Can Marquess Wilson Produce for the Bears and Your Fantasy Football Team?
Injuries are unfortunate, but they are as inevitable as anything else in the NFL. With Brandon Marshall's season-ending injury, though, the next man up scenario is in full force all the way in Week 15.
Marquess Wilson isn't a household name, but could he become one based on the final three weeks of the season?
We'll dive into the numbers, centering on the big three for all injury replacements: talent, opportunity, and opponents.
Talent is critical at the wide receiver position in the NFL. Really, no line can help a receiver get separation, and not even the best quarterback can throw a receiver open on a consistent basis. So the first logical step is to examine Wilson's talent and potential. No surprise - because I'm writing this article - I think the talent is there for sure.
Wilson played 33 games at Washington State University. He recorded 189 receptions for 3,207 yards and 23 receiving touchdowns in his three years there -- from 2010 to 2012.
In such a three-year span, that production puts him in pretty elite company. Including Wilson, only 13 receivers in college football since 2009 have hit the 3,200-yard, 20-touchdown mark in a three-year stretch. To clarify, the three spans included were 2009-11, 2010-12, and 2011-13.
Here they are, sorted by touchdowns per reception.
|Stedman Bailey||West Virginia||2010-12||210||3218||15.3||41|
|Justin Blackmon||Oklahoma State||2009-11||252||3564||14.1||40|
|Marquess Wilson||Washington State||2010-12||189||3207||17.0||23|
|Marqise Lee||Southern California||2011-13||248||3655||14.7||29|
|Jordan White||Western Michigan||2009-11||287||3970||13.8||31|
|Tavon Austin||West Virginia||2010-12||273||3262||11.9||28|
That Wilson is among such a small statistical peer group is impressive, especially considering that he had the highest yards per catch of any of them. The 6'3" - or 6'4" depending on who you trust - receiver clearly can provide big plays, evidenced by that yards per catch, but what type of opportunity will he have to produce?
A big one, to say the least.
Wilson jumped to the starting lineup because Marshall's injury. Marshall, through Week 14, ranked just 30th in Reception Net Expected Points (NEP). NEP indicates how many points above or below a player is playing compared to league average expectation. Marshall is also 20th in targets at 106 on the year. Per target, Marshall was just 49th among players with at least 40 receptions, adding just 0.63 Reception NEP per target.
Why does that matter? Well, Marshall gets a ton of passes thrown his way, and he didn't really do typical Brandon Marshall things with those targets this year. That's a hefty 8.2 targets per game that need to be distributed elsewhere. Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, and Matt Forte can expect some of them, but Wilson did see five targets on Thursday night, when he entered for Marshall.
Wilson caught just two of them for 19 yards, but five targets for a player who has shown big-play ability and is surrounded by serious weapons - Jeffery ranks 13th in Reception NEP among receivers with 40 or more catches, Bennett is third among tight ends with 40-plus grabs, and Forte is third in Total NEP among running backs - Wilson could benefit.
Wilson isn't afforded the ability to ease into his big role. There are only three games left, and for fantasy football purposes, there are only two -- unless you dare count Week 17.
The Bears square off against both ends of the spectrum in Weeks 15 and 16. In Week 15, Chicago plays New Orleans, who rank 31st in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP, which means they are the second-worst pass defense in the league according to our metrics. They're nearly as porous against fantasy wide receivers, ranking 26th in half-PPR scoring.
The Lions, though, are much tougher, ranking eighth in our metrics and seventh in fantasy points allowed. On Thanksgiving Day, though, the Bears receivers held up well enough during their comeback. Jeffery caught 9 passes for 71 yards and 2 touchdowns on 13 targets. Marshall caught 6 of 11 targets for 42 yards.
On the off chance you include Week 17 - or for daily purposes - the Bears finish the season at Minnesota. The Vikings are 17th in our metrics and 12th in points against receivers.
Really, Wilson is a big enough body - 6'4", 198 - to make things happen if given the opportunity, which should be there in the absence of Marshall, and the opponents, which are beatable enough - even Detroit.
At this point, it's safe to assume that not many receivers will have an opportunity like this prior to the end of the season, so taking a chance on Wilson - and playing him in Week 15 - could very well be worth the risk if you need a receiver down the stretch.