Are We Somehow Forgetting About Brandon Marshall's Football Brilliance?

Is the ultra-consistent Brandon Marshall being overlooked in fantasy circles?

Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall is a physical specimen. Standing 6'4" and weighing in at 230 pounds, Marshall is one of the game's top receivers. And at 30 years old, he's still in the prime of his career. But is he somehow being forgotten around the fantasy industry in place of young, shiny new receivers?

Now, Marshall is by no means completely forgotten around the industry. He's just having a relatively quiet offseason for such a high-profile player. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Marshall is being taken at pick 2.03 as the fifth wide receiver off the board.

But are we forgetting about how safe he is as a receiver? He enters his ninth season in the NFL with seven straight seasons of 1,000 or more receiving yards. In fact, since 2007, Marshall's lowest reception total is 81 and his lowest number of targets is 141, both with Miami in 2011, who, quite frankly, didn't know how to use him properly. For career context, 2007 was Marshall's second season in the NFL.

And in his first action on the field this season, Brandon Marshall had five catches for 31 yards on just 17 snaps in Saturday's preseason opener against the Eagles. If this is any indication of the type of target distribution that we may see from Jay Cutler this year, Marshall is in for a monster season once again.

Still Elite

If you throw away Marshall's rookie season in 2006 - where he only caught 20 passes for 309 yards - you'll be hard pressed to find a more consistent receiver over the past eight years. Calvin Johnson may be the only receiver that has produced more - year in and year out - for fantasy owners during that stretch.

Another aspect that's sometimes overlooked, but incredibly important, is that Marshall is always on the field. Other than 2010 when he played 14 games, he's started and played in 15 or more games in every season of his career. Take a look at Marshall's eye-popping numbers since 2007.


Despite any concerns that Alshon Jeffery may take some targets and touchdowns away from Marshall, Cutler still loves Marshall. If you check out the work that our own Brandon Gdula did in comparing Jeffery to Marshall when Cutler is at the helm, you know that the Bears receiver you want is Marshall.

A quick snapshot from Brandon's research shows that, during the 2013 season, Jeffery ranked 10th in receptions (89), 11th in targets (149), 23rd in touchdowns (7), and 6th in yards (1,421), while Marshall ranked 5th in receptions (100), targets (164), and touchdowns (12). He was also 11th in yards (1,295).

The Advanced Metrics

Our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric here at numberFire gauge a player's on-field success by showing the number of points he adds (or loses) for his team. Marshall's stats are great, but his consistency with regards to Reception NEP - the number of points added on catches only - is just as impressive.

In 2013, even with the variance at the quarterback position in Chicago, Marshall finished fifth according to our Reception NEP metric. His 122.82 score ranked behind only Calvin Johnson, Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas and AJ Green.

Take a look at Marshall's career numbers according the Reception NEP metric throughout his career. Again, we will throw out his rookie season of 2006 in this table.

Reception NEPRankReception NEP per TargetRank

The table above shows us how good Marshall has been over the course of his career. His Rec NEP per target numbers are not great, but that's mostly because it can skew towards big-play receivers who don't see a lot of volume. In fact, his per target efficiency last year among 100-plus target receivers ranked 13th out of 37.

The Reception NEP metric is the important one to focus on here, as Marshall consistently adds points and value to his team and quarterback.

And speaking of quarterback, Jay Cutler is healthy again and primed for a big season. Our own JJ Zachariason predicts that Cutler could have a top five fantasy season if he could just stay healthy.

The Marshall and Cutler connection is well documented. All four of Marshall top-10 finishes in the Reception NEP metric have come in seasons with Jay Cutler as his quarterback. Over the past two seasons with Chicago, Marshall has finished second and fifth in the same metric. Expect a lot more of the same this year.

B-Marsh in 2014

We've already dispelled the notion that Alshon Jeffery is going to hurt Marshall's fantasy value. If anything, Jeffery helps roll some coverage away from Marshall. Jay Cutler is healthy and ready to sling the ball around the yard again in the Marc Trestman offense, and that's great news for Marshall.

Our projections love Marshall, ranking him as the fourth wide receiver in fantasy for the 2014 season. We see him going for 101.69 receptions, 1,374.59 yards and 10.89 touchdowns. The crazy part is, that's essentially the norm for him.