The Oakland Raiders have never been shy about taking chances on controversial players, on being a team of renegades and castoffs, of playing with chips on their shoulders. The Autumn Wind is a Raider.
So with that in mind, their draft-day trade for Martavis Bryant makes perfect sense. This is what the Raiders do, gamble and recycle. But Bryant’s form and fit might not make sense for fantasy owners.
The Raiders shipped the No. 79 overall pick to Pittsburgh on Thursday in exchange for Bryant, the uber-talented and oft-troubled receiver. Although Bryant was a freak of nature when he first hit Steel City, the organization eventually decided the recurring headache wasn’t worth it.
Bryant only caught 26 passes as a rookie in 2014, but they went for 549 yards (an outrageous 21.1 a pop) and eight touchdowns. A ridiculous return on limited opportunity. Bryant was a relative disappointment in 2015 (50-575-6), in part because of a four-game substance-abuse suspension. Bryant then missed the entire 2016 season with another substance violation.
Bryant was mostly phased out of the Steelers offense last year (50-603-3), passed on the depth chart by rookie sensation JuJu Smith-Schuster. Bryant was openly frustrated by his lack of involvement; this led to the Steelers deactivating Bryant for a National TV game at Detroit.
Bryant enters his age-26 season and a contract year. It’s a put-up or shut-up season. But you have to wonder how he could show so little last year, after a lost suspension season. Does Bryant want to maximize his ability? Does he want to be the best pro he can be? It didn’t look like it in Pittsburgh.
The Oakland depth chart reads like a who’s who of fantasy disappointments. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t lost fantasy money on Jared Cook or Doug Martin at some point through the years. Derek Carr tumbled outside the Top 20 at the quarterback position last year; Amari Cooper was a weekly conundrum; Marshawn Lynch had a mediocre season. Jordy Nelson’s also been frustrating at times, mostly due to injuries; now the Raiders hope he has something left into his age-33 season.
And the Raiders are hoping a coaching retread, Jon Gruden, can make this all work.
If you want to bet on Nelson’s back class or Cooper’s pedigree or Carr’s past glory (he was excellent in 2016), I can’t say you’re wrong. But I don’t imagine Bryant will be on any of my fantasy rosters. There’s too much downside for my taste (one suspension and he’s finished), and the upside might be muted, given all the name receivers he’ll be fighting for touches.
If you have a pro case for Bryant, state it in the comments. Al Davis will look down, wink, and smile. Maybe you’ll have the last laugh, pillaging just for fun.