By Dan Rosier (@theBleagueSays)
Retrospect is a beautiful thing.
In 2018, we looked for justification for narratives ad nauseaum and with reasonable cause as, like the majority of fantasy football players last season, we searched to justify the things that may or may not have worked out for our decision making in the long run.
Without harping on again about last season’s thesis of Value, Volume, and Validation, it is hard not to notice trends that are forming now within various forms of gameplay that will only be exaggerated when the majority of casual gamers come back towards the end of July heading into draft season.
Some of these narratives were great like - readily available targets (Hi Miami target share, sans Jarvis Landry), the influx of rookie quarterbacks loving their tight ends (remember #DavidNjokuSZN when Baker Mayfield arrived), star recruit free agents on the move and their impact and naturally the excitement around rookies like Saquon Barkley and others. Where the rookies were touted and vouched for and how much work they would hypothetically be lined up for had almost everyone in the fantasy football world riled up (remember when Calvin Ridley was the new number one because Julio Jones was a no show at the start of O.T.A’s?) - yep, that was a fun one!
One of my favorite things to do (purely because I lead a very boring life) is to watch the fluctuation of A.D.P. and the (oh god, don’t say it) value it provides. An example of opportunity is Josh Jacobs, who has jumped from the 12th round in mid-March prior to the rookie draft, now sees himself flying into the top of the 5th round. He is likely to climb higher as many will reach for him when seasons get closer to starting up. Jacobs’ landing spot, a clear path to touches, great opportunity chance and in best-ball formats - could be a steal at current value.
Speaking along the lines of value, and more importantly, veterans going in the opposite direction in 2018. Take a guy like Emmanuel Sanders, who not only provided in my opinion one of the best value buys in 2018 but ended up a must-start on a weekly basis from the get-go. Sanders finished as the WR22 in 2018, however, he did succumb to an Achilles Tendon tear late in the season at practice after they played the Bengals - which was crazy to think that with a lot of the season left to play he was traveling at 98-71-868-4 TDs as it were. Sanders, at the time was the WR15 prior to his demise, which is a testament to how great his season was considering he only dropped back 7 places by the end of the year.
What have we learned? We have learned that with hype and natural enthusiasm propping some up high (quite high), there is definitely opportunity to snap up some veteran players as some slip down the ranks, such as Sanders in 2018. Unnoticed who as he was – Sanders was drafted in most formats anywhere between the late 6th into the late 8th Rounds.
Who is it this year that I have my eye on (and hopefully you do too) based on the narrative of ‘veteran being pushed back due to reasons that generally have nothing to do with him at all’?
Marvin Jones Jr, Detroit Lions, Wide Receiver.
I’d like to say right of the beginning that 2018 for Jones wasn’t that bad; it’s just that the Lions were that bad. To make it worse, Jones missed the back half of the season due to a knee injury which had him kit up for only the 10 weeks, but it seems now that it was more preventative than anything considering it was around the same time star rookie running back Kerryon Johnson was omitted from the field. Weirdly for Jones, it was not really made clear to the public what the injury was, even though his knee ultimately required surgery. Jones on the back of a ‘down’ year is looking to rebound in a big way and hold on to the Lions’ second receiver of note. This despite the addition of Danny Amendola and 2019’s eighth pick overall in this year’s draft, tight end T.J. Hockenson.
In 2018 (via fantasyfootballcalculater.com), Jones was the 26th wide receiver off the board usually drafted at or near the fifth round, and as a result of time and circumstances, is now falling to the back of the eighth round as the WR36 among receivers like former teammate and now New York Giant Golden Tate, the enigmatic Corey Davis, rookie D.K. Metcalf and the still somewhat unproven James Washington.
To further cement this dip in love, in March, Jones was being drafted in the mid-sixth. Then free agency and the rookie draft takes place and suddenly, bam! Within two months the guy is an afterthought in the mid-late eighth round - without doing anything to quantify it.
