Jeremy Maclin Isn't the Fantasy Football Asset You Think He Is
There is a narrative going around that, with an average draft position (ADP) in the late third/early fourth round, Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Maclin provides a nice weekly floor as a WR2 in fantasy football.
If one elects for a roster construction with high weekly variance, a steady source of fantasy points can be valuable.
How did Maclin attract such a narrative? For one thing, he plays alongside Alex Smith, whom the consensus views as consistent and solid but boring and devoid of weekly QB1 upside. And that has been largely the case for Smith.
Take into account that the Chiefs tied for 29th last season in pass attempts and Maclin would compete with tight end Travis Kelce for red zone targets, and I can understand how that narrative can be constructed.
Heck, I wanted to dig into Maclin because I thought he was undervalued in fantasy football because he’s so consistent. But the thing is, he isn’t, or at least it doesn't appear so after his debut season in Kansas City. He has a higher weekly ceiling than you think and a lower weekly floor.
Debunking the Narrative
Based on weekly consistency measured by standard deviations, the math supports the debunking of the Maclin narrative. Below is an excerpt describing his methodology.
Among 26 wide receivers with a weekly ceiling of at least 15 points, Maclin actually offered a lower weekly floor than players thought of as boom-or-bust such as Brandin Cooks, James Jones, and Mike Evans. Maclin, with a floor of 3.72 fantasy points per week, was closer to DeSean Jackson (3.00), Jordan Matthews (1.99), and Markus Wheaton (0.81) than Brandon Marshall (8.78) or Julio Jones (7.70).
But the thing is, Maclin’s ceiling was high -- but maybe not high enough to warrant his floor. His ceiling of 16.66 points was 21st out of the 26 players in the aforementioned players. Of course, that is picking from the receivers with the highest ceilings, but it also presents a few arbitrage opportunities. That is, there are receivers who better fit the profile we really want from Maclin in the 2015 season.
Of the 20 receivers with higher 2015 weekly ceilings than Maclin, 11 currently have higher ADPs, Martavis Bryant is suspended, Calvin Johnson is retired, and James Jones is likely to have less of a fantasy impact in San Diego without Aaron Rodgers, although Steve Johnson's injury could change that.
Remaining are Doug Baldwin, Julian Edelman, Emmanuel Sanders, Larry Fitzgerald, Allen Hurns, and Michael Floyd. With the exception of Sanders, each of those receivers also had a higher weekly floor, and we project similar seasonal lines for all except Hurns and Floyd.
Each of these players has their blemishes, from touchdown regression (Baldwin, Hurns) to competition for targets (Edelman) to Mark Sanchez (Sanders), but they are cheaper than Maclin.
On the Other Hand
If you, after reading the last few paragraphs, believe that Maclin is still a consistent week-to-week fantasy asset or that the data is noisy, you might be right. Over the last six weeks of the regular season, Maclin’s performance fit the narrative much tighter.
|Weeks||Games||WR1 (1-12)||WR2 (13-24)||WR3 (25-36)||WR4 or Lower|
Maclin finished inside the top 24 receivers in five of his last six games after doing so only three times in the first nine games. He also had no finishes below WR36 after five in the first nine games. One could say that Maclin got healthy, was used differently, or adjusted to the new situation, but I'm inclined to use the full season's worth of data and the improvement can somewhat be attributed to scoring five of his eight touchdowns in the final six games.
A few weeks into the season, I'd be willing to change my tune on Maclin if he continues his strong closing effort.
Given the drawbacks relating to the personnel surrounding him, plus Andy Reid’s conservative offensive scheme, Maclin is inherently riskier than receivers from offenses that pass the ball more frequently.
Still, he proved he could be a week-winner, scoring 84.9 fantasy points in his best three games and 115.4 in his best four, and he can be expected to lead the Chiefs in targets.
But at his current draft cost (based on the false narrative) and with cheaper and possibly better alternatives around, he’s probably not the optimal pick for your fantasy football team.