Faceoff: DeSean Jackson
Jeff Pasquino: While I can understand the skepticism regarding DeSean Jackson coming into 2010, there are plenty of reasons to believe in his ability to repeat similar numbers for the coming season - and possibly even exceed his 2009 levels.
Donovan McNabb is no longer the quarterback for Philadelphia. At first glance many fantasy players will consider this to be a negative, but it really is not. Kevin Kolb is not a rookie - he comes in to 2010 as the starter in his fourth professional season with two starts under his belt from 2009, which gives some insight as to how Kolb will perform this season. In those two starts DeSean Jackson was targeted 19 times, the most of any wide receiver. Jackson stepped up and delivered for Kolb, topping 100 yards and scoring in both contests as he converted 19 chances into 10 receptions.
DeSean Jackson tied an NFL record with eight touchdowns of 50 or more yards last season. Teams knew that he was the top target for the Eagles yet he still was able to consistently beat coverages and get open deep, often by a wide margin. This helped to inflate Donovan McNabb's numbers and hide his inaccuracy issues. Kevin Kolb has a better deep ball and a more accurate touch than McNabb right now, which is one of the main reasons that Kolb is the starter going forward and McNabb is about 150 miles to the south.
Philadelphia also has issues on defense for this coming year. For fantasy purposes, this is a favorable situation as I expect the Eagles to be in more shootout situations than lower scoring contests. Look for Kolb, Jackson and company to be passing as much as ever - which is a big statement for the Eagles under Andy Reid. Jackson should be a Top 10 WR / fantasy WR1 this season in most formats in 2010 - but I say that with one reservation. He puts up big numbers most games, but if you are expecting Jackson to collect 100+ receptions in a PPR league then you might be a bit disappointed. Jackson is a big play, high output per catch receiver, but the Eagles do not target one player at the expense of other options in their version of the West Coast Offense. Jackson should get 8-10 targets a game and do well on those chances as he will lead the team in 2010 in all receiving categories for the second straight year.
Jeff Haseley: DeSean Jackson has made great strides as a WR in the league for the Philadelphia Eagles, due to his uncanny ability to get open, especially deep down field. His athleticism and speed take over from there, often resulting in long TDs. After scoring three rush/rec TDs in his rookie year in 2008 (actually he should've had four - if you recall the pre-mature celebration where he lost possession, before he crossed the goal line plane), he elevated his game in 2009 with 10 total TDs. His rise to success is primarily because of his ability to score TDs. He's a great fit for the Eagles offense and he established an excellent rapport with QB Donovan McNabb.
Having said that...
Donovan McNabb is now down the road with the Washington Redskins, so enter QB Kevin Kolb, who will finally get a chance to prove his worth as a starting QB in the league. The only reservation I have with DeSean Jackson this year is the fact that he will have a new QB throwing him the ball in 2010. Jackson was able to connect with McNabb on numerous occasions last year where he wasn't the intended play call. McNabb was able to evade pressure, see Jackson wide open down field and at the same time, fire a strike for a long completion. It is unknown if Kolb will have the same ability to step aside from a pass rush, recognize the defense and make the split-second decision to chance a long throw in Jackson's direction. I expect Kevin Kolb will have success in his first year as a starter, because I believe in Kolb as well as Andy Reid's offensive strategy. What I don't know is how that will translate to Jackson's success. I know Jackson had two long TDs from the arm of Kevin Kolb in the two games where Kolb started last year. But the uncertainty of how things will progress is what is keeping me from being very excited about Jackson's chances.
The Eagles also have second year WR Jeremy Maclin coming into his own, with Jason Avant likely being more of a fixture in the offense. Not to mention TE Brent Celek, who could, once again lead the team in receptions. If Jackson's 18.5 yards per catch average drops and the TDs aren't as abundant with Kolb, he turns into a very good, but not elite fantasy WR. Keep in mind he had only 62 and 63 catches in his first two years in the league. The Eagles offense (but perhaps, just McNabb) rarely has a WR with a lot of catches. No Eagles WR in the Andy Reid era except Terrell Owens and Kevin Curtis has had more than 65 receptions in a season. No Eagles WR in the Andy Reid era has exceeded even 80 receptions. If Jackson's TDs drop off, is he someone you want to hang your WR1 hopes on? For me it's not, especially not in a PPR league.
It is very possible that Jackson and Kolb could connect to form a great QB-WR tandem and by week six, we'll all forget about the "replacing McNabb" worries. However, until he proves he can be a solid fantasy threat with Kolb, my expectations are tempered. I won't risk selecting him as my primary fantasy WR based on where he is being selected (low 20s overall and 8th WR overall).