Just five days after the Eagles released DeSean Jackson that coincided with a smear campaign on his character, Jackson already has found a new home in the NFC East. Just two years after signing a five-year extension to stay in Philadelphia, Jackson inked a three-year deal in Washington. Without taking any further potshots at the Eagles agenda on his way out of the door, or any extracurricular activities that may involve Jackson, we’re going to focus strictly on how he fits and how his presence affects the other fantasy pass catchers in his new home from here on out.
Other Fantasy Free Agency news:
Fantasy Football: Ben Tate, Recency Bias and The Young Shanahan
Fantasy Football: Can Golden Tate Be Calvin Johnson‘s Right Hand Man?
Fantasy Football: Rashad Jennings and the Fall of David Wilson
Fantasy Football: Donald Brown in San Diego
Fantasy Football: Eric Decker, The Jets, And The Infinite Sadness
2013 Desean, Consistent Inconsistency and The Long Ball
Desean Jackson Career Numbers
*RRTD = Rushing/Receiving/Return TD
Last season, Jackson trumped his career high in receptions, yardage and equaled his high in receiving touchdowns at age 27. When you connect the dots to the unexpected output from Riley Cooper and Nick Foles a season ago, there’s one common denominator to all of that inflation, Chip Kelly.
It’s only been one season, but Kelly appears to be a talent maximizer. Jackson ran 26.5 percent of his routes from the slot a season ago, after running under twenty percent every year of his career except for one (22.6 percent in 2009). That slot usage didn’t create more scores for him, but it did allow for his reception total to get over a five per game average for the first time ever, after he had eclipsed a four catch per game average only twice in his career.
Washington also recently signed Andre Roberts this offseason, who has run over fifty percent of his routes from the slot in every season of his four-year career except for 2011. While Jay Gruden could continue to move Jackson around some, he was very likely brought in for one reason, his big play ability.
Jackson has scored 39 regular season touchdowns in his career, but 29 have come from outside the red zone. His reliance on the big play to reach pay dirt is what has made his fantasy production so unstable in his career, as evidence by his up and down touchdown totals above.
Last season he finished the year as PPR WR12, but was a top 24 performer in only eight weeks. Even in his best statistical season ever, Jackson was still completely wishy-washy as a weekly performer. He’s always going to be a player where his cumulative totals mask what he gives you per week because of that big play panache. But that home run hitter is exactly what Washington needs on the real football field.
Desean Jackson on Targets of 20+ Yards
*Table provided by Pro Football Focus
Jackson may have only one true trick, but it is a good one. He’s grabbed 42 percent of his deep targets in his career and averages 27 of those targets per season. 22 of his 32 touchdowns receiving have been on such throws, something that the Shanaclan and Gruden do very differently within their offenses.
Passing Targets 20 + Yards Downfield
*Table provided by Pro Football Focus
Robert Griffin’s deep passing plummeted a season ago when Washington wasn’t able to build leads with their unique ground attack, creating home run opportunities that stemmed from play action. Pierre Garcon hasn’t had more than six receptions on these types of targets since 2009, and has only seven such receptions in his two seasons in Washington. Outside of Aldrick Robinson, Washington hasn’t had a truly viable deep option while Griffin has been there. Going back to the wide open system that Griffin operated in while at Baylor, Jackson is a perfect fit for his playing style.
Gruden threw caution to the wind immediately in Andy Dalton’s career; a player who we all can agree doesn’t have near the talent of Griffin in any facet of the position. In Dalton’s rookie season alone, he had as many completions on deep throws as Griffin has had in his first 28 games. Nearly one third (31.3 percent) of Dalton’s 80 total touchdown passes have come on deep targets.
