Fantasy Football Profile: Fading Alshon Jeffery
There are a lot of questions surrounding new faces in new places, trying to figure out what’s changed in their outlook, and whether their situation has gotten better or worse. One of the biggest question marks among them is new Eagles wide receiver, Alshon Jeffery.
Questions should’ve arose due to the one-year deal the biggest wide receiver on the free agent market received, but most tied it to a soft market. But why? The salary cap was raised and there were plenty of WR-needy teams who had plenty of cap room. There was a documentary on Adam Shefter during the free agency period, with cameras following him around for 24 hours. In that time period, Jeffery reportedly called Shefter, asking what the market was for wide receivers.
In the end, Jeffery signed a one-year deal worth $9.5 million ($8.75 million guaranteed) when just a year ago, Mohamed Sanu signed a five-year deal worth $32.5 million ($14 million guaranteed) with the Falcons, and Marvin Jones received a five-year deal worth $40 million ($13 million guaranteed) with the Lions. Even this year, the 49ers were one of the teams with money to spend and they paid soon-to-be 31-year-old Pierre Garcon $17 million guaranteed on a five-year deal. Kenny Stills, who has never put together a 1,000-yard season got $20 million guaranteed from the Dolphins. Something seems odd with this picture, or is it?
The Loss of Brandon Marshall
Living in Chicago, I’ve have the privilege of watching the Bears very closely, and I can tell you that I’ve had concerns about Jeffery for some time. Not necessarily from a fantasy standpoint, because he was always getting the targets, but concern with counting on him as a true No. 1 receiver. Most fantasy analysts saw his gaudy numbers from 2013 and 2014, leading them to believe he was ready to take over the show when Brandon Marshall was traded for a sixth-round pick to the Jets.
Jeffery benefited from Marshall’s ability to be moved all around the field, keeping the opposing defense honest. Looking closer at the numbers, it seems that Jeffery benefited the most around the goal line.
As you can see, he started seeing more targets per game once Marshall left, but his production actually declined. The sole reason for that is his lack of touchdowns. He saw 27 red zone targets over the last two years in 22 games, so if he had played all 16 games, he would’ve totaled close to 40 targets, or 20 per season. There were just 10 wide receivers who saw at least 20 red zone targets last season, so it’s not due to a lack of red zone targets.
He went from catching a touchdown every 17 targets with Marshall on the team, to catching a touchdown every 26 targets with him off the team. This is quite obvious, but Jeffery started to see opposing No. 1 cornerbacks in coverage, which would lead to a decline in production almost automatically, but his one touchdown every 26 targets ranked No. 95 last year of the 154 receivers who saw at least one target. No matter if you’re a No. 1 or No. 2, if you’re 6’3” and 216 pounds, you shouldn’t rank that low.
Marc Trestman Years
Another reason for the possible decrease in production could come from departure of offensive-guru Marc Trestman after the 2014 season, though he didn’t go on to do much with the Ravens wide receivers in the following years. If you look at Jeffery in the Trestman years, his numbers were even better. In this sample, he’s played in exactly 32 games with him and 32 games without him.
The question from all of this remains, is Alshon Jeffery a No. 1 wide receiver in both fantasy and real life? Going to the Eagles is going to be a change in culture, but they don’t have a Marshall on their team. Instead, they have Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz, and newly-acquired Torrey Smith. Are they enough to take attention away from Jeffery, and more importantly, are there enough targets to go around?
The Eagles threw the ball 50 more times than the Bears did in 2016, yet the Bears actually had two more passing touchdowns despite starting Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley for a majority of the season. Under Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz, the Eagles wide receivers scored just seven touchdowns, which was tied for the lowest in the NFL. Their wide receivers also accounted for just 48 percent of the targets, another league-low. While that’s likely the reason they went out and acquired Jeffery and Smith, it’s not a good sign for 2017 projections.
I’m expecting sophomore Carson Wentz to take a step forward in 2017, but let’s not pretend that he’s going from a 3,700-yard, 16-touchdown quarterback, to one that is throwing for 4,500 yards and 35 touchdowns. In my first run of projections, Wentz came in just over 4,200 yards and 25 touchdowns, which I felt was being generous.
The glass-half-full approach is that Jeffery took the best guaranteed deal he could get and bet on himself to get a bigger contract next off-season, but if his numbers say anything, it’s that he was never deserving of No. 1 wide receiver money. I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, Jeffery is a solid receiver, but he isn’t the player you might think he is. He should be taken right around the No. 18-20 receiver spot in fantasy drafts.