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Player Spotlight: Brandon Marshall

Can Brandon Marshall repeat the fantastic totals from his first year with the New York Jets in 2016?

It seems that, no matter where he goes, Brandon Marshall puts up great numbers. That the New York Jets are the fourth team he has played for in his decade-long career doesn’t detract from the fact that all he has done, in place after place, is produce good numbers.

You can expect more of that from him in his eleventh season, though the heights he reached in 2015 will not easily be duplicated in 2016.

That said, here is a player who you can pick up as a WR2, who has the chance to put up WR1 numbers.

Consistent Production

People focus on the fact that Marshall has not stuck in just one place but lose sight of the fact that he is a player who can put up consistent numbers regardless of situation.

Marshall has topped 1,000 yards in all but two seasons—2006, his rookie year and 2014 when he was hurt. He has caught 883 of his 1,466 career targets (a 60 percent catch ratio) and averaged 12.8 yards per catch.

In fact, he’s actually better than “reaching 1,000 yards” as his average production per year is 1,128 yards per year. That’s reliability and production at the same time.

Overall his yearly touchdown production could be a little higher (Marshall averages just 7.9 touchdowns throughout his career) but he’s been into double digits three out of the last four years of his career and that one year he missed was that 2014 year when he was injured.

And he was only two touchdowns short, so you can feel confident that had he been healthy those last three games, he would have had at least ten touchdowns.

Speaking of health, Marshall has only missed a handful of games in his career. Along with the three in 2014, there were two in 2010, one in 2009 and 2008 and one in his rookie season.

He’s durable and not someone you have to worry about replacing throughout the course of the season.

What is truly impressive is Marshall has done all that with a wide variety of quarterbacks throwing him the ball. His first year with the Jets saw him shagging balls from Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith. In Chicago he mostly caught passes from Jay Cutler, but also did well with Josh McCown, Jimmy Clausen and Jason Campbell. In Miami, he played with world beaters like Matt Moore, Chad Henne, JP Losman, Tyler Thigpen and a broken down Chad Pennington.

That he was able to produce the level of consistency he managed to produce with some awfully mediocre (at best) quarterbacks is impressive.

It’s also a reason not to freak out about his situation this season.

Fitz or no Fitz: QB isn’t the question

Looking back at that list of quarterbacks, it’s fair to wonder why people are freaking out about Marshall’s production with Geno Smith under center. While Smith is far from perfect, he’s been serviceable and even peaked at “good” at times. The two didn’t get to work much together (Thanks IK Enemkpali) but Marshall sang the young quarterback’s praises prior to the “Punch that Gave Ryan Fitzpatrick a job” and talked him up as a reason why he went to the Jets (while traded, Marshall had influence in the process).

Marshall might have been just talking up a young quarterback to build his confidence, but he’s continued to be effusive with praise on more than one occasion right up until the end of OTAs and minicamps.

That isn’t to say quarterback is irrelevant, because we know it isn’t. But Marshall has been productive with far worse options than Geno Smith. He’ll do the same this year, whether it’s Smith, a returning Fitzpatrick or someone else.

Well, maybe not Christian Hackenberg.

Barren Wasteland of Depth 

While we may talk about Eric Decker or running back Matt Forte stealing some targets, beyond him there is nobody—and we mean nobody—stealing reps. 

Devin Smith was a mess last season before he ended up on Injured Reserve, Quincy Enunwa is intriguing but limited to no more than a slot or H-back role and once-highly touted Jace Amaro might be lucky to hold onto his job this summer given how lackluster he has been so far.

So while the Jets don't tend to produce many 100-catch receivers, they've rarely had a player like Marshall and are, quite frankly, bereft of other choices.

If that makes you worried about double-teams and blanket coverage, don't be. Decker and Forte will both help keep the defense honest and teams tried to double up Marshall last year. Clearly it didn't work.

That's ultimately why there should be no concern about sharing targets - there aren't many people to share them with.

Honeymoon over?

If there is one major concern with Marshall, it’s whether or not he and the Jets can continue a happy marriage. With both the Dolphins and Bears, Marshall eventually wore out his welcome (in the Bears case, money was also involved) and if in some ways it seemed a mistake because of his continued production, it has to speak volumes about how sick of his act those teams were.

This is year two with the Jets and while there was a surprising amount of success in 2015, Marshall is going to face a much tougher slog this year. That doesn’t mean he’ll implode, but it could cause some concern.

While he has definitely done a lot to ease everyone concerns over Geno Smith under center, we also know that he and Eric Decker have lobbied for the return of Ryan Fitzgerald. If the Jets hit a snag early in the season and Smith is under center, how loud might the complaining be from Marshall, who has never been shy with an opinion about his quarterback?

Positives

  • Rarely Hurt
  • Routinely over 1,100 yards
  • Performs regardless of quarterback situation

Negatives

  • Splits targets with Eric Decker
  • Much tougher schedule of defenses in 2016
  • Potential patented “Brandon Marshall Post-Honeymoon Breakdown”

Final Thoughts

Marshall may grouse, but even if Geno Smith falls apart and this team struggles, we don’t expect him to completely implode. Instead, we see him having another 1,000 yard season and remaining the focal point of the offense. None of the negatives are major concerns, even the tougher schedule. Marshall has faced challenges before with much worse teams and performed well. And Decker may take some targets, but ultimately having a receiving threat to make defenses shift away from him will help Marshall.

Offensive Coordinator Chan Gailey's scheme is a great fit for what the Jets and Brandon Marshall can do. While Gailey's offenses haven't produced many 100 yard receivers (he and the Jets have that in common), he also has lacked a wide receiver like Marshall, much less a tandem like Marshall and Decker. We're seeing the two combine for a great deal of production - two groups colliding at just the right time to make everyone look great.

It will be an interesting and tough season for the Jets, which means some Fantasy GMs will shy away from the likes of Forte, Decker and Marshall. Take advantage of it and grab Marshall when they do. His 1,100 yards and double digit touchdowns will give you fringe WR1 production at WR2 prices.

Projections

 

Games

REC

YD

TD

FumL

Garda

16

100

1200

10

1

 Other Perspectives

Matthew Berry of ESPN aka The Godfather of Fantasy Football points out that Brandon Marshall is one of only six players with 100 targets and eight receiving touchdowns in the last two seasons. That list includes Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr, Jeremy Maclin, Rob Gronkowski and Jordan Matthews.

Dom Cosentino of NJ.com says that as good as the pair of Marshall and Decker were, the Jets are looking for more efficiency, which bodes well for their production.

Marshall and Decker had an outstanding 2015 season across the board. They accounted for 52 percent of all passes caught by the Jets last season, and they caught a combined 26 touchdowns, including 19 in the red zone.

They did this even as teams began to double them and frequently roll coverage toward them.

But Jets wide receivers coach Karl Dorrell thinks they can be even better this year.

"We would love to have that encore and about 20 percent more efficiency," Dorrell said.

Dorrell thinks that improvement can come from better route running, and fewer drops.

In an article chock full of great math and graphs, Numberfire.com’s JJ Zachariason says that given where Marshall went last season in drafts along with his production,  that his 2015 “was the second-best value campaign over the last five seasons, behind only two historic seasons: Odell Beckham's rookie year and Josh Gordon's breakout 2013 season.”