Heading into the 2013 NFL season, Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery may have been one of the better kept secrets in fantasy football. The former University of South Carolina product stands at 6-foot-3, 216-pounds, so it’s difficult to imagine a man that size being referred to as a secret.
During his rookie season in 2012, Jeffery finished the year with 24 receptions for 367 yards and three touchdowns. In Jeffery’s 2013 breakout campaign he had 89 receptions for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns. The significant difference in the numbers from his rookie season and his second season should excite fantasy owners. Even though there is a major difference in his numbers during his first two seasons, there is one statistic that remained eerily similar during Jeffery’s 2012 and 2013 campaigns. In 2012, his average yards per catch was 15.3 yards, and in 2013 Jeffery posted an average of 16.0 yards per catch. Fantasy owners should take notice of that pattern. That means Jeffery is a big play receiver that should be viewed as a very dangerous weapon.
So with his record-breaking performances and numerous highlight reel catches in 2013, should fantasy owners view Jeffery as a top-5 fantasy receiver heading into 2014?
While Jeffery’s impressive stat line will have many fantasy owners salivating at the chance to grab him early in the 2014 fantasy draft, there are some other factors that will determine his value. First, the guy who lines up on the other side of the field from Jeffery just happens to be Brandon Marshall, a perennial top-5 fantasy wide receiver in his own right. The duo make it difficult on opposing defenses because they are two legitimate No. 1 wide receivers. Opposing defenses can only double cover one of them, and it usually ends up being Marshall because of his Pro Bowl pedigree. This generally leaves Jeffery all alone with a defense’s second cornerback. However, after his performances in 2013 there is no doubt that defenses will increase their attention towards Jeffery next season. The problem for fantasy owners is that Marshall will take away from some of the production that Jeffery would get and vice versa. The second factor in determining Jeffery’s value heading into next season is the guy who is throwing him the football. It is obvious to see from watching a Bears’ game that Jay Cutler prefers to look at Brandon Marshall first because he is comfortable with him and the two have an extended history together.
When fantasy owners are viewing the factors mentioned above heading into the 2014 season, they should view Brandon Marshall as the top-5 option that he has been throughout his career and Jeffery should be viewed as a top-10 option. It is a little premature to anoint Jeffery top-5 fantasy receiver status simply because of the numbers he posted this past season. However, owners should be very excited about Jeffery heading into next season and should not hesitate to draft him. Over the next few years it is possible that he will break into the top-5, but for now he should be viewed as a high-end WR1 option instead of an elite WR1 due to Marshall’s presence.