This one has been building for a while now, and finally, the explosion happened. The Philadelphia Eagles announced the release of Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson Friday afternoon. Jackson is coming off a career 2013 campaign, hauling in 82 balls for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. Those numbers were good enough for Jackson to finish as the number-10 overall wide receiver in fantasy in ESPN standard leagues. Obviously, at age 27, this guy has elite playmaking ability, but the Eagles weren’t to comfortable with his off-field antics, so they let him go. Of course, Eagles fans and football fans are wondering what’s next for Jackson, but fantasy owners are already speculating.
I’d strongly expect Philadelphia to address the wide receiver position at some point in next month’s draft, but this is obviously great news for guys like Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper. I’ve always thought Maclin was a better player than Jackson anyway, so assuming he is healthy after missing the entire 2013 season with a torn ACL, Maclin could have a very similar year to Jackson’s 2013 season. Remember, when Nick Foles took over for Michael Vick two seasons ago, Maclin was the one that benefited the most. In games where Foles was under center in 2012, Maclin averaged a healthy 8.5 targets per game. He’ll likely man the number one receiver role in 2014. And as Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus points out, Jackson saw exactly 25 percent of the Eagles targets last year, but those targets actually decreased with Foles under center.
Enter Cooper, who really thrived with Foles. Consider Cooper a WR3 with Jackson out of the picture. Whatever it is, Foles likes throwing to Cooper, so keep him on your radar, for sure.
The most intriguing guy, to me at least, is tight end, Zach Ertz. The sophomore is coming off a strong rookie season, catching 36 passes for 469 yards and four touchdowns, and really became a bigger part of the passing game as the season progressed. Fellow tight end, Brent Celek is a better blocker, and actually prefers the role, so expect Ertz’s usage to increase even more in year two, making him a great guy to target late in your drafts.
Finally, newly acquired running back, Darren Sproles, who was already going to line up as a wideout quite a bit, should also see more usage. We all know the kind of offense Chip Kelly wants to run, one that is terrific for Sproles. He’ll likely line up in the slot a ton, presenting mismatches with linebackers. In this offense, he could very well catch 70 balls once again, making him very much fantasy relevant, after all.
DeSean Landing Spots
So, with Jackson on the open market, someone has to grab him, right? Sure, it comes with a bit of uncertainty and risk, but the guy is immensely talented, and will find a home sooner, rather than later. Reports indicate that the Seahawks, 49ers and Jets are all interested. The move to New York has been a popular landing spot for a while now, reuniting with former teammate, Michael Vick.
Keep an eye on this in the coming weeks, as his new home will drastically impact his fantasy value.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.