It appeared as if the Bucs wanted to keep DeSean Jackson just last week, but those rumors came to an abrupt end today when he was traded to the Eagles. In the trade, the Bucs sent Jackson and a 2020 seventh-round pick in exchange for the Eagles sixth-round pick in 2019.
GOING BACK HOME
For those who’ve followed the NFL for a while, you already know that Jackson is returning to where he started, as he was drafted by the Eagles and played for them from 2008 through 2013. He accumulated three 1,000-yard seasons while in Philadelphia and has recorded two more since that time, though none in his recent two-year stint in Tampa Bay. He’s going to be 33 years old in December, so he’s no longer going to be someone you draft as a top-20 wide receiver, but is he someone you can draft as a bye week filler?
DOUG PEDERSON’S NO. 2 RECEIVER
The Eagles are obviously under a different regime from the last time Jackson was there, so what’s his role going to look like with Doug Pederson at the helm? This may surprise some, but we have already seen what his role is going to be. After Pederson’s first season with the Eagles, they went out and signed Alshon Jeffery, then paired him with a veteran speedster to stretch the field opposite him in each of the last two seasons. First, it was Torrey Smith who walked in and saw 68 targets, hauling in 36 receptions for 430 yards and two touchdowns. Then it was Mike Wallace, though he broke his leg early in the season and couldn’t contribute, leading to the Eagles trading for Golden Tate and moving Nelson Agholor to the perimeter.
It appears the Eagles realized they needed to get Agholor back into the slot and bring a speedster to play opposite Jeffery. Going back to the time with Torrey Smith, his 68 targets he saw in 2017 is likely the territory that Jackson is looking at, though it’s fair to project him for slightly more. This is because Jackson isn’t very versatile as to where you can line him up and where he can be targeted. He took a few big hits early in his career running crossing routes over the middle of the field and it affected his playstyle. During the 2018 season, the Bucs only lined him up in the slot 16 percent of the time, which is very minimal.
Though it’s a limited sample size, there haven’t been two wide receivers in the Pederson offense who’ve each topped 95 targets in a season. Jeffery is clearly the alpha of the offense, averaging 7.3 targets per game, while Agholor has seen an average of 6.0 targets per game. What’s important to remember is that these target numbers (over the last two years) came while Darren Sproles and the running backs played a minimal role in the passing-game. The Eagles wide receivers have combined to average 289 targets per season since Pederson arrived, which would’ve ranked 22nd in 2018. If you assume that Jeffery plays a full 16-game season, he’s going to see his usual 115-125 targets, as there’s no reason he shouldn’t. From there, you start spreading them out among the other options, but the Eagles have already shown us just how important that slot role is when they traded away a third-round pick for Golden Tate. It’s realistic to dial back Agholor’s target share because Jackson’s more talented than Smith was, but he’s not at the point in his career where Pederson will (or should) change his offense to get Jackson more targets than the system allows.
Some may suggest that this move will breathe new life into Jackson’s career, but I’m not one of them. But make no mistake about it, this was a great move on the Eagles part, as Jackson can still make an impact with the way a defense lines up against you. He’s a better real-life option than fantasy option right now, and you can argue that it’s always been that way, as Jackson has been severely underrated as a player. The Eagles are also in the market for a running back, so whether that comes in the draft or free agency, they’re likely looking for one who can contribute a bit more in the passing-game, taking a slight chunk out of the potential target share. This trade has more of an impact on Carson Wentz, as Jackson has increased each and every quarterback’s yards per attempt when he’s in the lineup. As for Jackson, he’s going to pop-up on the fantasy radar from time-to-time, making him a decent best-ball WR5-type option, but let someone else take him in your redraft league. My early 2019 projection: 75 targets, 43 receptions, 678 yards, 4 touchdowns
— FantasyPros (@FantasyPros) March 11, 2019