At the end of the day, fantasy football comes down to one thing—consistent and reliable production. Few wide receivers in the league offer that in spades quite the way Brandon Marshall does.
Marshall totaled 100 catches on 163 targets for 1,295 receiving yards and a career-high 12 touchdowns in 2013 for the Chicago Bears. It was business as usual for No. 15, seeing as how he topped the 1,000 receiving yards plateau for the seventh consecutive season.
Yes, Marshall is 30 years old, but the fact that he just posted a career high in touchdown catches last year and receiving yards in 2012 as a part of the Bears is a testament to his work ethic, ability to stay on the field and overall fit in Chicago's scheme. He played in all 16 games for the past three years and has never missed more than two contests in a single season.
That type of durability is rare in the physically grueling NFL, especially for a wide receiver who is targeted as much as Marshall.
Marshall also boasts some advanced stats that should sound like music to the ears of fantasy owners. Since he arrived in Chicago two years ago, he is first in the NFL in targets (355), second in vertical targets (173), third in standard-league scoring (408) and second in point-per-reception scoring (626). Those numbers are courtesy of ESPN.com’s 2014 fantasy rankings.
The raw production numbers aren’t the only reason Marshall is so appealing in fantasy circles.
He and Jay Cutler played together in Denver and are now entering their third season together in Chicago. Having a familiarity with your quarterback, especially as part of an offense that scored more points than every club except the Denver Broncos last year, is critical for a wide receiver going forward.
Which wide receiver would you draft first?
Teams that worry about that familiarity and rapport and subsequently double-team Marshall will pay dearly, though. The Bears have Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, Matt Forte and perhaps even newly signed Santonio Holmes as targets for Cutler in the passing game. It is a testament to Chicago’s incredible depth on the offensive side of the ball that a former Super Bowl MVP (Holmes) is battling for the right to potentially be the team’s fifth-leading pass-catcher.
Remember, Forte is always involved in the passing game, but teams may have to eventually creep down into the box to contain him. He rushed for 1,339 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013 and added 594 yards and three touchdowns through the air.
This offense is going to be absolutely explosive, and teams will simply not be able to focus in on containing just Marshall. That means one of the NFL’s best wide receivers will have all kinds of room to operate in the secondary.
Marshall talked about how dynamic this offense is with so many weapons, via Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times:
Those are the guys that are going to win games. When I say that, I mean it could be Alshon’s day, it could be [Wilson’s] day, it could be Marty’s day.
It could be my day. That’s just how our offense is set up.
It’s not about me. It’s not just about [running back] Matt [Forte] or Jay.
It’s about the group.
It may be all about the group in Chicago, but Marshall is the most proven receiver of the bunch. Even the Madden 15 video game recognized that, via the Chicago Tribune:
Madden rates Marshall as top Bear http://t.co/LK3z0m83TX— ChiTribSports (@ChiTribSports) August 4, 2014
Ultimately, there are a number of elite wide receivers in the NFL. Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, Julio Jones and Larry Fitzgerald come to mind and would all be worthy fantasy picks.
However, Marshall will be a top-three wide receiver this year because of the combination of his talent, history of staying on the field and avoiding injury and the offensive weapons surrounding him.
Don’t overlook all those factors working in Marshall’s favor on draft day.
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