Is Marvin Jones a Wide Receiver Value Pick This Year?

Marvin Jones' nose for the end zone in 2013 made him valuable. Is he slated for an encore in 2014?

In today's information and product-crazed market, the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses" has become more and more relevant. Everyone always has to have the latest smartphone or gadget, and people are continuously fighting for the best information to accumulate wealth and make good decisions.

Fantasy football is no different, as millions of players visit websites all over the web to not only keep up with information, but to be the most informed and smartest in their upcoming drafts. With this in mind, and based on early mock draft results, one Jones (see what I did there?) that people should be keeping up with information-wise is Cincinnati Bengals' wide receiver Marvin Jones. Doing so may enable you to win your league this year.

While most football fans have grown accustomed to standout A.J. Green being the only viable wide receiving option on the Bengals, Jones' 2013 season was an unexpected breakthrough that put him squarely on the fantasy football map, especially after an 8-catch, 122-yard, 4-touchdown performance last season against the New York Jets. Showing both overall stats and Net Expected Points metrics, let's take a deeper look at Jones' 2013 performance:

Marvin Jones' 2013 Campaign

The numbers below reflect Marvin Jones' 2013 season. Be prepared: it may look better than you initially thought.

RecYardsTDsReception NEPRec NEP per TargetSuccess Rate
517121081.65 (24th of 62)1.02 (1st of 62)92.16% (7th of 62)

Jones' Reception NEP per target ranked first out of 62 wideouts with 75 targets or more, which showed that, when the Bengals targeted Jones, he did more with the ball than any other relatively high-volume receiver. While he wasn't in the famed Cris Carter, "all he does is catch touchdowns" class, Jones wasn't far off in 2013. In fact, according to Pro Football Reference and among wide receivers with 10 or more targets in the red zone, Jones had the highest red zone efficiency at 85.7%, buoyed by his 12 receptions on 14 red zone targets.

While critics could point out that Jones was a one-trick pony, feasting on the Jets secondary in a 49-9 blowout win, his production was fairly solid in other games when the Bengals figured out that he simply is better at football than teammate Mohamed Sanu. Check out Jones' game breakdown before, after, and during that Jets game.

Before Jets Game716262473
Jets Game (10/27/13)1881224
After Jets Game827463433

In addition to Jones' solid 2013 regular season, he lit it up in a playoff loss to the Chargers, catching 8 balls on 12 targets for 130 yards, including a 49-yard bomb on a sideline go route. He also had six first downs while playing 77% of the offensive snaps in that game.

Jones in 2014

So, with all of these positive stats in mind, a new offensive coordinator who seems to believe in him as the clear number-two wide receiver on his team, and his knack for finding the end zone, why does Jones not look fantastic according to our rankings? Let's take a look at where Jones factors into our fantasy projections for 2014:

Overall RankWR RankReceptionsYardsTouchdownsConfidence IntervalFantasy Points
Marvin Jones1355137.53603.975.3575.57-113.3194.44

Naysayers in fantasy football circles tend to rebel against non-superstars who score a lot of touchdowns once. Basically, they view Jones' 2013 touchdown-infused numbers as unsustainable, or that Jones has no other value but scoring touchdowns.

For further proof of this, Google James Jones' 2012 and 2013 season stats, and then you'll understand why confidence in Marvin Jones is not as high as it should be. Maybe that explains why Jones' is ranked 51st at wide receiver, which puts him towards the top of Tier 7 with Nate Washington and Rod Streater. However, to be fair, and in defense of our numberFire Draft Cheat Sheet Tiers, Jones is ranked equally or slightly above expected breakout receivers like Mike Evans and Rueben Randle.

Other Jones critics point to the immense amount of A.J. Green targets (180 in 2013) and Hue Jackson being a run-oriented offensive coordinator as reasons to avoid Jones. It also doesn't help matters that Jones had three games under 10 yards receiving a season ago, including one against division foe Cleveland where he didn't have any receptions. Luckily for Jones, his targets per game went up from four to six after the Jets game, which highlights the team's trust in him as the season went on.

Wide receivers who are leaders in Reception NEP per target (used 75 targets as a minimum for this analysis) are somewhat of a mixed bag in the past five years (2009-2013). While the top 10 for each year contains your typical proven star or fantasy draft reliable receivers like Calvin Johnson, Marques Colston, and Vincent Jackson, it also contains players like the aforementioned James Jones, Sidney Rice, Malcom Floyd, and Lance Moore. The latter group are wide receivers who essentially feasted on the big play (or touchdowns) for a year or two, but can't be confidently picked in fantasy drafts on a yearly basis because big plays are simply difficult to sustain. Our own Brandon Gdula wrote a piece on this very issue here.

But what makes Jones a late-round candidate to be a legitimate fantasy option is two-fold. First, he's versatile. While the 2013 red zone efficiency rate is most likely not going to happen again, Jones can be used as a deep threat, a red zone talent, and a slot receiver depending on the situation. But second, and most importantly, the team really has no other viable options at the second wide receiver position. Among the 68 wide receivers with at least 40 catches last year, Sanu ranked sixth-worst in terms of Reception NEP per target, a measure we use at numberFire for efficiency. Jones is clearly the second-best receiver on that team, which means the potential for more opportunity.

With all of this information in mind, combined with Hue Jackson's knack for assessing offensive talent, I'm buying Jones low as a sleeper wide receiver this year. Given his amazing efficiency last season, there's certainly upside, and I think he'll end up outperforming his projections and draft position somewhat handily. Though he more than likely won't score the same amount of touchdowns as he did last year, more volume could mean more weekly consistency, and better overall numbers for Jones.