Is Brandon Marshall Worth Drafting in Fantasy Football?
Brandon Marshall certainly fell on hard times last year.
The long-time fantasy stud finished as the PPR WR49 in fantasy football leagues, after finishing as the overall WR3 in 2015. Like the New York Jets, the 2016 version of Marshall often seemed dinged up and ineffective. Getting released and signing a very modest deal with the New York Giants doesn't help the impression that Marshall is a player to fade.
Marshall's redraft average draft position (ADP) ranges from WR29 (ADP 60) at Fantasy Football Calculator to WR34 (ADP 71) in recent My Fantasy League MFL10 Best Ball leagues. Is that a fair price for the aging star?
It's a fair question to ask. To answer it, let's first put 2016 into proper perspective and then forecast his 2017.
Marshall's 2016 in Context
To illustrate the impact quarterback play likely had on Marshall's performance, look no further than the performance of Marshall's recent signal callers.
According to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which quantifies how many points a player adds or subtracts from his team's expected output, 2016 was a bad year for the Jets' passing attack.
|Year||Full Name||Drop Backs||Passing NEP||Passing NEP/P||Pos Avg|
In 2015, Ryan Fitzpatrick was slightly above average as a passer (0.14 Passing NEP per drop back compared to a league average of 0.11). In 2016, not so much.
Both Fitzpatrick and Bryce Petty were not only below league average but produced negative expected points. Ouch. Even adjusting for schedule, the Jets ranked 30th as a team by Adjusted Passing NEP per play in 2016.
Given the scattershot nature of the targets received, it would be no wonder if Marshall struggled. So how did Marshall actually fare in 2016?
|Season||Reception NEP / Target||Reception NEP / Reception|
|2006 to 2015 Average||0.68||1.14|
There's no sugarcoating the fact that Marshall performed poorly on a Reception NEP per target basis last year. His mark of 0.58 ranked 36th out of 41 wide receivers with 100 or more targets. He also came in well below his 2015 and career averages.
On the other hand, among the same cohort of receivers, Marshall was 10th-best in terms of Reception NEP per catch. What does that mean? What we're seeing here looks like the effect of the poor quarterback play.
Marshall had a hard time doing much with the targets sent his way, but when he did manage to catch one, he was as effective as he's ever been.
That idea is reinforced by his sterling 91.67 percent Reception Success Rate, the percentage of catches that led to positive NEP gains. That was a career high for Marshall and ranked 10th among 44 receivers with at least 60 catches.
So what can we expect in 2017?
Brandon Gdula recently highlighted wide receivers due to experience some positive touchdown regression in 2017, and Marshall made the list. That makes sense, based not only on Marshall's career performance (a 5.4 percent touchdown rate versus just 2.3 percent last year), but because he's going to play with a better quarterback.
Eli Manning's 0.06 Passing NEP per drop back in 2016 wasn't great, but it's well ahead of what Marshall had to work with last season.
Better quarterback play should facilitate a boost in Marshall's efficiency, and our projections reflect that. numberFire projects Marshall for about 180 PPR points in 2017, a mark that would have been good for a WR37 finish last year. Using that as a baseline, Marshall is close to fairly valued at his current ADP. However, I think there might be some upside here.
The Giants attempted 598 passes last season, but roughly 175 of them went to players who are no longer on the team. Some of those will go to rookie tight end Evan Engram, but remember that rookie tight ends don't often amass large target totals.
Last year's duo of Larry Donnell and Will Tye accounted for more than 90 targets, but we project Engram for just 63. Victor Cruz vacates 72 targets. Roger Lewis (19 targets) may not make the team due to off-field issues.
Sterling Shepard (105 targets) was just average in terms of Reception NEP per target and per catch, so Marshall could steal some work from him, as well. Put it all together, and Marshall could see more targets than currently projected.
I'm not banking on extra targets just yet, but the potential upside in volume, along with an expected increase in efficiency and positive touchdown regression, makes me comfortable taking Marshall at his current ADP. If he falls below the middle of the sixth round in 12-team leagues, I'd happily draft him.