Welcome back to the big, bright world that is fantasy football. It’s been an awful long dry spell since Week 17 of 2016 but we’ve finally arrived once again at the beginning of Week 1 of the NFL season. Chances are, most of the drafts that you’re participating in have already concluded. You’ve already rolled the dice, stolen fallen value, and jumped early on a player or two that you’re completely bananas about. If you’re already done drafting, hopefully this will serve as a complimentary argument to back up one of your choices. If you’re still to draft this week, perhaps this will help sway your opinion on two of the most wildly ranked wide receivers of 2017. It’s time to ruffle your fantasy feathers as we break down why DeSean Jackson is a better choice than the Giants new play toy, wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
We’ll kick things off with the negatives regarding Brandon Marshall before getting into the positives with Jackson. Let’s start with the biggest negative with Marshall, Age. Plain and simple. Marshall will be starting his 12th pro-season at age 33. While we have seen ageless wonders like Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Smith make age look like just a number, we’ve seen many more cases of players smacking violently into the age wall. Take Andre Johnson for example. He went to Indy with worlds of possibilities and he finished with 500 yards and 4 touchdowns. Keeping with the age theme, keep in mind that Brandon Marshall has a quarterback that will be entering the season at age 36. While Eli Manning is an unquestioned massive upgrade over all of the Jets’ quarterbacks, his best days are behind him. His touchdown total dropped by 9 scores from 2015 to 2016 while his interception total has increased.
Another aspect that we don’t love about this situation is Marshall’s past back and shoulder injuries. Marshall was all sorts of roughed up last season as his signal callers left him wide open for massive hits. Back issues are largely lingering in nature. While it may seem extreme to compare his back issues to that of Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots’ tight end does showcase how back injuries can flare up at any given moment. In regards to the shoulder injury, Marshall dealt with shoulder issues last season and they’ve already popped up in the preseason this year. Not only does this lead to the increased potential of re-aggravation in season, but he’s missed a lot of valuable on field time with Manning.
The last sticking point that can’t be neglected is the crowded nature of the Giants’ offense as a whole. Looking back throughout Eli’s history, he has a large dependency upon his slot receiver and tight end. This season, he’ll have Sterling Shepard in the slot and 1st round tight end Evan Engram gobbling up targets over the middle. Then you factor in the amount of looks that Odell Beckham demands and Marshall’s target share looks like it’ll take a big time hit. Don’t get us wrong, we believe that he’ll be a highly targeted receiver in the red zone, but that makes him a very boom-or-bust weekly play as he’ll be very touchdown dependent.
Now, let’s compare those negatives with Marshall to the positives of DeSean Jackson. For starters, Jackson is three years younger than Brandon Marshall. That age difference should be highly noted when making your decision. He’s still a year or two away from the usual drop off as we just saw Mike Wallace break 1,000 yards in his age 30 season last year. The second age to take into consideration is that of Jameis Winston. Entering only his third season as the starter at age 23, Winston has miles and miles of room to grow. Considering he threw for over 4,000 yards in just his second season, that’s a scary proposition.
In regards to injury concern, Jackson is no stranger to the trainer’s table himself. He has constantly run into short term injuries over his career that result in limited practice participation, game time decisions, and ultimately missed games. But none of those issues have the tendency of being lingering or potentially re-occurring. He’s missed time of his own this preseason with an ankle problem but he and Winston have flashed together in practice when he has been available.
Lastly, let’s look at the target shares. Fellow Bucs’ receiver Mike Evans was brutally overworked last season as 171 targets were sent his way. Scaling back his workload will be addition by subtraction for Evans and will play directly into Jackson’s favor. Those targets will likely be big time, downfield shots as Winston has an absolute cannon for an arm and the deep game was the only asset missing from the Bucs last season. Working as the unquestioned WR2 with Evans drawing double coverage will lead to far more targets than most are anticipating. In Washington, Jackson was competing for targets against elite tight end Jordan Reed, PPR stud Pierre Garcon, and up and comer Jamison Crowder. While OJ Howard is a future stud, we certainly don’t see him commanding the amount of targets Reed does, at least not in year one. To make a long story short, Jackson should be more involved in the weekly game plan with Tampa than he was needed to be in Washington.
DeSean Jackson is coming off a 1,000 yard season and is entering an equal or perhaps even more beneficial offensive situation. Marshall is three years older and won’t need to be as successful or as involved for the Giants’ offense to move the ball. We’ve seen Marshall ranked as high as inside the top 20 and Jackson outside of the top 40. We prefer to reach a little on Jackson than to settle on Marshall at their current ADP. Don’t be surprised if Jackson pays off even in PPR formats as his targets will likely be on the rise given his new offensive situation. Both figure to be decent WR3 plays but the upside of Jackson outweighs Marshall’s higher draft position in our humble opinion. Love it or hate it, we’ll find out when the clock hits 00:00 in Week 17.
Until then the verdict is in:
Riser: DeSean Jackson
Faller: Brandon Marshall