DeSean Jackson: Should you Draft Him in 2014?
We needed a few days to digest this move before answering the question, "Should I Draft DeSean Jackson this year?"
The Redskins added former Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson with a three-year deal worth $24 million officially on Tuesday. The contract includes $16 million guaranteed and provides newly-minted head coach Jay Gruden another potent offensive weapon. Call it a slam dunk signing for a team who pulled the trigger quickly while other teams were scrambling in their attempts to decipher the D-Jax's off-the-field risks, unfounded gang affiliations and his possible negative impact on a locker room. That's at least what the media has told us.
Look, if you're the type of fantasy owner who needs advanced metrics, line graphs and pie charts to tell you about the Jackson's potential then this article isn't for you. Fantasy football is as simple or as complicated as you want it to be, so in this case, let's allow a plainspoken argument to suffice.
D-Jax is a proven commodity. His numbers have fluctuated in recent years, yet he peaked in 2013 with 82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine TDs (by far his best season to date). Those stats were of course inflated due to the absence of his injured teammate Jeremy Maclin; however, Jackson is in the midst of his prime at the age of 27. There is no denying his status as a fantasy fixture since entering the league back in the 2008 and there's no reason to believe that will change.
As for his new digs in the nation's capital, Washington hasn't had a legit No. 2 receiver in years. The 2014 season might be the first time the Skins have two WRs to exceed 900 receiving yards since way back in 1999 when QB Brad Johnson connected with WRs Michael Westbrook and Albert Connell for over 1,100 yards apiece. I wouldn't blame you if you've never heard of any of those guys by the way.
In any case, adding Jackson behind (2014 Pro Bowl snub) WR Pierre Garcon is absolutely huge. The Redskins now have an all-out war brewing for the No. 3 receiver job between the incumbents (Aldrick Robinson, Leonard Hankerson and the ageless Santana Moss) and the recently added Andre Roberts. For our purposes though, none of those guys will likely factor into a standard league (barring an injury ahead of them on the depth chart), so don't try to get cute by snagging any of these guys unless you're using 40-man rosters.
The coaching staff is also expecting big things from TE Jordan Reed, one of many young TEs who may produce a breakout season. You can now put Washington in the conversation for having one of the better offensive cores in the league along with QB Robert Griffin III and RB Alfred Morris.
As it seems to be the case for every minor occurrence in the world today, there is a side for it and there is a side against it. These detractors inevitably will ask about Jackson. "What about his supposed negative attitude or the rumors of him being a bad teammate? There are stories about his selfishness and me-first shenanigans. What about him being in a gang?"
Allow me to speak candidly to these detractors for a moment.
There are 53 players on an active NFL roster. There are 32 teams. That gives us about 1,700 guys. There are probably 20 guys who are either on the practice squad or an injury away from joining the team after a much awaited phone call. If you do the math, we're talking about roughly 2,500 men. In any group of this magnitude, there are going to be some good eggs and some bad ones. From a business standpoint or a managerial one, the onus is on these teams to do their homework in order to create their desired workplace. It's on them to maintain a professional culture. With all that in mind, what in the world does a guy's attitude have to do with fantasy football? In any other context, Jackson's behavior matters. In this game though, the only thing that matters is production and we already know with reasonable certainty he can manage that. Worrying about the affairs of one player is irrational. You aren't interviewing Jackson to be your babysitter. You just want the guy to score touchdowns!
As for the Redskins, they need every small improvement they can in the highly competitive NFC East. It should also go without saying D-Jax can share intel regarding Eagles' head coach Chip Kelly's offense. Even with all the negative that he may or may not bring to this team, he can still help a great deal.
Jackson's value takes a small hit. A change of scenery doesn't always immediately result in positive gains for a receiver. He also seemed to have developed a pretty good relationship with his former QB Nick Foles, so it will likely take some time for things to blossom with RG3. Consider D-Jax a WR3 or flex if the matchup is not so favorable. He doesn't have as much value in PPR leagues since he has only caught more than 62 passes once and that was last year when the passing game revolved around him.
What about Pierre Garcon?
Garcon should see slightly fewer targets since Jackson will presumably draw more than whoever Washington was going to use as their No. 2 receiver previously. Gruden will use Jackson's speed to stretch the defense and open up things underneath. This slightly improved offense should also help Morris since defenses will be a little less likely to stack the box.
Garcon is still a low-end WR1 or high WR2. He had a really great 2013 season, but experienced some bad luck with the touchdown gods. He could easily make up any lost receptions and yardage with a few extra TDs.
As previously mentioned, Reed still has all the potential in the world to be a TE1 and his average draft position should be unaffected. It should also go without saying there are many TEs with serious potential so don't reach for Reed or any of them if you don't have to.
Let's not forget DC's favorite wunderkind. RG3 has to be on your radar as a possible bounce-back candidate. He'd be a great QB2 and certainly has the potential to sneak into the Top 10. Last season, Gruden guided Bengals QB Andy Dalton into producing Top 5 numbers. Really allow that fact to marinade in your mind for a second. The re-injury risk is still a concern since one big hit at the end of a scramble could take down Griffin for the year. Even so, his ability to score points on the ground can easily make up for mediocre passing numbers. Both Cam Newton and Andrew Luck finished in the Top 5 and they both passed for fewer than 25 TDs last year because their numbers were supplemented by solid rushing totals. RG3 should be on your short list for sneaky late-round fliers who could overachieve after a down year.
The hard truth here is some people will believe if Washington struggles, it will partly be due to Jackson's toxic behavior or just his presence. Even more disturbing, if Washington wins, those same people will believe success came in spite of him. The only discernible truth here through all the hype and hyperbole is the Eagles let one of their better players walk while receiving nothing in return and one of their main rivals just got a little bit better with his addition. A tip of the cap to Washington for risking a little bad press in order to improve their team.
So you've read this far, here's your original question:
Should You Draft Him in 2014?
Yes, absolutely, just not anywhere near where he was previously being drafted. While it is highly unlikely Jackson can replicate his career-best '13 numbers while playing behind Garcon, Jackson remains a potent, high-end WR3 for your fantasy squad. Consider taking him in the fifth round of your fantasy draft. He should be ranked somewhere between 25-30 among his peers at WR.