Thanks to the hard work of our own Ryan McDowell, we have some interesting ADP data to analyze. After February’s information was posted, I went through some of the rankings and picked players who had close draft positions. I presented a couple of the pairings to fellow writer Chad Scott and after several attempts we found two players we disagreed on. To be fair, I would happily take either side in this fight and I think a solid case could be made for both guys. The two players we will debate are Kendall Wright (ADP 85) and DeSean Jackson (ADP 90).
I’d like to open my argument by stating the players’ physical attributes.
Kendall Wright is 5’10”, 196 pounds while DeSean Jackson is 5’10”, 178 pounds and I think that is being generous. Wright looks like an actual NFL wide receiver, but Jackson not so much. He also has a good three year age difference on Jackson. DJax has missed a total of nine games in his five year career and has been knocked out of four more games. His body isn’t meant to take the weekly punishment in the NFL. Owners fear for his safety whenever the diminutive receiver is hit.
What he lacks in size, he more than makes up for in speed and confidence. He’s probably the best receiver in the league, if you ask him. Whenever the ball’s in his hands, he’s a threat to take it all the way. He’s one of the most electric players the NFL has to offer, yet I’m not sold on him in a Chip Kelly offense. I do, however, think his per game numbers will increase, but I highly doubt he’ll be able to play a full season with the added exposure he will get.
Wright, on the other hand, has an NFL ready body that can take punishment if the defenders can catch him. Like Jackson, Wright is able to take the top off of defenses on any given play. I love him going forward in dynasty leagues and that’s why I chose him.
Wright quietly had a solid rookie season by leading the Titans in both targets (95) and receptions (64) despite missing one game. He cracked his ribs in week 15 against the Jets and sat out the next week versus the Packers. I’m pretty sure Jackson would have missed half the season if he had the same injury.
Wright was utilized in the screen game and short-to-intermediate routes – not exactly what he was drafted for after being taken in the first round with the 20th overall pick in last year’s NFL Draft. The speedster from Baylor was more accustomed to the deep ball during his college tenure, but developed into more of a possession receiver in 2012. Much of that had to do with his quarterbacks, Jake Locker and Matt Hasselbeck.
Locker’s left shoulder popped out of place during the season opener and again in week four, causing the 2011 first round pick to miss five games. He came back in week ten, but admitted he was never very comfortable for the duration of the season. Locker has never been a very accurate passer going back to his days at the University of Washington. In 2011, in limited duty, Locker completed just over 51% of his passes. In 2012, he upped that number to just over 56%. Locker has a strong arm, but was rarely asked to throw the ball downfield. He had just 49 attempts of 20 yards or more (QB24), but was accurate on 40.8% of those throws (QB15).
Locker had surgery on his non-throwing shoulder in early January, which should give him plenty of time to rehabilitate and get ready for the off-season workouts. Wright played much better when Hasselbeck was his quarterback. During the weeks Hasselbeck was the starter, Wright was the WR32 or a startable WR3. During the weeks with Locker, he was the WR57 or barely worth a bench spot.
Wright and Locker will need to get on the same page this off-season as soon as Locker is ready to throw. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains has already come out and said the offense will be simplified for Locker by taking the “less is more” approach. The effect Loggains will have on the offense will be significant to the fantasy value of the Titans’ passing game. The former quarterbacks coach will utilize Locker’s talents far better than the man he took over for, Chris Palmer, by rolling him out and allowing him to throw the ball downfield more frequently. For this to happen, the Titans will have to fix the offensive line this off-season via the draft or free agency which is something to keep tabs on.
What it comes down to me is opportunity and the opportunity to get injured. I think both will have plenty of opportunities to make big fantasy contributions to your fake football teams in 2013 and beyond, but am confident Wright will outlast Jackson from an injury perspective.
Both have reasonable ADPs. Wright sits at 85.9 while Jackson is being taken around 90.83. Give me the younger, bigger receiver who has shown he can have increased value in a PPR format. The opportunity is going to be there – it’s up to him and his quarterback to seize it.
