries in the most important metric: Target Share. This season, Brown has 10 or more targets in all but two games.

Season Target Share Rank
2013 28.6% #7
2014 30.1% #4
2015 33.0% #1
2016 27.8% #6
2017 32.1% #2

Over the last five years, Brown has converted 823 targets into 561 receptions, 7,510 yards, 51 touchdowns, and 1,618 fantasy points. Brown wins in all quadrants of the football field with a dazzling array of skills. He is equipped with Dez Bryant’s touchdown prowess, DeAndre Hopkins’ target dominance, Keenan Allen’s route precision, Larry Fitzgerald’s hands, and Julio Jones’ downfield playmaking ability.

This season, Brown will be the first receiver to post double-digit touchdowns for four straight seasons since Randy Moss. Moss is 6-foot-4. Brown is 5-10.

Striving For History

While Moss’ career flamed out in his early thirties, Brown’s career arc projects to extend into his late thirties. Extrapolated productivity, in conjunction with assumed longevity, suggests Brown will finish his career as a better all-time receiver than Moss.

Brown is spectacular football asteroid on collision course with planet Jerry Rice. Starting 2013, Brown has missed zero games due to injury. A pristine health track record and résumé of unmatched productivity puts Brown on a once-a-generation trajectory. He is the only current NFL player capable of breaking Rice’s vaunted records. Ironically, the West Coast offense concepts that Rice helped popularize in the 1980’s, a high pass volume offense featuring a high completion percentage of short and intermediate routes makes Brown a real threat to Rice’s standing in the NFL history books.

Career Receiving Stats Jerry Rice Antonio Brown (projected)
 Receptions 1,549 1,583
 Yards 22,895 22,230
 Touchdowns 197 138

Understanding that a 10-year projection of anything in society is a fool’s errand rife with extreme uncertainty, follow me on a brief thought experiment with a pit stop in Hot Takeville. Assuming Brown’s production stays in-line with his 2013-2017 averages for the next five years, his production then declines steadily after age 34, and he retires at age 39, Brown would surpass Rice in career receptions by the year 2026.

Put your sunglasses on.