The Footballguys staff was asked to mention their most significant veteran wide receiver who changed teams over the offseason. Most significant can have a lot of meaning, so - in this case - it means we just asked our guys to pick the wide receiver they most wanted to write about. Here are the results.
Player Receiving 10 Votes
Marvin Jones Jr, Detroit
Bloom: Jones was prominent on our fantasy radar in 2013 after a high efficiency red zone performance that yielded 10 scores. His 2014 foot injury cost him a season, but he emerged again in 2015 as a solid #2 in a very balanced and robust pass offense in Cincinnati. His play was rewarded with a five-year, 40 million dollar deal in Detroit, and he will be a 1A with Golden Tate in what should be a pass-heavy offense. Jones won't be more than a solid WR2 in even the best case scenario, but he probably shouldn't be going multiple rounds after Tate.
Fahey: The best receiver in free agency landed in an offense that should have plenty of targets available. The Lions essentially have four targets to feed: Golden Tate, Marvin Jones Jr, Eric Ebron and Theo Riddick. Even if Ebron and Riddick are prioritized over Jones initially, Ebron has proven to be hugely unreliable over the course of his career so Jones will inevitably take over. Jones is a big, ball winning receiver who can run precise routes and take advantage of space with the ball in his hands. Health and a share of targets have been the only things curtailing his career to this point.
Harmon: Even before he signed with the Lions I expected Marvin Jones Jr to climb up fantasy draft boards and be vastly over-drafted. However, that’s not been the case as Jones continues to hover below the WR40 range in both MFL10s and early redraft mocks. At that value, a talented young receiver is worth buying. In Jones’ case specifically, he finds himself on a team likely to be in pass-heavy situations and he shouldn’t be any worse than second on the team in targets.
Hicks: With the departure of Calvin Johnson, a lot will be expected of former Bengal Marvin Jones Jr. Without a premier receiver and no one of the caliber of former teammate, A.J. Green, on the Lions roster, Jones can easily outperform his current draft slot. He has always flashed WR1 ability and at age 26 will be approaching his peak. Golden Tate works better as a 2nd receiver and Jones has the size, speed and hands to become much more than a red zone threat. Jones is far from the proven product though and needs to first develop a working relationship with Matt Stafford.
Howe: The wide receiver market was yawn-inducing, but I’m at least moderately intrigued by Marvin Jones Jr in Detroit. That’s a ton of receiving volume left on the table by Calvin Johnson’s retirement. There’s talent on board – Golden Tate is a spark plug out of the slot, and Eric Ebron is theoretically in line for a breakout. But my projections still leave 103 targets for Jones, the unquestioned No. 1 on the outside and an impressive playmaker (23 of his 116 catches over his last two seasons have covered 20+ yards). His mega-efficient 2014 is probably a stretch going forward, but the blend of athleticism and opportunity is tantalizing around the 7th or 8th round.
Magaw: Fellow ex-Cincinnati wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (ATL), Travis Benjamin (SD) and Rueben Randle (PHI) are also in the mix at this position, but Jones could be the best positioned to leverage his new surroundings and change of scenery. The former Bengal steps out of serial Pro Bowler A.J. Green's formidable shadow, fills a gaping hole for the Lions left by the Barry Sanders-like unexpected early retirement of Hall of Fame caliber WR talent Calvin Johnson and goes to an offense without a bell cow-type RB. While not left completely bereft of receiving talent, WR Golden Tate's physical traits and athletic attributes are more suited to a complementary role, and gifted, rare top 10 overall pedigree TE Eric Ebron has been inconsistent and slow to develope. QB Matthew Stafford had generally failed to deliver on the promise of his 5,000 yard, 40+ TD 2011 campaign, but caught fire once new OC Jim Bob Cooter was installed in the second half of last season, leading Detroit to a 6-2 finish after an abysmal 1-7 start, with a torrid, blistering 19/2 TD/INT ratio (albeit against some lackluster defenses). Jones has set career marks in consecutive seasons, with 10 receiving TDs in 2014 and 13 starts, 65 receptions and 816 receiving yards in 2015.
Pasquino: This one was a pretty easy call, as Jones signed the biggest contract as a free agent wide receiver this offseason (four years, $40M) and Calvin Johnson’s surprising retirement in the Motor City. Only Jones’ former teammate, Mohamed Sanu, obtained a deal even close to Jones (Sanu inked a five-year, $32.5M deal in Atlanta). Jones will be the “WR1B” to WR1A Golden Tate for the Lions this year. Detroit has to make up for over 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns that Johnson posted last year, and Jones should come away with a good portion of that difference. Matthew Stafford had over 4,200 yards passing on nearly 600 passes in 2015, so Jones will be pushed to account for a good amount of similar numbers in 2016. Jones posted respectable numbers with Cincinnati last year (65-816-4 on 103 targets) but could push for 1,000 yards and a half-dozen trips to the end zone this season with the Lions.
Simpkins: Jones ended up signing with the Lions after Calvin Johnson announced his retirement. While it would be a mistake to expect Jones to step in and have the impact that Johnson had, it is not unreasonable to expect him to lead the team in targets and receiving production. Jones is good at getting deep and especially proficient when targeted in the end zone. WR2 production is not out of reach for Jones this season.