C.D. Carter’s Three Part Series on Jay Gruden :
Fantasy Football: Jay Gruden in Washington – Alfred Morris
Fantasy Football: Jay Gruden in Washington: Fantasy Fallout Part 2
Fantasy Football: Jay Gruden in Washington: Fantasy Fallout Part 1
Scoring Fantasy Points
Between the 20’s, Washington has a formidable set of chain movers that Jackson should clear area for. Garcon was essentially used as a bigger version of Antonio Brown a season ago. Although he was under par for efficiency, massive volume made him a viable weekly fantasy play. Gruden has pumped his WR1 full of targets in his three seasons calling plays, averaging 152 targets per season, but that target was also A.J. Green.
His secondary receivers in Cincinnati were never consistently used, but they also were never consistent in personnel either. From Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones, Andrew Hawkins, Jerome Simpson to Andre Caldwell, those steady targets going to Green were necessary much like Garcon was getting his a season ago because the offense had little continuity at the position. With a set trio in Garcon, Jackson and Roberts, you can likely anticipate in the area of 320 targets split across that group.
Jordan Reed is helped in theory by Jackson clearing space, but that was space that Reed was already getting from the play action and boot legs that were staples from the Shanaclan offense. Not that he’s of similar talent, but in similar opportunities as Reed, Logan Paulsen also was effective in the passing game last year.
Gruden has been attached to two first round tight ends with elite college pass catching pedigree and done nothing with either in their early careers. That could be part himself, part Dalton and part Jermaine Gresham and rookie Tyler Eifert, but Reed could be a potential fantasy let down next season.
There’s still good news as tight end coach Sean McVay will be calling plays under Gruden, so he knows what he has with Reed already and may keep some of those old plays from the previous regime around. The other strength that Reed has going for him, is his surrounding cast has struggled at scoring when the field shrinks.
Career Red Zone Production
Outside of Reed, Garcon is the only regular target that weighs 200 pounds and not one of the trio of receivers is over six feet tall. At 6-foot-3 and 236 pounds, Reed is the best option to score touchdowns when they are in the football phone booth. Even if Reed loses out on some of his ceiling that was going to surround him as basically the WR2 in the offense, he should still have touchdown upside by default if Gruden uses his personnel correctly.
Settling Fantasy Dust
This offense is pretty interesting and of course is in a division that is home to some suspect defenses. The big winner here is Griffin; whose masochist playing style and down 2012 will likely push him to the lower pile of QB1’s this summer. If you can capture nearly any of the fantasy juice that Gruden squeezed from Dalton, he should exceed expectations throwing the football. The only problem is there are quarterback points to be had everywhere, so wait for him to come to you in drafts if you must have him.
Jackson is a player I typically hate to own because he comes with little red zone ability and you’re forced to ride weekly highs and lows with him because he costs you solid draft equity. For those looking for a non-receiving boost, he has just 13 rushing attempts for 36 yards and 32 punt returns with a 5.7 return average combined over the past three seasons. Factor in that he’s coming off of a career year and wide receivers normally don’t perform well for fantasy in new surroundings, and he won’t be on any teams next season unless he’s low hanging fruit.
Garcon isn’t a player I’ll set out to avoid, but in most leagues he’ll be valued higher than I perceive him because of his inflated numbers from default volume in a dysfunctional offense a season ago. Some of those targets will be lost in 2014, but he should get some efficiency back with more touchdowns. He’ll likely never be a top ten receiver, but he’s also not going to bury you either. He’s an ideal WR2 for fantasy purposes. Roberts is going to give you Doug Baldwin-ish type of production. Rostering him isn’t going to win you anything, even if an injury occurs to Jackson or Garcon. He’s just a far better real player than fantasy one.
When it comes to Reed, the fact that he’s a tight end hurts his redraft stock already. There’s just no need to reach for tight ends if you play in a traditional start one league. Factor in his unknown usage and scary concussion history from a season ago, and he’s someone I will let other owners pay for.
As far the backs out of the backfield go, Pat Thorman of Pro Football Focus penned an excellent piece on Alfred Morris’ prospects in the offense, which are strictly tied to running the football. Change of pace back Roy Helu was really ineffective out of the backfield a season ago, so let other owners chase what they think is the next Gio Bernard. With Andre Roberts in place, don’t anticipate a huge role for the backs catching passes.