2014 Won't Be Repeated
Let's get one thing straight, Jeremy Maclin is unlikely to match last year's totals. 2014 was a career year -- a year of redemption for the talented but star-crossed receiver. Maclin parlayed a full 16-game slate and Chip Kelly's prolific passing attack to finish as the 9th best fantasy receiver.
- 144 targets
- 85 receptions
- 1,318 yards
- 10 touchdowns
- 276.8 fantasy points (PPR)
- WR9 ranking
Maclin picked an opportune time for a career year; entering unrestricted free agency this offseason. Although the Eagles wanted to keep their top receiver, the Kansas City Chiefs lured Maclin away with a monstrous 5-year, $55 million deal with $22.5 million in guaranteed money. Maclin reunites with his long-time coach Andy Reid, and looks to reinvigorate one of the league's most conservative passing attacks.
Don't Overvalue the Deep Pass
One of the main reasons some fantasy analysts are recommending against Maclin this year is a perceived shift away from Chip Kelly's dynamic, vertical passing offense to Andy Reid's traditional West Coast offense. Many worry that Alex Smith's inability (or unwillingness) to throw deep will rob Maclin of last year's breakout numbers. Those concerns are OVERDONE for one simple reason: Very little of Maclin's success came from the deep ball in 2014.
- 144 total targets
- 86 receptions (59.7% catch rate)
- 34 deep targets (20+ yards downfield)
- 9 receptions on those deep targets (26.5% catch rate)
It's true that Alex Smith is NOT a deep passer, but don't overweight that fact. Maclin has most of his success taking short and intermediate passes and gaining yards after the catch.
MACLIN IS A YAC MACHINE
Yards-after-the-catch is the lynchpin of a successful West Coast offense, and it's Maclin's strong suit. Last year, among qualifying full-time receivers (75%+ of team's snaps), Maclin was 4th in YAC:
- Golden Tate (DET) -- 7.2 YAC per catch
- Randall Cobb (GB) -- 6.6 YAC per catch
- Demaryius Thomas (DEN) -- 6.0 YAC per catch
- Jeremy Maclin (PHI) -- 6.0 YAC per catch
- Jermaine Kearse (SEA) -- 6.0 YAC per catch
DEFINING THE FLOOR VALUE
The Chiefs attempted 493 passes last season -- 28th in the league. Compare that to the Eagles 621 attempts -- 5th in the league. Expecting Maclin to match last year's 144 targets is unreasonable, as we've already established. Yet, we have to remember that Andy Reid targeted Maclin to fill the WR1 role in Kansas City -- a role that's been held down by Dwayne Bowe in 2012-2013. In 16 NFL seasons, Andy Reid's top WR has been remarkably consistent at a percent of the team's passing offense:
|Year||Team||Atts||WR1 Targets||% of Total||#1 Receiver|
The #1 wide receiver in Andy Reid's offense has been targeted 20% of the time, on average -- with Maclin being targeted 20.7% of the time in his two seasons as the top pass catch for the Reid-led Eagles. Even if we're to assume the Chiefs don't throw the ball more in 2015, we can extrapolate a baseline set of projections:
- Projected Pass Attempts -- 525
- Maclin's Projected Targets -- 109 (Average of Reid's #1)
- Implied Target % -- 20.8% (In-Line with Maclin's average under Reid)
- Maclin's Career Catch Rate -- 60.8%
- Implied Reception Total -- 66 receptions
- Maclin's Career Yards per Reception Average -- 13.9
- Implied Receiving Yardage Total -- 917 yards
- Maclin's Career TD Catch Rate -- 6.4%
- Implied TD Receptions -- 7 TDs
- Implied Fantasy Points (PPR) -- 199.7 fantasy points
In other words, even if Jeremy Maclin's addition to the Chiefs equates to no incremental improvement, Maclin's role would still equate to roughly 200 PPR fantasy points. By way of reference, 200 fantasy points would've been good enough for WR24 on average over the last 5 seasons.
- 2014 -- Sammy Watkins (WR27) -- 200.0 fantasy points
- 2013 -- Marques Colston (WR26) -- 199.3 fantasy points
- 2012 -- Jeremy Maclin (WR22) -- 196.7 fantasy points
- 2011 -- Brandon Lloyd (WR23) -- 196.6 fantasy points
- 2010 -- Davone Bess (WR22) 191.7 fantasy points
- Average -- (WR24) 196.9 fantasy points
A Fairly Priced Asset, WITH UPSIDE
Much of our analytical process is spent identifying mispricing -- looking for value plays (players being drafted too late relative to their projected value) and avoiding overhyped players. In Maclin's case, his current ADP of WR27 aligns well with his baseline projected value. The most likely outcome for Jeremy Maclin is that he returns value roughly equivalent to his draft position.
The encouraging part of the equation is Maclin's upside is not priced in. VERY FEW fantasy players are drafted on their baseline value -- fantasy owners cannot help themselves; they build in upside. In Maclin, you have an opportunity to draft someone where any upside is 100% profit.
- If Maclin receives more than the normal 20% of WR1 targets, UPSIDE
- If Maclin has a higher-than-average TD rate, UPSIDE
- If Maclin matches last year's yards-per-catch (vs. his career average), UPSIDE
- If the Chiefs increase their passing attempts by more than 5%, UPSIDE
- Maclin is reunited with Andy Reid, on an offense that's desperate for help at wide receiver
- While Alex Smith is no world-beater, he's a more accurate and reliable passer than either Mark Sanchez or Nick Foles
- Maclin has unbelievable hands; he only had one drop in 86 catchable balls last year
- The Chiefs passing offense was woefully ineffective last year; Alex Smith threw ZERO touchdowns to his wide receivers
- The offensive line has undergone major changes, and likely no longer ranks among the league's better units
- Although injuries played a part, Maclin's numbers playing with Andy Reid never approximated his numbers last year under Chip Kelly
Jeremy Maclin was a top-10 receiver last year, and would've been positioned to replicate those numbers had he remained in Philadelphia. His decision to sign a $55mm contract with the Chiefs means his days as a Top 20 fantasy receiver are probably over, but that doesn't mean his fantasy value is non-existent. At his current ADP, Maclin is being valued slightly below his BASELINE expectations. If the Chiefs show no improvement in the aggregate, and Maclin simply takes over Dwayne Bowe's role in the offense, he's going to be a Top 25 PPR receiver. Yet, it's hardly unreasonable to think Maclin could improve along several axes (YAC, YPR, TD%, Catch %, Target %), in which case he can push back into Top 20 conversation. Maclin lacks the high ceiling to justify drafting early, but he's a high-floor fantasy WR2 and would make an ELITE fantasy WR3 on draft day.
Thoughts from Around the Web
SB Nation's Danny Kelly says Maclin is the WR the Chiefs have been missing:
Maclin's tool set gives Kansas City a legit receiving weapon that fits the type of offense Andy Reid wants to run with. Most defenses are still going to be largely preoccupied with stopping , but having a guy like Maclin downfield -- someone that can get open, make the tough catch, make things happen with his feet and get first downs -- will make the Chiefs much more two-dimensional and more difficult to defend.
NFL.com's Mike Franciscovich agrees with us that Maclin will not repeat his 2014 heroics:
While Maclin finished last season as a top-10 fantasy option at his position with the Eagles, he is now in a completely different situation in Kansas City. This by no means is a knock on Maclin's talent -- he demonstrated last year that he needs to be considered in the conversation along with some of the NFL's best receivers. But although he projects as the No. 1 receiver for the Chiefs, lest we forget that this is a team that failed to complete a touchdown pass to a single wideout last year.