Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin missed all of the 2013 season with a torn ACL. That shouldn't stop fantasy owners from drafting him, though, because Maclin is in line for monster numbers in his maiden year playing in coach Chip Kelly's system.
The uptempo, no-huddle style is just what Maclin needs to maximize his potential. Since he was chosen No. 19 overall by the Eagles in the 2009 draft, Maclin has yet to achieve a 1,000-yard season. That production runs contrary to how highly the organization regarded him coming out of Missouri.
In surveying the Philadelphia receiving corps, the only prominent contributor returning from last year's No. 2-ranked overall offense is Riley Cooper, who had by far the best year of his career to date. Imagine the results when Maclin takes the field.
Departed playmaker DeSean Jackson led the team with 82 receptions, 126 targets, 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Maclin now figures to be Foles' go-to option and has the explosiveness to produce similar numbers.
Kelly's offense will be based around the rushing attack with LeSean McCoy, but Nick Foles proved in 2013 that he is capable of generating explosive plays and making smart decisions to keep Philly balanced. The number of plays the Eagles run in this offense will inevitably lead to more targets for Maclin.
During his last full season of action in 2012, Maclin saw 122 targets, but erratic QB play by both Michael Vick and then-rookie Foles could be blamed for Maclin having only 69 receptions.
Fantasy value for Maclin should be at an absolute premium in light of what's transpired over the past several weeks. Accounts that New England Patriots superstar Darrelle Revis was getting torched by Maclin in practices were put to bed by Ben Volin of The Boston Globe:
However, any concern about that was eliminated in swift fashion, per CBS Sports' Eye on Football:
Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin looks OK. Already back in the game AND made a catch.— Eye on Football (@EyeOnNFL) August 22, 2014
Maclin shrugged off any speculation that he was rattled after a six-reception, 43-yard performance on a game-high eight targets, via Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com:
I missed last season off of a fluke injury. Prior to that, I think I missed four games, five games my whole career. So you tell me. [...] For four years straight I played the most snaps at receiver on our team. [...] Obviously, I had the little thing that happened in the game. Obviously when something like that happens I get flashbacks. But I try not to think about it. I’ve come a long way. It’s been over a year now and I’m ready to go.
The other wideouts on the Eagles roster include rookies Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff, a former Oregon standout, along with a converted quarterback from Maclin's alma mater in Brad Smith. Oft-injured Arrelious Benn and another of Kelly's ex-Ducks players in Jeff Maehl are also on the current roster.
That gives an idea of the prominent role Maclin figures to play in the team's passing game. Even with capable pass-catchers at tight end in Brent Celek and Zach Ertz and out of the backfield in McCoy and Darren Sproles, look no further than the most recent game, when Maclin's future was in momentary doubt.
Who will lead the Eagles in receiving in 2014?
On that pace against such a traditionally quality opponent with a mind like Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau scheming against the Eagles, there's plenty of reason to trust in Maclin in the 2014 season.
Combine Maclin's desire to prove himself with the fact that he's in Philly on just a one-year deal, and you have the perfect storm for Maclin to be a fantasy stud. While many others are scared away by Maclin's previous lack of production and 2013 injury, fantasy owners should jump at the opportunity to grab him rather late in drafts given the upside he has.
Jeremy Maclin's projected 2014 stats: 80 receptions, 1,230 yards, 9 TDs