Fantasy: Dynasty Duel – Brandon Marshall

| July 12, 2011

Collaborative effort of Bryan Fontaine and Steve Wyremski

In the latest edition of our feature article series, the PFF Fantasy staff takes opposing viewpoints on a player for dynasty league purposes. After making our case, we let you be the judge so you can make the best-informed decision in your dynasty league.

Up next in our Dynasty Duel series is WR Brandon Marshall of the Miami Dolphins.

The case for Brandon Marshall – Steve Wyremski

While Brandon Marshall’s off-the-field situation is an important consideration for dynasty, let us put that aside for a minute. I will address that at the close. The general perception is that Marshall without Jay Cutler and the Broncos and with Chad Henne in Miami is a mediocre receiver. If I’ve heard these knocks once, I’ve heard them a thousand times. Lucky for us, that provides us with some nice value in acquiring Marshall. Many rank him anywhere from WR15 and up to WR25 (our very own Bryan Fontaine). While he is certainly not in a better situation in Miami compared to Denver, he is still a Top 10-15 perennial fantasy receiver. Don’t believe me? Look at the numbers.

First, let us compare his 2010 season with Miami to his 2009 season with the Broncos, since he previously was considered a Top 10 and even Top 5 dynasty WR:

Year FP FP/Snap FP/Opp TD Targets Catches Snaps Targets/Snap
Marshall (’10) 204 0.25 0.39 3 132 86 830 15.9%
Marshall (’09) 276.9 0.32 0.55 10 149 101 864 17.2%

Clearly, Marshall was better with the Broncos and Kyle Orton. Consider the following:

  • His FP/Snap, FP/Opportunity, TDs, Targets/Snap, & Catches/Snap were all worse in 2010
  • His FP/Snap ranked #21 among WRs in 2010
  • Marshall finished as WR#7 in 2009 and WR#21 in 2010
  • In 2010, Marshall finished #13 in targets/snap at 15.9

That is bad comparatively, right? Top 10-15? I’m nuts and clearly wrong, right? Well, let us look a little closer at Marshall’s 2010 season. First, let us check out his 2010 snap breakdown in detail:

Week Marshall Snaps Total Dolphins %
1 65 75 86.7%
2 47 50 94.0%
3 67 74 90.5%
4 69 73 94.5%
6 77 82 93.9%
7 56 59 94.9%
8 65 73 89.0%
9 52 56 92.9%
10 65 69 94.2%
14 55 59 93.2%
15 61 69 88.4%
16 77 89 86.5%
17 55 61 90.2%


Week 11 was removed since he was injured in the second quarter against the Bears and did not play the remainder of the game. Note that he also missed Weeks 12 and 13 because of that injury.

Based on the above, he averaged 91.5% of total team snaps in 2010. With those snaps, he tallied 207 total FP and finished as WR#21. Let us assume that he played an entire season at 91.5% of snaps per game, did not miss those three full games, and continued to produce at 0.25 FP/snap. Here is what we get:

Week Marshall Snaps Total Dolphins %
1 65 75 86.7%
2 47 50 94.0%
3 67 74 90.5%
4 69 73 94.5%
6 77 82 93.9%
7 56 59 94.9%
8 65 73 89.0%
9 52 56 92.9%
10 65 69 94.2%
11 46 50 92.0%
12 81 88 92.0%
13 60 67 89.6%
14 55 59 93.2%
15 61 69 88.4%
16 77 89 86.5%
17 55 61 90.2%
Total Snaps 998
Total FP 244.93

That projected total FP would have ranked him at WR11 in 2010 and that is with only three TDs on the year. If we assume a modest, but reasonable improvement to five TDs for the season, he would rank at WR7 ahead of Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald to name two players that are highly regarded in dynasty. His snaps per game with the Dolphins is higher than his snaps per game with the Broncos in ’09, which offsets the fact that his FP/snap is down.

I am not saying Marshall should be drafted at WR7 since he clearly has concerns off the field with the recent stabbing, its uncertain outcome, and numerous other police encounters. I am saying that he deserves to at least be ranked in the Top 15. I would still argue Top 10 given the above and that 2010 was his first season with a new team. As long as he plays, he will produce at a top level and the Dolphins already stated publicly that they are sticking with Marshall.

I told you I would get to the off-the-field risk, so while it is a risk for Marshall, many receivers drafted/ranked ahead of him carry similar risk for different reasons that I would pass over for Marshall with ease:

  • Santonio Holmes: Similar off-the-field issues, but without the Top 15 track record
  • Reggie Wayne: Great production, but getting older and decline could begin soon
  • Dewayne Bowe: Mr. Inconsistent & TD regression likelihood
  • A.J. Green: Hasn’t played a snap in the NFL
  • Stevie Johnson: One-year wonder?
  • Marques Colston: Does he have enough of a knee left to play after the repeated microfracture surgeries?
  • Jeremy Maclin: A #2 WR on the Eagles without a 1,000 yard season in his career

Bottom line: give me a player who produces at a Top 10 clip and who has produced at that level for multiple seasons any day of the week. The risk posed by off-the-field issues is worth it and the worst case is that he misses a few games for suspension.