Waldman: No one will replace Calvin Johnson's upside but Marvin Jones Jr doesn't need the 1900-yard potential to be the most impactful receiver for a new team. Jones is a Donald Driver-like veteran; athletic, technically accomplished, and good enough to be the primary receiver in an offense. Two of his more underrated skills is his ability to win the ball in tight coverage in the air and his skill after the catch. Both talents make him a much better red zone option than the totality of his statistical career may suggest. Driver had a three-year period between 2004-06 where he was Brett Favre's primary option, producing three consecutive 1200-yard seasons and 22 total TDs after earning a combined 2205 yards in the 5 seasons prior. Jones is still entering his prime and a 1200-yard, 8-TD season is a rock-solid expectation for his talents and those of Matt Stafford. It makes him an underestimated fantasy option with top-10 fantasy potential at his position.
Wimer: Jones is being underestimated because some think the Detroit offense will move away from the passing game now that Calvin Johnson is retired. I don't see that in the cards given the current running back stable in Detroit. I think that Jones and Golden Tate will be 1A/1B wide receivers for a productive Matthew Stafford this year. The passing game is the strength of the Lions' offense (as we saw late in the season last year), and they will continue to lean on Stafford's arm (and by extension, his top receiving targets). Jones should be a top-30 fantasy wide receiver with ease, and may crack the top-20.
Player Receiving 4 Votes
Travis Benjamin, San Diego
Feery: Travis Benjamin has made the leap from the offensively-challenged Cleveland Browns to the pass-happy San Diego Chargers. He’ll assume the role of deep threat receiver for Phillip Rivers, a quarterback who has never been shy about airing it out – nor about throwing early and often. In 2016, Benjamin posted a respectable line of 68/966/5 in 16 games, and his statistical output appears to be in line for a nice bounce. He’ll be on the receiving end of targets from the best quarterback he has played with thus far in his career, and could be one of the proverbial "ready to take a leap forward" players of 2016.
Haseley: There is not a blue chip free agent wide receiver signing this offseason, but in my opinion, the best veteran addition from a fantasy perspective is the Chargers signing Travis Benjamin. San Diego may have an elite wide receiver in Keenan Allen, but my gut says Travis Benjamin will occupy the deep threat role and be on the receiving end of several big plays from Philip Rivers. Benjamin burst onto the scene last year with 68 receptions, nearly 1,000 yards receiving and five touchdowns. He had seven games of 10+ targets and showed that he can be relied on in the clutch. His skill set sounds exactly like the type of receiver that succeeds with Philip Rivers. His ceiling will be determined by how often he is targeted vs. Keenan Allen. The opportunity is definitely there for Benjamin to build on his breakout 2015 season.
Miglio: Travis Benjamin isn't getting enough love this offseason. Sure, he trailed off after a hot start last season, but how could we blame him for that after dealing with the quarterbacking in Cleveland last season? Now he gets aging-but-still-great Philip Rivers throwing him the ball and Keenan Allen as a bona fide threat to distract defenses.
Wood: Every year fantasy owners get worked up about San Diego’s receiving corps. It seems like Malcom Floyd has been over drafted for 20 years; and let’s not forget the laughably bad idea that was drafting Steve Johnson last season at his inflated ADP. So if I’m panning the Chargers’ receivers not named Keenan Allen, why am I praising Travis Benjamin? Because he’s a MUCH better player than Philip Rivers has had at his disposal in recent years. Benjamin was one of two bright spots in a woeful Browns offense (along with TE Gary Barnidge) and now gets financial security and a landing spot that unites him with one of the league’s best passers. I don’t expect Benjamin to be a 1,000-yard receiver this year, but he’ll be a viable fantasy WR3 with WR2 upside in certain matchups.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
A.J. Green, Cincinnati
Holloway: A. J. Green - The most significant veteran movement at wide receiver was out of Cincinnati, where both Marvin Jones Jr and Mohamed Sanu left in free agency. A. J. Green, who has been the most targeted wide receiver in each of his five seasons with the Bengals remains and should be more highly targeted, even if the offense remains running game focused and takes a step backward. Green averaged 177 targets and 97.5 receptions in his second and third NFL seasons, but has seen his targets slip to 116 (in 13 games) and 132 in the past two years. This season, he should again see 170 targets and threaten going over 100 catches for the first time in his career.
Calvin Johnson, Retirement
Parsons: Calvin Johnson retiring creates a windfall of opportunity in Detroit’s passing game. Eric Ebron enters a critical year 3 to potentially breakout or, at a minimum, show progression from a forgettable first two seasons. Golden Tate has been highly productive, especially with Calvin Johnson out of the lineup. Marvin Jones Jr was the biggest name brought into Detroit’s offense as they also added Andre Roberts and Theo Riddick may play more in the slot. There are 150 targets available from the 2015 distribution in Detroit available with Calvin Johnson retired and at least one of the above-mentioned names will substantially benefit.