After a suspension for the first four games of last season, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant was in the NFL’s substance-abuse program. Over the weekend, he was suspended for at least one year as he apparently jumped a step on the suspension later after reportedly failing/missing six drug tests.
Bryant’s absence, and his 50 catches for 765 yards and six touchdowns being removed from the equation, creates some fallout for fantasy football owners heading into the 2016 season. Here’s my look at how the suspension impacts his value, and some key components of the Steelers’ passing game.
Bryant is obviously useless in re-draft leagues next season, but at 24 years old he is worth holding onto in keeper leagues until further notice.
Bryant’s 29 end zone targets over the last two seasons is fourth-most in the league over that span, so his absence affects Roethlisberger a lot as a red zone weapon. Health is always a concern with “Big Ben”, especially now that he’s 34 years old, but he has enough remaining talent around him to be a low-end QB1 or high-end QB2 in 2016.
Wheaton is in line to step in as Pittsburgh’s No. 2 wide receiver, which automatically puts him on the fantasy radar. In the five games Bryant missed last season Wheaton had nine catches for 228 yards and one touchdown, so even with the prospect of a bigger role expectations should be tempered . That said, there’s potential value here as a WR3 or WR4 in 12-team leagues.
It’s hard to see Brown doing much more than he did last season, when he tied for the league lead in receptions (136) and finished second in receiving yards (1,834) along with 10 touchdowns. More attention from opposing secondaries is likely, but Brown could see more opportunities in the red zone and he’s still a surefire WR1 for 2016.
The Steelers’ newly-signed replacement for tight end Heath Miller was already in line for a prominent role, and Bryant’s absence only boosts his fantasy stock. Physical skills should finally meet opportunity in Pittsburgh, and Green is a solid TE1 now.
Coates barely saw action as a rookie in 2015, with one regular season reception and two catches for 61 yards in the Steelers’ playoff loss to the Broncos. He has a chance to be the team’s No. 3 wide receiver, but Coates probably won’t be draftable outside of very deep single-season leagues and keeper leagues this summer.