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The purely statistical case against adding Antonio Brown

Just, don’t

NFL: New England Patriots at Seattle Seahawks
joined at the hip
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The non-statistical case against Antonio Brown, potential Seattle Seahawks wide receiver, is easy enough to make. Couple shots of google would give an aspiring writer all the ammunition they need.

This is not that post.

Using data only, measurables only, on-field considerations only, is there a way to say no to AB and still feel good about it? The man led the NFL in receiving touchdowns in 2018. Twice in receiving yards. He was until recently on a collision course for a gold jacket and a bust in Canton.

The answer — which is yes — lies in a closer look at targets.

A) It’s offensive malpractice to reduce targets for Seattle’s top two wide receivers.

If anything, Russell Wilson, Pete Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer should be scheming for ways to get the ball more often in Tyler Lockett’s hands and DK Metcalf’s too. Not finding ways to work in a third threat who is less efficient.

While Brown was good for 9.0 yards per target during his peak, a five-year run from 2014 through 2018, Lockett has matched or exceeded that mark five out of six years.

While Brown, a touchdown machine, was good for a score on 6.9 on his targets, DK Metcalf has scored on 8.6 percent in his short career thus far.

Counting even their rookie seasons and injured seasons, the current Seahawks have been better than the potential one was at his best. They just haven’t gotten the volume to win All-Pro honors. A familiar story, and one that is rapidly changing, but if you thought Brown was head and shoulders above TL and DK, you might have been fooled by counting stats.

Yards per target, career

Metcalf 10.0

Lockett 9.9

Brown 8.8

First 139 targets, career

Metcalf 80-1396-12 with a 57.6 percent catch rate

Lockett 94-1291-7 with a 67.6 percent catch rate

Brown 82-1240-2 with a 59.0 percent catch rate

Antonio Brown was never better than Tyler Lockett or DK Metcalf, except maybe for a spell in 2016. No reason to think he suddenly is now. I don’t want him taking any of their targets, not a single one.

B) There aren’t enough other targets to go around.

Let’s say Brown were able to vulture every toss directed to David Moore and Freddie Swain. That’s 22 balls in five games.

First of all, that’s not a very significant amount. On 22 targets, 2018-level AB would supply you with a 14-170-2 line. And get this — Moore and Swain have so far produced beyond that anyway. They’ve combined for 17 grabs, totaling 270 yards and three scores. They’ve been good for 12.3 yards per target. They’ve been a mini-WR1 already, just on their own. They’ve been better than what you could reasonably expect from Brown, or any All-Pro.

Will they regress? Almost inevitably. But undeniably, Moore and Swain are thriving with the morsels they’ve been thrown (get it? thrown) so far. You’re not in any way guaranteed to get more results with Brown than the Moore-Swain job-share, and those homegrown guys are already familiar with the system and the quarterback.

Is it fair to maybe bogart a few of the tight end targets for AB? You could, but Wilson is 23-of-27 throwing to Greg Olsen and Will Dissly. He’s going to them for sure yards when the defense backs off and allows it, or they work their way open. Safety valve throws aren’t necessarily good candidates for transfer to the Bank of Brown.

Plus, given the way that Schottenheimer likes to feature tight ends in his offense, it’s unlikely Wilson would start starving his TE. We like to think RW is running his own show out there, but the reality is that under Schotty he’s more disciplined, with a better internal timer and vastly improved footwork. The game plan still belongs to the offensive coordinator, and he is coordinating the hell out of it.

Finally, should Josh Gordon ever, ever, ever return to the field —

— there would be reason to get him involved as well, greatly reducing the impact of Brown even if AB were to return to form, which...

C) ...He hasn’t played in two years.

Brown’s 32. That is not a WR’s peak. He’s not familiar with the system. He’s worked out with Wilson but hasn’t ever caught a live pass from him. He’d be rusty and in decline. Strictly from a probability standpoint, we are not talking about an optimal combination here.

Just the age curve alone means it would make little sense to spend anything — money, time, game plan adjustments — on inserting a new receiver who’s not in game shape and isn’t likely to be the All-Pro he was for 2014 through 2017.

If this were 2015, and the Seahawks had splashed for Brown instead of Jimmy Graham, there would be reason to get excited. But prime AB doesn’t exist anymore, and there are plenty of on-the-field reasons the guys on the roster will do as well, if not better.

— — —

Antonio Brown, right now, when the offense is already the highest-scoring in the league? I don’t see where the upside is, as the team is currently built, as the WR group is performing, and as removed from the summit of his powers the potential addition is.

The new-look new-cook Seahawks have enough practice passing now. They should do exactly that on Brown.