Jeremy Maclin has flown under the radar in recent years due to some other big names on Philadelphia’s roster. Despite entering his fourth season in the league, Maclin is only 24-years old, and he is primed to turn in his best season yet. With the help of some statistics, we are going to explore why Maclin is the best fantasy receiver in Philadelphia.
In his three years on the Eagles, Maclin’s role in the offense has steadily increased, and his fantasy value has surpassed that of his teammate, DeSean Jackson. Let’s take a look at Maclin and Jackson’s performances dating back to 2009.
Since his rookie season, Maclin has improved as a fantasy option while Jackson has declined. While taking a backseat to Jackson in every major category in 2009, Maclin caught up to and even slightly surpassed Jackson in 2010. By last season, Maclin scored almost two more fantasy points per game (PPG) than Jackson. Both Jackson and Maclin averaged 58 snaps a game, but Maclin was targeted more (on a per-game basis) and caught more passes.
In MyFantasyLeague.com drafts, Maclin is currently being drafted in the fifth round. He is the 22nd receiver off the board, while Jackson is the 20th. Why is Jackson still being drafted ahead of Maclin? The reason is simple: reputation.
Drafting a player on reputation can be dangerous. There are usually two reasons it happens: the player is getting older and the fantasy footballer wants to hold on, or the player in question is a human highlight-reel. Jackson is an incredibly entertaining player. He makes the game-changing punt return and catches the 75-yard touchdown pass on Monday Night Football. He is a polarizing player.
He had the second highest YPC in 2009 and the highest in 2010, and over 25 percent of his targets were 20+ yards down the field in 2011. Jackson also had the 14th-highest average depth of target (aDOT) among receivers in 2011. Maclin, on the other hand, had an aDOT of 11.8, ranking him 69th. Maclin may be less entertaining to watch, but he’s more consistent and has actually put up better numbers.
Should you avoid Jackson at all costs? Of course not. But don’t draft based on reputation and pay for it. Maclin has been the better option in Philly the last two seasons and is still being drafted behind his teammate.
Despite never averaging more than 14 YPC in a season, Maclin is not strictly a mid-range receiver. In 2010, Maclin saw 26 targets on throws 20+ yards down the field. Jackson — who is known as a deep threat — received 28 targets 20+ yards down the field that season. In 2011, Maclin had 21 deep targets compared to Jackson’s 26. Maclin may not be as good of a deep threat, but he is the more versatile receiver out of the two. He can go deep, short, over the middle, and will even get a few carries mixed in here and there.
If we extrapolate Maclin’s 2011 totals over 16 games, his totals look better:
The most disappointing number in his extrapolated season is the six touchdowns, especially considering he tallied 10 the season before. It’s a safe bet that Maclin’s touchdown totals increase in 2012. With LeSean McCoy emerging as Philadelphia’s best threat, many of the red zone target opportunities are taken away. It’s unlikely McCoy scores 20 again next season, though he will still register 15+ total touchdowns. Even still, five (potential) less touchdowns for McCoy means five more (potential) touchdowns for a player like Maclin.
Maclin has shown that he is capable of a 10-touchdown, 1,000-yard season. There are a lot of mouths to feed in Philadelphia — including Michael Vick’s legs — but Maclin will still get his. Don’t expect him to explode for 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns. However, it doesn’t take that big of a season to be a tail end WR1, which Maclin has serious potential to do. More realistically, Maclin finishes around WR15, making him an absolute steal as your WR2 with his current ADP.
The best case scenario for Maclin is 80 receptions, 1,100 yards, and 10 touchdowns. Those are top-10 fantasy receiver numbers. Maclin’s more likely 2012 stat line is 75 receptions, 1,025 yards, and eight touchdowns. That doesn’t seem like a huge difference, but it’s the difference between WR1 and WR2. Because Maclin has a high ceiling and a high floor (barring injury), he is a very safe and smart pick in the fifth round.
Maclin has the benefit of playing on one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. You now have the advantage of knowing that reputation isn’t everything, and that Maclin is the receiver you want to own on that explosive offense.
Follow Tyler Loechner on Twitter @PFF_Loechner.