Well, Brandon Marshall to the Jets is a bit shocking for the landing spot, but the Bears trading away Marshall isn’t surprising at all. We knew the Bears were fielding offers, and that Marshall’s time in Chicago was at an end. Whether or not people are surprised is not the real issue; we want to know the Fantasy impact of the Brandon Marshall trade.
Let’s start with the team getting Marshall, the Jets. They needed more weapons after Percy Harvin missed time – yet again – and Eric Decker led the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns with 74/962/5. Marshall missed three games of his own last year and posted a career-worst with his 61/721/8 line (aside from his rookie year). Many don’t realize that Jay Cutler actually had a good year despite the late-season benching/frustrations. Cutler had his best season as the Bears quarterback with only his 2008 Broncos season trumping it. In fact, Cutler finished as the 14th best Fantasy quarterback despite the issues in Chicago, and his year certainly didn’t hurt Alshon Jeffery, as Jeffery notched 1,133 yards and 10 touchdowns to finish as WR11. Marshall was WR33 and still just WR25 on a per game basis (9.1 FPPG on NFL.com).
The points behind all of this Cutler and Jeffery talk is 1) to warn you from assuming that Marshall will be the No. 1 receiver with the Jets and 2) to not underrate Decker. Marshall is now more of a possession/red zone threat versus the all-around matchup nightmare he used to be. For all of Geno Smith’s (and Michael Vick’s) struggles, Decker still finished as WR28. On a per game basis, Decker averaged 7.5 targets, 4.8 receptions, 67.3 yards and had four touchdowns with Smith at quarterback. Don’t forget, that was a Rex Ryan team, and now we have Chan Gailey, who likes to pass more, enjoys three-receiver sets and had Stevie Johnson posting 1,000-plus yard seasons with ease. Decker is younger by three years, a great outside option and nearly as big as Marshall: 6’3″ 215 lbs. versus 6’4″ 230 lbs. Hmm, what do you know, Jeffery is 6’3″ 215 lbs. Now, Decker isn’t Jeffery, but let’s not dismiss Decker as some middling receiver talent-wise.
Decker and Marshall should be on the same tier for 2015, even with Smith at quarterback, and 70-plus receptions, 900-plus yards and 5-7 touchdowns are in both receiver’s wheelhouses. Decker should come in around the mid-80s for receptions, giving him a slight edge overall. Marshall is far from a lock as the top option, and as of today, it sounds as though Decker will easily be the better draft value and likely, the better performer as well. As for Percy Harvin, hope his bags are already packed. It remains to be seen where Harvin will land, but be assured it won’t be in New York.
As for the Bears, we’re assuming Cutler is under center for 2015, but that could change and throw all of this out of whack. For now, we don’t have a lot to go on with Cutler and Jeffery on the field and no Marshall: just two games. In those games, Jeffery had lines of 6/72/1 and 5/34/0 on 15 and five targets, respectively. To say how much Cutler or the Bears were into that last game is up for debate, and it’s an extremely small sample, but it does make you pause a second… until you remember that the Bears can just slide in another big-bodied receiver alongside Jeffery! Time to step up again (he already did once for Drew Dinkmeyer) Marquess Wilson.
Wilson was the early-forgotten, next-in-line Bears receiver who missed the start of 2014 due to a fractured clavicle. Prior to that injury, Wilson was a popular up-and-comer, and now he has his chance. Wilson fell in the 2013 draft because of issues surrounding his choosing to leave Washington State, citing problems with the coaching staff. However, he brings good size/length and hands, has shown great ability in the open field and is already winning contested balls due to his catch radius. Wilson’s one main issue is adding some bulk, but there is promise here. If Cutler is back in Chicago, Wilson can easily put up WR3 numbers, as Jeffery hogs the spotlight as a Top 10 receiver. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Wilson replicate Marshall’s 2014 season with a 60/700/8 line, albeit with fewer touchdowns and maybe more yardage.
It’s been an interesting week capped off by this Brandon Marshall trade to the Jets. Two trades with significant Fantasy impact in one week? What is this, Madden? In any case, Geno Smith is now back on the QB2 radar, Decker’s value as a WR2 holds or improves slightly, Marshall’s value (from 2014) holds, Jeffery gets a small bump, Wilson gets a huge boost, Cutler is… well… Cutler, and Harvin is house hunting.
Main image photo credit: Matthew B DeLeon