Can The Intriguing Marvin Jones Be A WR2?
Marvin Jones is an intriguing subject this offseason. It is strange how quickly we seem to move on from players in the fantasy football world. We always seem to be seeking out for the next “steal” of the draft or the latest hot prospect we can snag cheaply. Often times we discard players as a “one year wonder”. In all actuality, often times what we seek already is right in front of our faces. Sometimes just taking off the blinders and not having tunnel vision is all we need to gain an edge come draft day.
While looking for some value for the upcoming fantasy draft season, Marvin Jones stoked the fire a bit. After all, the current ninth-round fantasy pick is just one season removed from being a WR1 with a finish of WR11 in 2017. Jones finished that year with 225.1 points. This placed ahead of the likes of Davante Adams, Brandin Cooks, and Stefon Diggs.
Was this a fluke? Maybe. There are many that do not like Jones and think 2017 was an aberration. Others look at him and see the upside. This article will be positive and focus on the upside, also looking at why Jones very well could finish as a WR2.
Been There, Done That
Jones has been steadily good, not great since his rookie year in the Queen City. The pass catcher has recorded at least 50 catches, 500 yards, and four touchdowns in each season that he played at least 10 games. Keep in mind Jones missed all of 2014 with an ankle injury. Prior to last year, the 166th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft had been relatively healthy. Jones played in 16 games in two of the three previous years before playing in just nine in 2018.
The former California Golden Bear set a career high in targets (107) and yards (1,101) in 2017 while having his second-best season for receptions (61) and touchdowns (9). The career high in catches came in 2015 (65) and the high watermark for touchdowns (10) came in 2013. Both of these milestones were reached as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals.
In fact, in these four years that at least 10 games were played, Jones has been a WR1, a WR3 twice and a WR4 once. You can count on him in leagues that require three wideouts and the upside exists for him to be a WR1 or WR2.
Reason for Optimism
The hope in the Motor City is that Marvin Jones Jr. can return to his 2017 form and bring the offense back to top-ten scoring form. Coinciding with Marvin Jones breakout year, was Matthew Stafford’s best finish since 2011. It was Stafford’s second-best fantasy finish of his 10-year career. Stafford reportedly played with a broken back last year. Couple that with only nine games played by one of his highest targeted receivers and you have a sure-fire recipe for regression from 2017.
There had been some rumblings that Jones may be traded by the Detroit Lions. Those rumors appear to be unfounded. The talented singer even put out a little ditty claiming that it was fake news. The basis for these rumors is an alleged spat between the talented wideout and second-year coach Matt Patricia. The friction supposedly stems from the injury that caused Jones to only play nine games last season.
A trade makes little sense financially for the Lions as a post-June 1st trade would saddle them with a nearly $2.75 million cap hit. The contract is also team friendly for the next two years, checking in at $6.5 million per season. If the 6’2″ and 198-pound receiver can stay healthy, he will be a steal come draft day.
A “Golden” Opportunity
Gone, is Golden Tate to the New York Giants. Enter Marvin Jones and third-year phenom Kenny Golladay to soak up the 100 plus targets Tate saw every year with Stafford (minus 2018 when he saw 69 in just seven games). In the four full years, Tate was a target for Stafford, he averaged 131.75 targets per year. That is good for eight-plus targets a game.
Based on ADP, most people seem to feel that the younger Golladay will benefit from this. This may be true but a look at the splits tell a different story. Jones is much better with Golladay on the field than the other way around. The sample size is fair at about 80/20% for both players. First a look at Golladay with Jones on and off the field.
You can see that Golladay is a fringe WR2 with Jones on the field and a WR1 with him off. Now let us look at Jones.
We see here that Jones holds WR1 status with or without Golladay on the field. Obviously, not all of the 131 plus targets that went to Tate will be divided up between Jones and Golladay.
Tight End Upgrade
It is a good bet that highly touted first-round pick T.J. Hockenson will see some targets. As will Penn State grad Jesse James. The Detroit tight ends combined for just 67 targets as a unit last year. This was good for second to last in the league. The NFL average for the position was just over 107 targets in 2018.
Assume that the Lions creep close to that average in 2019. That takes 40 of the 131 targets vacated by Tate away. This leaves an additional 91 targets for the wideout corps to gobble up. Danny Amendola was also brought in as a free agent on March 11th. The journeyman wideout will be turning 34, November of the upcoming season. Do not look for him to be a threat to either of the two wideouts mentioned above or the two tight ends that were added to the roster this offseason.
Looking back at 2017 when Stafford had an above average tight end to throw to in Eric Ebron, Jones still dominated the targets most weeks.
“Jonesing” For Value
I mentioned in the introduction that Jones is going in the ninth round of drafts. This is in redraft formats and this is actually up from his 10th round ADP in early June. This is an incredible value for someone that is sure to approach 100 targets in 2019.
There are currently 38 wideouts being selected before Jones in redraft. These include the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, Dante Pettis, Sammy Watkins, and Alshon Jeffery. Jones could easily surpass those players and can be had for a fraction of the cost.
In dynasty leagues, the ADP has remained pretty flat and has actually dropped a bit in the past month. In all likelihood, people are scared off by the age (29), but remember, a full season of wear and tear was missed when Jones was out with a foot injury. This is significant because it was not a knee injury of any kind and he has been healthy since, short of last seasons 9 games.
This is still steady value for a receiver that brings upside to the table and seems to be a favorite of Stafford. A healthy year from both players should mean big things in Motown.
2018 Projected Stats
Had Jones played 16 games in 2018, his stat line would have read 62 catches, 903 yards, and 9 touchdowns. This would have been good for 206.3 points and the WR22. Not bad for someone being taken as the WR39 in redraft. Comparably, Sammy Watkins is being drafted as WR26. Like Jones, Watkins played a shortened 2018 season. Projecting that out for 16 games gives us a stat line of 64 catches, 830 yards, and 5 touchdowns. Ok numbers, but only good for 177 fantasy points and a finish of WR34.
Taking the blinders off, we see that Marvin Jones Jr. is a better value than Sammy Watkins in 2019. While it is not a given to happen, the potential is there for the former to outproduce the latter. It is these little advantages that we find that can sometimes be the difference between winning the title or finishing in third place, or the difference between making the playoffs, or being on the outside looking in. Do not be afraid to get rid of tunnel vision and draft Jones with confidence in all formats.