Spotlight: Brandon Marshall

posted by Jason Wood on Aug 6th


Jason Wood's thoughts

Can he do it?

Can Brandon Marshall join Marvin Harrison as the only player in NFL history with four consecutive 100-catch seasons?

Year Games Recs Yards YPR TDs
2007 16 102 1,325 13.0 7
2008 15 104 1,265 12.2 6
2009 15 101 1,120 11.1 10

Entering this year, Marshall sits in rarified air. Only Marvin Harrison, Andre Johnson, Herman Moore, Jerry Rice and Wes Welker have three (or more) 100-catch seasons to their credit. In some ways, Marshall's feat may be the most impressive considering the less-than-stable circumstances. He's had multiple head coaches, multiple quarterbacks, injuries, off-the-field controversy and has even been suspended by his team. At this point last year, Marshall was considered a very risky fantasy bet, as some thought the Broncos would bench him or sit him simply because of the animosity between he and new head coach Josh McDaniels. Yet, when the dust settled, in spite of only starting 13 games (playing in 15), Marshall once again topped the century mark and also cracked double digit TDs for the first time.

But if Marshall is going to hit 100 catches again, it'll not only tie Harrison's record for consecutive seasons, but he'll be the first player in history to have 100-catch seasons for two different teams. That's because Marshall finally got his wish and leaves the Mile High City for the Florida sunshine. The Dolphins traded for Marshall and then rewarded him with a new 5-year, $47.3mm contract that included $12.5 million in guarantees. The Dolphins believe Marshall was the missing piece to an offense that had dynamic moments last year, but ranked just 20th in passing yards and 27th in passing TDs last year.

It goes without saying that when you catch 307 passes in three seasons, you have a deep skill set. Marshall is 6'4", 229 lbs. and among the strongest receivers in the league. He could line up at tight end and a lot of people wouldn't think twice. But he's not merely a strong receiver, but he's aggressive and attacks the ball. He runs crisp routes but doesn't need a ton of separation to make the catch, which is why he's able to pile up the receptions even though he commonly is a focal point of the opposing defensive secondary.

Did you realize that Marshall is THE most targeted WR over his three seasons as a full-time starter?

Rank First Last Targs Recs Catch%
1 Brandon Marshall 505 307 60.8%
2 Larry Fitzgerald 472 293 62.1%
3 Wes Welker 457 347 75.9%
4 Roddy White 450 256 56.9%
5 T.J. Houshmandzadeh 441 283 64.2%
6 Reggie Wayne 436 287 65.8%
7 Andre Johnson 427 276 64.6%
8 Randy Moss 423 250 59.1%
9 Derrick Mason 419 256 61.1%
10 Steve Smith 406 232 57.1%
11 Terrell Owens 390 205 52.6%
12 Braylon Edwards 385 180 46.8%
13 Chad Ochocinco 385 218 56.6%
14 Calvin Johnson 383 193 50.4%
15 Hines Ward 375 249 66.4%
16 Santana Moss 373 210 56.3%
17 Torry Holt 371 208 56.1%
18 Dwayne Bowe 361 203 56.2%
19 Anquan Boldin 353 245 69.4%
20 Donald Driver 349 226 64.8%
21 Greg Jennings 343 202 58.9%
22 Santonio Holmes 337 186 55.2%
23 Marques Colston 337 215 63.8%
24 Jerricho Cotchery 334 210 62.9%
25 Bernard Berrian 314 173 55.1%

So the question on everyone's mind is how Marshall's situation changes in Miami?
Last year the Dolphins attempted 545 passes (14th) and ran the ball 509 times (3rd) while throwing for 15 TDs and running for 22. But those numbers really don't tell us a lot about the 2010 Dolphins. 1) Chad Henne wasn't supposed to be the starter last year, but took over the team after Chad Pennington got hurt. Henne showed enough for the Dolphins to commit to him as their starter and this marks the first year he'll get all the 1st team reps in camp and be THE guy. 2) Ronnie Brown was dominating opposing defenses out of the Wildcat formation but only played 9 games. He's back and healthy, which means the Dolphins won't need to deviate from their intense rushing attack. 3) Last year's leading receiver - Davone Bess - averaged a paltry 10.0 yards per catch and simply wasn't able to generate much offense on his own. 4) The defense should be improved as new DC Mike Nolan takes over and has a history of getting more out of the same personnel.

The Dolphins didn't sign Marshall to not use him. But to expect him to catch 100+ balls again may be unrealistic. Consider that he's averaged a solid 61% catch rate over his three seasons as a full-time starter. That means he'll need 165 targets to get to triple digit catches if he maintains his typical catch rate. Will the Dolphins throw to any one player that much? This is a team molded by Tony Sparano and he's an advocate of ball control, power running, and opportunistic play-action passing. It's a tough bet to make, but not entirely illogical considering the rest of the receiving corps. Brian Hartline is raw and slated to start opposite Marshall. Bess and Greg Camarillo are possession-types best used in multiple-WR sets. Anthony Fasano is an in-line receiver to help move the changes, but won't command consistent looks. So ultimately if the run/pass ratio stays balanced, Marshall actually COULD see 160+ targets. It's not out of the question.

