By: Zach Haugen (Twitter: @zhaugenfootball)
Player Analysis: Brandon Marshall
People love shiny new toys in all walks of life, and that rings just as true in the fantasy football world. Everyone wants the young gun with the seemingly limitless ceiling, that hasn’t proven anything. It is fun to pick the break out guy correctly, and it is embarrassing to draft the grizzled vet the year their production falls of a cliff. This is the reason Fournette is going in the second round as a 2 down back on a bad offense, while Frank Gore continues to go in the 8th round like he does every year. Sometimes the grizzled vets are the ones that get the job done though. I will admit that Gore is the extreme outlier producing at a starter level at his age for a running back, but wide receivers have a handful of historically productive years after turning 30, yet continue to get written off. Jordy Nelson just dominated fantasy football last year at the age of 31. This is why I don’t understand why people are writing off Brandon Marshall this year.
Sure, last year was rough for Marshall, but he still saw 128 targets in 15 games. This is actually a career low for him in seasons where Marshall plays at least 14 games (excluding his rookie year). Let’s take a look at the numbers to see just how dominant Marshall has been on his past teams.
As you can see Marshall has been as dominant in passing statistic market share as it gets, with career averages (in years of 14 games or more) of almost 30% of passing targets, and almost 34% of the teams receiving touchdowns. To see just how dominant he has been, try to guess how many times in those 9 qualifying seasons he has reached the rare threshold of 100 catches. He has reached this mark 6 times out of those 9 qualifying years. That is absurd! The 3 years he didn’t reach 100 catches he had quarterback play consisting of Chad Henne, Matt Moore, Chad Pennington, and last year’s debacle that was the New York Jets.
Just for the fun of it let us apply those averages to what he might see on the Giants this year. This chart shows the passing attempts and passing touchdowns of the Giants since Ben McAdoo took over the offense in 2014.
Note that they have been one of the pass heaviest offenses in the NFL all 3 years, and with the offseason additions to the receiving corps, and lack of investment in the backfield, I expect that to continue in 2017. If we apply Marshall’s career average market shares with the Giants 3 year averages, Marshall would end up with 181 targets and 10.3 touchdowns, which would make him a very elite WR1.
Now look, I understand this projection isn’t reasonable as this is the first time ever that Marshall has played second fiddle on his own team, and some guy named Odell Beckham Jr. will take a Texas sized slice out of that passing game pie. Marshall even admitted after the signing he was content ceding the lead role to Odell. But I think this exercise still showed just how dominant Marshall could be in this pass heavy offense with competent quarterback play, which is something that was sorely lacking last year for him. I have no problem projecting Marshall for 20-21% target market share and 22-25% of the receiving touchdowns. That is a career low in target share and well below average in touchdown share. If you apply that to the Giants 3 year average under McAdoo, Marshall is projected for 125 targets and about 7 touchdowns.
I understand that you can’t expect WR1 production from a 33-year-old wide receiver stuck behind one of the best young receivers in the league, but you also don’t have to pay that price. Marshall has been a security blanket for quarterbacks for years, and should continue to thrive in that role for the Giants with Odell taking all the double teams down field. I understand the risk, but in redraft leagues I am more than happy to spend a mid round pick on one of the best wide receivers of the last decade, on a pass first team, with competent quarterback play. He makes for a solid value at your WR2 spot.
In dynasty leagues, it’s hard to invest much in a wide receiver that admitted he is likely in the last couple years of his career. Fortunately, you don’t have to invest much in Marshall these days. Dynasty is just as much about competing now as it is building for the future, and I would be perfectly content spending a double-digit startup pick on a guy who can be my WR2 for the next couple years. He can also be had for cheap in dynasty trades if you are a team competing for a championship right now.