Kendall Wright is a promising young receiver and likely has a bright NFL career ahead of him. He’s in a decent situation with a clearly defined role, but he lacks a legitimate quarterback. Wright’s value is partially dependent on the ability of Jake Locker to improve or the Titans ability to upgrade the quarterback situation in the near future. He was billed as a dynamic open field threat with enormous yards after the catch potential. Unfortunately, he ranked #29 in the league with an average 5.2 yards after the catch – that isn’t going to cut it for player who is only 5’9” and weighs just 196 lbs. He lacks long speed (4.61 40) and will need to improve his open field playmaking moving forward to make an impact for your fake team. He looked more like a possession receiver in his rookie season and unless he is getting a huge volume of targets, the upside is limited.
DeSean Jackson has been in the league since 2008 and has led his team in receiving yards every season except for his injury shortened 2012 campaign. The first two seasons of his career he had Donovan McNabb throwing to him and he tallied over 2,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. During Michael Vick’s renaissance year, he racked up another 1,000 yard season with six more touchdowns. Like most of the Eagles’ offense, his numbers plummeted with Vick’s regression and injuries. In short, he’s been a consistent contributor with legitimate quarterback play.
That’s all well and good, but 1,000 yards and five touchdowns aren’t unattainable totals for Wright by any stretch. So, why am I buying DeSean Jackson over Kendall Wright?
First, Jackson has proven to be a big play threat while Wright’s biggest play was 38 yards – that’s pretty simple.
Secondly, Chip Kelly should breathe some fresh air into the Eagles offense. Kelly took over as head coach for the Oregon Ducks in 2009. He went on to lead some of the most explosive offenses College football has ever seen. The year he took over, Oregon running backs averaged 5.5 yards per carry and they averaged six yards or more over his final two seasons. The wide receivers averaged at least 11 yards per catch during his tenure. The closest thing he had to a true number one receiver was Jeff Maehl in 2009 and 2010 – Maehl had over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns in his final season as a Duck.
Kelly’s offense is based primarily on two things – speed and getting the ball to playmakers in space. He does this by spreading out the defense through three and four receiver sets and utilizing a running quarterback. This style forces defenders to process a large amount of information in a fraction of a second. If the plan works out, defenders hesitate, resulting in open space for offensive playmakers. The Eagles’ two most explosive open field threats are LeSean McCoy and Jackson. I expect both to have bounce back seasons in 2013 with featured roles.
Most recently, Kelly’s featured players have been LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner. James is 5’8” and 194 lbs and Barner is 5’11” and 193 lbs. DeSean Jackson is 5’10” and weighs 175 pounds. Jackson ran the fastest forty of the three and fits the mold of a featured player in the quick tempo offense. I recognize Jackson doesn’t play the running back position, but you saw what Kelly’s system did for Maehl.
Jackson has averaged an astounding 17.5 yards per catch over his career or about eight more yards than Wright’s rookie campaign. He won’t likely see the deep ball as often, but he should see significantly more opportunities with space. I can envision Vick or Dennis Dixon, McCoy and Jackson all lined up in the backfield at times with Jackson seeing a handful of rushing attempts each week. Due to increased snaps for the entire offense and a featured role moving forward, 80 catches and about 50 carries sounds attainable. Assuming he averaged at least 15 yards per catch and five yards per carry (slightly less than the average for those position at Oregon under Kelly), that comes out to 1,450 total yards. Mix in five to seven touchdowns and you have a borderline WR1 moving forward.
Chad and I set out to debate which player would be the better pick in the 85-90 range of dynasty drafts. I don’t know if either one of us won the debate, but I think we did a nice job laying out pros and cons of each player. In summary, Chad’s buying the solid build and relatively safe situation Wright has fallen into. He’s relying on improvement at the quarterback position with the addition of a new offense coordinator. I’m buying the riskier upside of DeSean Jackson. I’m counting on a feature role in a fast paced Chip Kelly offense and good health. Ultimately, you have to decide for yourself, but I hope this helps if you’re on the clock with a tough decision to make.