We all know the story by now: In 2011, DeSean Jackson was mired in a contract dispute, sulked about for most of the year, didn't perform very well, went so far as to apologize for his behavior after the season and even told Lisa Salters point blank that he didn't give enough effort trying to avoid an injury before signing a new contract.
It was just another reason the Philadelphia "Dream Team" Eagles never woke up and finished a disappointing 8-8.
But the Eagles apparently accepted his apology, re-signing him to a four-year contract extension. Meaning a happy DeSean Jackson should return to the form that saw him finish as the fourth-best fantasy receiver in 2009 and the 11th-best performer in 2010, right?
Maybe. Let's take a closer look at the fantasy prospects for one of the most electrifying players in football.
Jackson is a huge bounce-back candidate in fantasy football this season, and given his poor effort and lack of focus last season in the midst of a contract dispute, it might be best to disregard 2011 altogether when evaluating Jackson.
If you are willing to do so, it isn't a stretch to think Jackson is capable of being a top-10 wide receiver in 2012.
In the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Jackson caught 109 passes for 2,212 yards and scored 20 touchdowns, and it generally only took one play for Jackson to give fantasy owners a nice performance. Plus, on a dangerous Philadelphia offense chock full of weapons, Jackson will find himself with space to work and plenty of plays designed to utilize his explosiveness.
Don't get crazy worrying about Jackson's ineffectiveness going over the middle. Since 2009, he's caught 16 passes thrown behind the line of scrimmage and has 44 rushes, meaning the Eagles find unique ways to involve him in the offense.
And no matter where he touches it, he's a threat to take it to the house. He may not be a traditional weapon in the passing game, but a happy and paid Jackson should be a dangerous weapon on a pass-heavy Philadelphia team nonetheless.
Fantasy Red Flags
Teams have clearly adjusted to the deep threat that Jackson poses. Take a look at the regression Jackson has seen in production on passes thrown for 31 yards or more since 2009:
Teams regularly keep two safeties deep against the Eagles, aware of the dangers that Jackson and Jeremy Maclin pose streaking down the field. That often leaves the middle of the field open for Jason Avant and Brent Celek, but it doesn't bode well for fantasy owners banking on big plays from Jackson.
Jackson is never going to be great going over the middle, so if he doesn't give you big plays down the field, he's not going to be an elite fantasy performer.
Jackson also was a threat in the return game, but the Eagles use him very sparingly in that regard now. In 2008, he had 50 return attempts. That number has dropped since, with 29 in 2009, 20 in 2010 and just 17 last year.
In other words, an added touchdown here or there in the return game like Jackson offered in 2009 (two return touchdowns) is no longer very likely.
And Jackson isn't very big, meaning he's always a threat to get injured. Oh, and so is his quarterback, Michael Vick. And if Vick goes down, Jackson's value takes a hit.
In the five games Jackson has played in the past two seasons without Vick starting, he has 17 catches, 253 yards and just one touchdown. Not terrible numbers, but not worth starting on your fantasy team either. That's good for an average of 6.26 fantasy points per game.
Jackson is a boom-or-bust type of player from week to week, and his inconsistency may drive owners mad. He's just as likely to score on a deep touchdown pass that earns you double-digit fantasy points as he is to give you nothing. There's plenty to be scared about when it comes to Jackson.
Just in case you forgot what he was capable of doing.
Draft Day Value
In ESPN snake drafts, Jackson has an Average Draft Position of 62.6, an unbelievable value for a player who has twice been a top-11 fantasy receiver. It's hard to top getting a player with that much potential in the sixth round in 10-man leagues.
So let's add this to one of Jackson's fantasy strengths—given the way he's being drafted this year, he's actually a sleeper. He's certainly worth a fifth-round pick as well, and if you're convinced he'll bounce-back in a top-five way this year, go after him in the fourth.
He's not without his risks, but most of them are alleviated if you get him in the sixth round. The reward far outweighs the risk given his draft slot this year.
Tweet That Says It All
We've seen that Jackson's deep looks have gone down over the past three years. Still, as this tweet regarding Mike Wallace from ESPN Stats & Info demonstrates, Jackson has no peer when it comes to the big play:
#Steelers fans familiar with Mike Wallace's impact. He has 31 career grabs of 30+ yds. Only DeSean Jackson has more (36) in last 3 yrs.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 21, 2012
|Games||Catches||Total Yards||Total TD|
As you can see, I think Jackson is poised for a bounce-back season. No, I don't think he can replicate his 2009 numbers—defenses pay way too much attention to him these days—but I think he'll be far better than he was last year as well.
And given he'll probably be available to you in the fifth or sixth round, I believe he is worth gambling on this season.
Fantasy football titles are won in two ways: taking risks that pay off and getting value with each pick. Consider DeSean Jackson a player that should give you both this year. There will be weeks he leaves you high and dry, but there will be others I believe he will lead you to the win.
Yes, it will be a bumpy ride at times, but ultimately one I think you should risk taking this season.
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets have an ADP of one.