The Philadelpha Eagles had a disappointing 2011 season after being dubbed “The Dream Team” by former backup quarterback Vince Young. Fantasy football owners were also left disappointed by many of their key players, with Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek all battling injuries and inconsistency at various times throughout the season.
Jackson and Maclin are both coming off down years in 2011, as Jackson’s desire for a new contract seemed to be a distraction and Maclin followed up a mysterious preseason illness with being limited by injuries in the second half of the season. Both guys are still solid fantasy options for 2012 as Vick’s top two targets, but which one is likely to provide the most bang for your draft day buck?
Jackson had his yardage (1,056 to 961) and touchdown totals (six down to four) drop off in 2011 compared to 2010, but he did have 58 receptions after just 47 in 2010. His yards per catch dropped from 22.5 in 2010 to 16.6 last season, but it’s fair to say Jackson is still one of the more explosive big-play receivers in the league. A lack of red-zone targets (14 in 2011) is a bit of a concern, but Jackson has never been a primary option in that area of the field throughout his career since his lack of size (5’10″) makes him ill-suited to that kind of role.
The Eagles have said Jackson will no longer be the team’s primary punt returner this season, which dampens his appeal in leagues that reward return yardage but could lead to better production from him as an offensive weapon if he avoids that potential wear and tear. Another likely factor in the decision to take Jackson away from returning punts is the five-year, $47 million deal the team signed him to this offseason.
Maclin’s 2011 season got off to an odd start as a mysterious illness hampered him during the preseason, and he was further limited by shoulder and hamstring issues during the second half of the season that caused him to miss three games. Despite it all he was still fairly productive with 63 receptions for 859 yards and five touchdowns, but as could have been predicted all those numbers were down from 2010 (70 catches, 964 yards, 10 touchdowns).
It’s dangerous to just blindly project what a player’s numbers would have been over a full season, but Maclin’s numbers in 13 games last season project to 78 catches for 1,057 yards and six touchdowns over a full 16-game slate. The fact he was limited in a few of the games he did not miss entirely creates some optimism for what he can do if he (and Vick) are fully healthy this season. For what it’s worth, the buzz within the Eagles’ organization regarding Maclin has been very positive throughout the offseason and it has been widely reported the team is expecting a big year from him.
Both Jackson and Maclin are worth considering as a WR2 regardless of league format, though Maclin certainly has more appeal in PPR formats and Jackson deserves to be bumped down a few spots on cheat sheets in that format. Jackson’s big-play potential makes him a very nice option in leagues that reward long touchdowns, but Maclin sees more red zone targets and thus should score a few more touchdowns overall as long as that continues.
When it comes to which one has the best potential to outperform his ADP in most drafts, Maclin is the choice there and the guy I would choose over Jackson all things considered. I do think it’s fair to wonder how motivated Jackson will be now that the Eagles have given him a lucrative contract, so his downside is much greater even if his ceiling is higher than Maclin’s.