Zeroing in on Marshall's explosiveness
I'm optimistic about Marshall's continued productivity. But I've heard critics wonder if Marshall lacks explosiveness. At the heart of their argument is the fact Marshall's yards-per-reception have fallen 15.5 as a part-time rookie to 13.0 in 2007 to 12.2 in 2008 and all the way down to 11.1 last year. Usually when a receiver averages just 11.1 yards per reception, you begin to wonder if the player is no longer getting away from defenders. But is that really happening with Marshall? I don't think so, for two reasons:

1) Marshall averaged a very respectable 5.0 yards after the catch in 2009. That may not be the top end (Hakeem Nicks held that honor), but it was certainly a promising tally. By comparison, Chad Ochocinco had 3.3 YAC/reception, Larry Fitzgerald had 3.2 YAC/reception and Steve Smith (NYG) had 2.3 YAC/reception.
2) Marshall had 7 catches of 25+ yards last year, among the top 20. Again, he didn't lead the league, but he certainly had his fair share of big catches.

Positives

  • Marshall is a big, physical receiver who can make catches in traffic
  • He's armed with a new contract, a new surrounding where he's appreciated, and will be the focal point of a balance offensive attack
  • Chad Henne showed promise last year and has the accuracy and arm strength to at least approximate what Marshall's used to from his QBs, if not exceed it

Negatives

  • The Dolphins are going to run the ball and lot and Marshall may be hard pressed to match his usual 150-160 targets even though he'll lead the team in targets, for sure
  • This year fantasy owners will have to pay fair value for Marshall as he's consistently being drafted as a Top 10 fantasy wideout
  • Marshall's yards-per-catch has fallen in each successive season

Final thoughts

From the day fellow FBG Sigmund Bloom told me about Marshall and his immense potential prior to the NFL draft, I've been a believer. Last year, Marshall was on the majority of my rosters and helped me have a great season because he smashed expectations and significantly outperformed his ADP. This year is a bit different. On one hand, Marshall is in a near perfect situation. He's on a good team that needs him to play well to take the next step. He's been rewarded with a contract commensurate to his abilities. He has a good young QB with an emergent offensive line. And there are no other WRs that will threaten to take the majority or targets away from him. On the other hand, the Dolphins are going to run the ball behind Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. And they're not going to force feed Marshall the ball, which is something Kyle Orton and Jay Cutler both did in Denver. Net-net, I think a healthy Marshall is too talented, and too important in Miami to not be a Top 10 fantasy WR. But I do think that he'll be more in the 85-90 reception range, which is still quite solid in PPR leagues especially.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

Banger said:

A team doesn't make a trade to get a player like Marshall and then pay him like they did and then use his as much as they used Bess last year. Being the most talented player on the offense he will be the focal point of the offense. No they aren't going to become a passing team but they will get him the ball often. He's a great run blocker (which works well with Miami) and he's a great runner with the ball in his hands and with the creative things they've done with the wildcat I'd expect that they'll find multiple ways to use his great skill sets. I see no reason why his numbers should dip much from his days in Denver and he'll likely be a top 5 to 10 wr.

Ministry of Pain said:

It's Miami, he'll do well but Henne is still developing and Miami is a team that has not arrived yet. The front 7 on defense scares me as much as anything, it's in shambles and that could limit the offense and where they set up shop on the field all the time. I really am concerned that Miami will take a step back this year in order to take some steps forward. They are only 2 years removed from going 1-15. They lost Taylor and Porter, have absolutely no pass rush they can rely on right now with a rookie OLB and Wake form the CFL, c'mon now. Also they lost their NT for the 1st 8 games, and Merling the DE beat up a pregnant woman and was arrested then charged with assault, doubtful he is going to see the field a lot after Roger Goodell gets done with him...I'm surprised he is even practicing with the team.

Todem said:

He is the focal point and center piece of this offense...make no mistake. You can talk all day about "Miami is going to run all day"....but they will be playing from behind often. We have a very young and green defense that we will be fielding. And I don't see us winning more than 8-9 games tops...and that is being a realistic fan and the high end. We are still a year and one more solid draft/offseason away from making a real run.

rzrback77 said:

Several posters have stated that Miami is a running team and they have been in the recent past. However, their current running backs are Ronnie Brown, who has ended tow of the last three seasons on IR and is coming off foot surgery, and Ricky Williams, who although he had a great season in 09, has already turned 33 years old.

Meanwhile, they have a QB with a solid arm, who completed over 60% of his passes in his first season starting and has swapped Brandon Marshall for Tedd Ginn, but otherwise maintained the same young receiver corps. Henne passed for over 300 yards in three of the Dolphins last five games a year ago, so there is something there to build on.

Miami may not have had a 100 catch wide receiver before, but when they had an awesome aerial attack back in the old days, they had two very good WRs. I submit that Brandon Marshall is their best WR, and by a far shot. I also think that Henne is at least as talented as Orton and he was able to get Marshall the ball. One hundred catches would be hard to do, but I would not consider it as a monstrous shocking event either.


Brandon Marshall projections

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