Alshon Jeffery Is a Much Better Fantasy Football Asset Than You Think
This was supposed to be Alshon Jeffery's time. His opportunity to be "the guy" in Chicago.
With Brandon Marshall finally out of the picture, it seemed Jeffery had nothing standing in the way of a monstrous season in new offensive coordinator Adam Gase's offense.
As is often the case in the NFL, things didn't play out quite as expected.
After gutting through a productive Week 1 loss, Jeffery succumbed to a nagging hamstring injury. Stuck on the sidelines recovering for four weeks, he has now returned in a big way.
A Target Monster
With Marshall's departure and the hiring of Gase -- known for emphasizing his team's number-one receiver, Gase's offense targeted Demaryius Thomas a league leading 184 times last year -- it was expected that Jeffery would see an increase in usage. The extent of this increase may have been underestimated though.
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With Marshall competing for Jay Cutler's attention last year, Jeffery received 25.66% of the team's targets (9.06 per game). This increase of roughly three targets per game is particularly noteworthy, as it's also been accompanied by extremely efficient play.
Efficiency on the Field
While opportunity is certainly an important factor in the success of a wide receiver, being efficient and productive with those opportunities is what separates the elite from the average.
At numberFire we have metrics that help to measure that efficiency. Our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric allows us to quantify the amount of points a player contributes to his team compared to how he would be expected to perform.
Jeffery has always been a fairly efficient player over the course of his career, but has taken it up a notch this season. After finishing 16th and 11th in Reception NEP per target the past two seasons, Jeffery's 0.89 Reception NEP per target this season is eighth in the league among wide receivers with at least 30 targets.
As would be expected, the large volume of targets combined with his elite efficiency has lead to great production on the field.
Jeffery's per game totals once again compare very favorably to Hopkins and Jones.
While Jeffery's sample size is significantly smaller than the other two, it's a promising sign to see his increased usage is correlating into an uptick in production as well.
For reference, Jeffery averaged 5.31 catches, 70.81 yards and 0.63 touchdowns per game last season. While respectable, these numbers were a notch below the truly elite at the position.
Can He Keep It Up?
Whenever we're looking at a sample size as limited as three games, it's important to consider the likelihood that the player can sustain the production.
Jeffery has two key factors that lend credence to his ability to keep producing at an elite level -- a track record of success the past two seasons and a very favorable second half schedule.
Jeffery posted the 11th best Reception NEP last season and the 8th best total in 2013. As NEP is a cumulative statistic -- every play throughout the season is constantly added (or subtracted) from the season total -- it is indicative of Jeffery's ability to string together many productive games over the course of a season.
Also working for him is his upcoming schedule. In terms of our Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play metric, Jeffery will draw many favorable matchups over the next nine weeks.
Having already faced and excelled against a third of the teams on this list (Green Bay, Detroit and Minnesota), there's no reason to foresee a drop-off in production in the coming weeks. Weeks 10 and 11 will present a challenge for Jeffery, but with Matt Forte expected to miss the next couple of games, it's possible we'll see Cutler focus in on Jeffery even more than usual in those matchups.
Our projections foresee Jeffery posting 59.12 receptions, 754.40 yards and 6.20 touchdowns over the remainder of the season. With one of the heaviest workloads in the league, and playing the most efficient football of his career, there's no reason to believe he won't reach those totals.
While he may have taken a bit of a detour in getting here, Jeffery has definitely arrived as "the guy" in the Windy City.