Now again, remember he was available for only nine games, and context matters here; but it was the first year since 2014 (where he didn’t play at all) that he was held under 100 targets in a season. It was the first year since his rookie season in 2012 where he was held under 50 receptions and there was some touchdown regression from 2017 when he punched above his weight with nine scores. He still landed five touchdowns last year and again, that was in nine games. Jones, for the record finished with a 62-35-505-5 TD season. In 16 team leagues, he gave owners: one WR1 game as the WR1 overall vs Seattle in Week 8, three WR2 performances and three WR3 performances in nine games, returning some of the fifth-round value you dropped into him. Until he left for the year in week 10, he was the WR26 (which was his A.D.P.) at the time, ironically he was only 0.5 points behind Golden Tate (drafted as the WR22 in the early 5th Round), and only 6.1 points behind Kenny Golladay (drafted as the WR55 in the mid-11th Round).
His numbers, all considering, isn’t too bad statistically either. Per nextgenstats.nfl.com, Marvin Jones ranked ninth in overall receivers for Average Target of Air Yards with 15.2. That’s ahead of guys like Tyreek Hill (14.8) and Will Fuller (14.6), which is even more consistent with how he can be deployed as he was ranked seventh in 2017 in the same area (15.3 ATAY), which was telling, because in the same year he was tied for third overall with a cluster of receivers for touchdowns too. Via playerprofiler.com, Jones also collected 25% of the teams red zone targets (11) with an impressive 54.2% end zone targets (13), while ranking 15th overall with a 92.9% snap share, while hitting roughly 15% of those snaps out of the slot. All of this sounds good, and I understand the Danny Amendola addition out of the slot, but Golden Tate did leave nearly 70 targets (yes, another offseason narrative) on the table. It’s good to know that Jones can fill the role inside as well.
One of the bigger knocks on Jones is that he isn’t durable, which is fine, but this is the first time in three years where he hasn’t played 13 or more games in a full season. It was the majority of his time in Cincinnati that skews his numbers as he started eight games in two years, and essentially missed the 2014 season, but he ultimately rebounded in a big way in 2015 before heading to Detroit. Up until this past season he had only missed one game.
All of this sounds fine, but there are two scenarios that I am keeping an eye on for Jones in 2019:
The first scenario is his offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who takes over from Jim Bob Cooter this season. Bevell has been out of work since 2017, when he and the Seattle Seahawks split, and after two Super Bowl appearances in his time with one win, you can somewhat figure out the approach that Bevell may take. Seattle was notorious for a heavy run game (then and now), and Bevell had much success when the team grabbed Jimmy Graham - which may explain the T.J. Hockenson addition. The potential run-first, risk-averse, time control spirit that Bevell brings may stall our hopes for higher volume coming Jones’ way.
The second scenario is what is in store for Marvin Jones Jr.’s post-2019? He is a U.F.A. in 2021, and if there was ever a time to cut him, I’d think it wouldn't be until 2020 where he carries about a $2.7m dead cap hit, but as we saw last season with Golden Tate, he may be appealing for a contender to acquire via trade.
Here is the beautiful thing. At this rate, Marvin Jones Jr. is going to keep slipping. He has dropped nearly ten to twelve places amongst wide receivers in the past two months alone. And as I mentioned when the mass of fantasy managers come back for this years’ draft, there is a chance that, like the before mentioned Emmanuel Sanders, Jones Jr. is one of the veterans that goes unnoticed. Put him on your list and could be a steal for you when the season starts.
And there you have it! Thank you for taking time out of your day to read this and connecting with us at The Back Row Board for The Back Row Fantasy Show.
Check out Chris Foster’s work on the also for a much smarter view than mine - I accept this, I know where I am in life (which I’m mildly fine with) and his work is fantastic so please check it out and follow him @FootballNuke. You can find me as always at @TheBLeagueSays.
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