The case against Brandon Marshall – Bryan Fontaine

Brandon Marshall will struggle to regain his former status as a Top 10 dynasty wide receiver. While I agree with my colleague on some of the merits of acquiring Marshall by buying low, he is far too risky to break the bank for in startup drafts.

Missing Games

Brandon Marshall and legal trouble are almost synonymous at this point. I would rather focus on the fact that Marshall has not played a full season since 2007 in Denver:

  • 2008 – One game suspension (reduced from three games)
  • 2009 – One game suspension (Week 17)
  • 2010 – Injury (hamstring) missed two games

Effectiveness

Marshall cannot seem to shake the stigma of being a head case and even his perceived fantasy value has taken a hit in just one season. He was viewed as a top-10 receiver going into 2010, and now many are ranking him in the 15-25 range (I have Marshall 25th). So what happened with the numbers? We know that Marshall missed two and a half games due to a hamstring, but he experienced a greater drop in efficiency than just switching quarterbacks from Kyle Orton to Chad Henne:

Player Year Team Pos FP Rank FP/SN Rank FP/Opp Rank TA/SN % Rank TA/PR Rank Snaps
Brandon Marshall 2009 DEN WR 276.9 7 0.32 6 0.55 3 17.25 4 29.80 2 864
Brandon Marshall 2010 MIA WR 203.7 21 0.25 34 0.39 29 15.90 15 25.53 7 830

Marshall’s fantasy rank dropped as expected from 7th to 21st due to the missed time. He ranked lower in every category (despite only playing 30 fewer snaps than in 2009) including:

  • Fantasy Points per Snap (-28)
  • Fantasy Points per Pass Route run (-26)
  • Targets per Snap (-11)
  • Targets per Pass Route run (-5)

Miami vs. Denver

One major difference from 2009 to 2010 was how Marshall lined up on the field. He had the freedom to lineup in the slot more often in Denver, but was used almost exclusively on the outside (83.01% snaps) last year in Miami. The biggest hindrance on his production was where he was targeted between his time in Denver:

Brandon Marshall Receptions and Targets by Direction 2008-2010
2010 Left Tgt. Left Rec. Middle Tgt. Middle Rec. Right Tgt. Right Rec.
20+ yds 3.79% 1.16% 6.06% 2.33% 3.79% 1.16%
10-19 yds 12.88% 11.63% 13.64% 17.44% 6.06% 5.81%
0-9 yds 13.64% 13.95% 21.97% 25.58% 13.64% 15.12%
Minus Yds 1.52% 2.33% 3.03% 3.49% 0.00% 0.00%
2008 and 2009 Left Tgt. Left Rec. Middle Tgt. Middle Rec. Right Tgt. Right Rec.
20+ yds 4.91% 1.94% 4.29% 2.43% 8.28% 2.43%
10-19 yds 6.44% 5.34% 15.03% 11.65% 4.29% 2.43%
0-9 yds 8.90% 12.62% 29.14% 37.86% 8.59% 9.22%
Minus Yds 1.84% 2.43% 7.06% 9.22% 1.23% 1.94%

The numbers highlight some surprising trends in Marshall’s first season in Miami:

  • 9.73% increase in targets to the left (He lined up 51.45% as the LWR)
  • 10.82% decrease in targets to the middle of the field
  • 3.85% decrease in targets greater than 20 yards
  • 5.58% decrease in passes behind the line of scrimmage

So what does this data mean? Marshall was not able to use some of his best attributes, which include breaking tackles and gaining yards after the catch. He was targeted on fewer passes in the middle of the field and was barely targeted on bubble screens.

Drops

Marshall is also known for dropping many passes. While he was tied for the league lead in 2010 and was third in 2008, his drop rate has not been awful:

Name Team Year TA Rec. % Ct Yds Yds / Rec. YAC / Rec. TD DP Rank *Drop Rate % Rank
Brandon Marshall MIA 2010 132 86 65.2 1014 11.8 2.7 3 13 1 13.13 17
Brandon Marshall DEN 2009 149 101 67.8 1120 11.1 5 10 8 14 7.34 48
Brandon Marshall DEN 2008 177 104 58.8 1265 12.2 4.2 6 16 3 13.33 17

*Drop Rate = Drops/ (Drops + Receptions) x 100

What to do with Brandon Marshall

Figuring out what to do with Brandon Marshall is a tough question for dynasty owners at this point. His perceived trade value is at a low point but some still view him as a strong WR2 with the potential to become a Top 10 option again. It all depends whether you are already a Marshall owner or are evaluating him in a startup dynasty draft. If you already own Marshall, it does not make sense to sell low and he makes a better hold candidate until he shows increased returns. I would reserve caution in drafting Marshall in a startup draft because of the uncertainty regarding his off-field concerns and usage in the Miami offense. Although I currently rank Marshall as my WR25 and plan to upgrade him in my next update, I still could not draft him before most of the others I rank in the Top 20.

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