Can Marvin Jones Continue His Impressive Production?

Brought in to replace Calvin Johnson, Jones has started the year on fire. Will he keep producing at this level?

For nine straight seasons, the Detroit Lions featured one of the NFL's best ever receivers, Calvin Johnson.

But Detroit was faced with a tough task this offseason when Johnson retired -- somewhat unexpectedly. Needless to say, replacing a historically great receiver is no easy task.

With Johnson done, the Lions decided to bring in free agent Marvin Jones to see if he could help fill the void Johnson left.

So far, the transition from Johnson to Jones has gone well, as Jones already has a 205-yard receiving game under his belt. To put this into perspective, like Johnson, it took Jones five years to produce his first 200-plus-yard receiving game.

With one 200-yard game in the books, let's see just how well Jones is doing, and if he can keep producing at a high level.

Changing of the Guard

Between playing next to Keenan Allen in college and A.J. Green with the Cincinnati Bengals, Jones has a way of finding himself playing second fiddle to great receivers.

Now, getting to replace a great receiver, Jones finally has a chance to shine as the lead receiver in an offense.

Looking at his traditional statistics -- and his Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics -- we can see how Jones has transitioned from being the second option to top dog and see where his 2016 pace places him relative to his prior seasons.

Year Player Tar Rec Rec Yd TD Yd/Tar Yd at Rec/Rec Rec NEP Rec NEP/Tar Rec Success %
2012 Marvin Jones 32 18 201 1 6.28 9.06 12.79 0.40 94.44%
2013 Marvin Jones 80 51 712 10 8.9 9.43 81.65 1.02 92.16%
2015 Marvin Jones 103 65 816 4 7.92 8.02 68.50 0.67 84.62%
2016* Marvin Jones 126 72 1,928 8 16.62 12.87 131.16 1.13 83.33%

With the transition to being the top receiver, Jones' volume has increased accordingly, as he is on pace for both his most targets and receptions this year.

Like in past seasons though, Jones is no stranger to being targeted downfield based on his average yards at the catch for his career. This year, Jones is catching the ball even farther downfield than ever before for his career.

Due to being targeted more often, and as a more of a deep threat than ever before, Jones is now more boom-or-bust than ever before.

While his Reception NEP per target is the highest it has ever been -- and second among 66 wide receivers with at least 20 targets this year -- his Reception Success Rate is at its lowest, 32nd among the wide receivers this year.

For reference, 48 wide receivers saw at least 80 targets last year. The average Reception NEP per target was 0.71, and the average Reception Success Rate was 85.29%.

Jones' Reception NEP per target is far above average at 1.13, while his Reception Success Rate is below average right now.

Even if his efficiency is to drop, it should not fall far; rather, it should show that some regression is possible, but not a detrimental amount due to his ability to produce positive plays at about an average amount.

Filling the Void

Taking this one step further, we can see how Jones stacks up with Johnson, to see if he has inherited Johnson's former role and just how well he compares.

Year Player Tar Rec Rec Yd TD Yd/Tar Yd at Rec/Rec Rec NEP Rec NEP/Tar Rec Success %
2007 Calvin Johnson 95 48 796 4 8.38 N/A 63.10 0.66 89.58%
2008 Calvin Johnson 151 78 1,331 12 8.81 N/A 109.34 0.72 88.46%
2009 Calvin Johnson 136 67 984 5 7.24 9.6 80.59 0.59 83.58%
2010 Calvin Johnson 137 77 1,120 12 8.18 9.95 118.69 0.87 92.21%
2011 Calvin Johnson 158 96 1,681 16 10.64 11.83 142.07 0.90 94.79%
2012 Calvin Johnson 204 122 1,964 5 9.63 11.72 162.56 0.80 91.80%
2013 Calvin Johnson 156 84 1,492 12 9.56 11.82 143.56 0.92 95.24%
2014 Calvin Johnson 128 71 1,077 8 8.41 11.63 105.04 0.82 98.59%
2015 Calvin Johnson 149 88 1,214 9 8.15 10.68 105.07 0.71 90.91%

Based on their average catch points, Jones is truly inheriting Johnson's role as the main target and deep threat in the Detroit offense.

Right now, Jones is posting a higher Reception NEP per target than Johnson ever did, but his Reception Success Rate is in line with Johnson's worst year.

This further illustrates that, while Jones is playing very well, he should regress some moving forward this year; however, he is rightfully entrenched in Johnson's former role.

With Jones on pace for nearly 2,000 yards this year, he can afford for his efficiency to slip some if Matthew Stafford is to target him more. Based on his current performance, Jones absolutely deserves an increase in targets to feed him like a team's true top receiver.

A Look Ahead

While Jones is not Johnson, he is filling in very well to date; however, the Lions' schedule toughens up moving forward.

With matchups against tough passing defenses in the Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams, Houston Texans, and Minnesota Vikings over the next five weekends, we are about to find out just how good Jones can and will be.