Sanders and Cotchery combined for 113 catches, 1,342 yards and 16 touchdowns last season — hefty numbers for a tandem that doesn’t include Brown or tight end Heath Miller.
But the Steelers are hoping they can be more productive this year with the development of Markus Wheaton, the signing of free-agent Lance Moore from the New Orleans Saints and the very real possibility they will take a tall wide receiver in the first or second round of the draft.
They would like to draft Mike Evans of Texas A&M, a 6-foot-5, 231-pound receiver whose stock soared even more when he ran a sub-4.5 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. But Evans might not be available when the Steelers pick at No. 15 overall.
It seems like a longshot for the Steelers to abandon the “third round Lollipop Guild” method of Moneyballing wide receivers, but it looks like they’re intent on doing just that. The problem that creates for Antonio Brown is that he’s a high usage undersized receiver who could soon be supplanted as the top option in his passing offense. Drafting a receiver in the mid-1st round is the equivalent of the Steelers throwing their hands up and saying that Antonio Brown really isn’t a #1 WR. Even if he’s a very good 1a, or a great #2 WR, that’s problematic for dynasty owners of Brown. It’s possible that today those owners could get something close to #1 WR value back in a trade.
I should also say that Brown would have been a sell high for me even if the Steelers didn’t plan on taking a receiver early in the draft. He’s horrible in the red zone and he requires long touchdowns to score. Just mean reversion implies that his 2014 season is likely to be worse than his 2013. And before you think that I’m a “sell high” advocate that never owned Brown in the first place (the most useless of fantasy pundits are writers that advocate selling high on players they never saw coming), I should say that I drafted Brown in a start-up last year when I saw the tidal wave of usage that was in store.