Marvin Jones has WR2 fantasy upside after signing with the Lions
The Detroit Lions signed free agent wide receiver Marvin Jones to a five-year, $40 million contract with up to $20 million in guarantees, a source told NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport.
It didn’t take them long to find a replacement for Calvin Johnson, but it’s not fair to assume Jones will step into the same role with his new team. While Johnson put up big numbers with Stafford in spite of extra defensive attention, Jones sometimes benefited from the talent around him in Cincinatti.
After missing the entire 2014 season with foot and ankle injuries, Jones finished with career highs in receptions (65), receiving yards (816), targets (93) and total snaps (925) in 2015. He finished as PFF’s 38th-best wide receiver and fantasy football’s WR39 in standard scoring leagues. He also finished with the 56th-most points per snap (PPS).
Jones told NFL Network’s Mike Silver that his decision to sign with the Lions was about maximizing his opportunity, but he should be careful what he wishes for. While breaking free from A.J. Green will provide him with an opportunity to emerge as the top target on his team for the first time in his career, this role is far from guaranteed for Jones.
Jones faces competition for targets from Golden Tate and third-year tight end Eric Ebron. Although Ebron hasn’t emerged as the player the Lions expected when they selected him No. 10 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, Tate has been an excellent wide receiver since joining the Lions.
Over the past two seasons, Tate has racked up 190 receptions on 257 targets with just 12 total dropped passes. Joey Cortolano expanded on what Tate has been able to accomplish when Calvin Johnson has been out of the lineup due to injury.
If Jones wants to take that next step forward as an impact fantasy wide receiver, he will have to make his mark in the red zone. In 2013, Jones finished with a ridiculous 10 touchdown receptions on just 77 targets. After returning in 2015, he fell behind the red zone target totem pole due to the rise of tight end Tyler Eifert, who was masterful in the red zone.
However, in Detroit, Tate and Ebron have combined for just 16 of Matt Stafford’s 54 touchdowns over the past two seasons; Jones can certainly emerge as the primary red zone threat.
Although sometimes billed as a deep threat only, Jones is a much bigger threat after the catch than many realize. In 2015, he racked up 302-of-816 yards after the catch and forced the 16th-most missed tackles (12) in the NFL. This ability meshes well with Stafford’s skill set as a passer and the Lions’ scheme ovearll. For comparison’s sake, Johnson totaled just 304-of-1,214 yards after the catch and forced just two missed tackles in 2015.
After Jim Bob Cooter was named offensive coordinator last season, Stafford threw for 20 touchdowns and just four interceptions over his final nine games. Jones is squarely in the WR3 conversation, but if the Lions’ offense can build on that late season success, he could emerge as a solid WR2 if he establishes himself as Stafford’s first option in the red zone.
Dan Schneier is a staff writer at PFF Fantasy. You can find him on Twitter @DanSchneierNFL.