Brandon Marshall Addresses a Big Need for the New York Giants

With Marshall going to the Giants, can he help ignite an offense that dragged the team down in 2016?

Brandon Marshall has spent the past half decade playing in dynamic, two-wide receiver systems. With both Eric Decker and Alshon Jeffery, Marshall had a solid complement who could divert the defense's attention.

Now, he gets to be that diversion for some guy named Odell Beckham.

This is going to be fun.

Marshall is coming off arguably the second-worst season of his career, and 2017 will be his age-33 season. So how will he assist Eli Manning and the rest of the New York Giants' offense?

We can get a glimpse at this using numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP), the metric we use to track the efficiency of both teams and players with the team metrics being adjusted for strength of schedule.

With Marshall, we'll largely be focusing on Target NEP, which shows the expected points added (or subtracted) each time Marshall is targeted. Target NEP takes into account what he adds on each reception while also accounting for incompletions and interceptions when Marshall is the intended target.

The Giants already have a top-level defense in place after the upgrades they made last offseason. Can Marshall be the piece that elevates the offense? Let's dive in and check it out.

In Need of an Upgrade

You probably don't need to be told about the Giants' struggles offensively. It seemed clear that they were the missing cog holding the defense down, and the analytics back that up.

They finished the season ranked 22nd in Adjusted Passing NEP per play and 26th overall as an offense. When your defense is the second-best unit in the league behind the Denver Broncos, you need to be making some changes to the offense in order to make the most of it.

Specifically, the Giants needed some serious help for their deep passing game. Manning has struggled here in each of the past two seasons, including a 21st-place finish in Passing NEP per attempt on throws at least 16 yards downfield this year out of 26 total quarterbacks with at least 70 deep passes. This was one spot behind Marshall's former quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was benched twice throughout the year. Sub-Gucci.

In Marshall and Beckham, the Giants now have two players who are heavily involved in that part of the field. Here are their respective market shares on deep attempts the past two seasons.

Deep Target Market Shares 2015 2016
Odell Beckham 39.80% 38.14%
Brandon Marshall 32.31% 35.29%

Even though both Marshall and Beckham struggled with their efficiency on deep passes in these seasons, they were among the league's leaders in target market share down the field.

Adding Marshall into the fold will do a couple of things to aid the offense. First, it'll draw at least some coverage away from Beckham on deep passes. Second, it should open up the offense more underneath for Sterling Shepard in the slot. That was something Victor Cruz could not do last year with just 17 of his targets coming at least 16 yards downfield, a 17.53% target market share.

Obviously, though, after the struggles Marshall had last year, it's not as if the Giants are adding what Marshall was in his prime. And even when you account for quarterback play, the numbers from Marshall's 2016 are scary.

A Down Season

If you owned Marshall in fantasy football last year, you know that it was a rough season. That may not even show just how bad it all was, though.

There were 60 wide receivers who had at least 80 targets in 2016. Of those, Marshall ranked 56th in Target NEP per target, which illustrates the success of the offense whenever they went his way. The guys beneath him were Allen Robinson, Jeremy Kerley, Jermaine Kearse, and Tavon Austin. Outside of Robinson, this isn't the company Marshall is used to keeping.

That said, a stat like Target NEP per target is going to draw heavy influence from the receiver's quarterback because it factors in expected points lost on interceptions. And Fitzpatrick had a few of those. Instead, we should probably be comparing Marshall to his teammates to account for this, but even that doesn't fully cleanse Marshall of the stank.

Player Targets Target NEP Target NEP per Target
Brandon Marshall 128 0.87 0.01
Quincy Enunwa 105 13.87 0.13
Robby Anderson 78 -2.07 -0.03
Charone Peake 35 2.64 0.08

Marshall was out-performed by Quincy Enunwa and Charone Peake, who were playing with the same quarterbacking limitations. A lot of this likely has to do with the coverage Marshall saw, but it should make the Giants just a wee bit nervous.

This means 2017 will be a big test for Marshall. He once again has a star on the opposite side of the field, and this time, it's his best cohort yet. If 2016 was the beginning of the end for Marshall, then his addition may not do much for the Giants. But if it was just the result of being the lone ranger within a bad offense, he could help rejuvenate Manning and the rest of the bunch.


Overall, this isn't a huge contract for the Giants to give up. Snagging Marshall for roughly $6 million per year is a solid buy-low investment, and he fits a big need for the passing offense.

The contract here is key for Marshall. Because the cost is so low, it doesn't prevent the Giants from going out and addressing their other pressing needs on the offensive line. Finding a left tackle who can keep Manning upright is important, and it will allow Manning to utilize his new toys at receiver.

Marshall isn't the player he used to be, but the Giants aren't paying him for that. This salary is more reflective of a role player who can fill a need within their offense, an area they had to address this season. Marshall as he was last year could still contribute to this team, and if he has anything extra left in the tank, this could wind up being a really solid signing for New York.