Jeremy Maclin: The Steal Of Your Draft?

Every fantasy football season, folks around our community put out columns about rookies who might make an impact, veterans who may be forgotten and even sleepers and busts (which some, myself included, believe are pointless in this era of super-saturated coverage and social media).

This is not one of those pieces.

Last season, I spent the entire summer joining and trumpeting the Jay Cutler bandwagon. "Marc Trestman's system is quarterback-proof," I said. "He's gotta bounce back from the injury," I said. "He was only sacked 19 times last season [in 2013]," I said. You get the idea. So, come draft day, I built my team, waited on picking a quarterback and finally took Cutler with the 109th overall pick, a knowing and superior smile on my face as I basked in my own hubris.

Behold, the face of my nightmares.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Behold, the face of my nightmares.

Cutler lasted as my starter until late October, when I finally got sick of his turnovers and general Cutler-ness and was forced to stream for the remainder of the season, which kept me out of the playoffs. I'm not proud of this story, obviously. I'm also not proud of the fact that I picked up Odell Beckham, Jr. on Oct. 15, and promptly dropped him two weeks later after he was unimpressive; three days later, he started his string of nine straight 90-yard games and entered the record books. However, that is just another sobering reminder that what we do in this business is an inexact science; we use the data we have available plus our own training and experience to make the best possible guess of what we think will happen. 

In that vein, I wanted to highlight a player left in the cold simply because of his new team, a player who could potentially leave you with a bitter Cutler-esque taste in your mouth, but could also be the steal of your draft. And, I don't want the former for you all. I really don't.

Unless you're in my league, in which case, suck it.

So with that being said, let's take a quick look at Jeremy Maclin's 2014 season: 85 catches on 143 targets (59.4 percent) for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns, good for 192 points in standard leagues. Clearly, Maclin's talent and fit as the number one receiver in Chip Kelly's high-tempo Eagles offense were a match made in heaven, right? 

Maclin is an incredibly athletically gifted player who ran a 4.48 40-yard dash at his combine in 2008, and at 6'0 and 200 pounds, he's not the most physically dominant receiver, but he does have the innate ability to catch the football. He recorded only one drop in 2014, tied for best among NFL receivers (who played at least half of his team's snaps) with Malcom Floyd of the Chargers, Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals and Kendall Wright of the Titans.

Not only that, Maclin received an overall 9.1 score from Pro Football Focus, good for 14th in the league behind only top tier receivers like Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, Julio Jones, et al.

All that put Maclin as a clear WR1 in fantasy, an almost guaranteed every-week starter, albeit on the low end. This year, however, without any sort of lingering injury concerns, Maclin has fallen all the way to a consensus ADP of WR26 (65th overall), which is essentially a fifth- or sixth-round choice depending on the size of the league. Why the cliff?

To be perfectly honest? Alex Smith. He of the career 6.3 adjusted yards per attempt. He of the "King of the Game Managers," who has never once had a receiver eclipse 1,000 yards in a season in which he has started for an entire season. Michael Crabtree topped the 1,000-yard mark in 2012, but it took three 100-plus-yard game totals with Colin Kaepernick under center to do it.

"Man, I wish I hadn't done anything I've done as a professional football player."

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

So, Smith is not exactly Peyton Manning when it comes to making receivers he plays with better, I'll grant you that. This issue seems to transcend coaches and playstyles as well, so blaming Andy Reid's system for Smith's lack of passing pizzazz seems misguided at best; Reid had a 1,000-yard receiver four times in his 14 years coaching in Philadelphia: Terrell Owens in 2004, Kevin Curtis in 2007 and DeSean Jackson in 2009 and 2010. Apart from Curtis, I believe that's sufficient evidence to support the idea that Reid isn't necessarily averse to a high-target, high-yardage number one receiver, he just needs a certain level of talent to make it happen.

I believe Maclin has that talent level. Not only that, let's look at the wasteland of receivers Smith had to work with in 2014, by snap count: 

  • Dwayne Bowe: the only receiver to play at least 25 percent of the team's snaps in 2014, seven dropped passes, a -2.3 pass rating from PFF, a 66.7 catch percentage, and, remember, zero touchdowns.

  • Junior Hemingway: only 260 total snaps, a -5.3 PFF rating, three drops, zero touchdowns.

  • Frankie Hammond: 257 snaps, a -6.3 rating, made a whopping 40 percent of available catches, two drops, zero touchdowns.

  • A.J. Jenkins: 253 snaps, a -3.5 rating, no drops(!), zero touchdowns.

So on and so forth. In fact, Chiefs receivers recorded TWENTY dropped passes in 2014, and their 29 dropped passes overall was fifth in the league; their drop percentage of 6.0 was second behind only the Colts, who threw more than 150 more passes . 

Ultimately, Maclin (who has great hands) could be the best thing that's ever happened to Alex Smith (whose receivers apparently don't have hands at all), and he could be a very sneaky value pick at his current ADP who you could easily use as a high-end WR2. Plus, he might actually catch a touchdown!

Image title

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, this is the last wide receiver to score a touchdown for the Chiefs in the regular season. Bowe, in the first quarter against Washington, in Week 14 of 2013.

Ultimately, it's up to you to decide if Maclin is worth the risk of his ADP, but I for one believe that he take a step up. At the very least, adding Maclin is a step up from the complete garbage fire that was the Kansas City Chiefs receiving corps.

As always, never drink and draft!

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