Marvin Jones is the best wide receiver on the Bengals. In a parallel universe or something, that might be true. Here on earth, however, A.J. Green is the leading man. We know that, but Jones is still pretty good and the No. 2 WR in Cincinnati. Take a look at the Bengals depth chart.
The next two after Jones are Dane Sanzenbacher and Mohamed Sanu. I actually don’t mind Sanu as a WR, but I’d rather compare the production between the WRs and then make a judgement. Let’s take a look at the RotoViz heat map using the NFL Career Graph app to compare the four.
Green and Jones easily surpass Sanzenbacher and Sanu. In 2013, he posted an average YPR of 13.93 and an average YPT of 8.9. I expect his touchdowns to regress simply because he was scoring TDs at an almost unsustainable pace, but he can give up a couple and still out perform his ADP. In 2013 Jones finished as WR29 in PPR leagues, but is currently being drafted at WR53 on FFC and WR49 on MFL . That seemed a little low to me for someone who finished strong and is entering his third NFL season.
I would say drafters are worried about Andy Dalton or not sure what to expect from new Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. Or perhaps with all the talk surrounding Green, Giovani Bernard, or the addition of Jeremy Hill, maybe Jones has just been slightly forgotten about. Tyler Eifert is also an interesting prospect, but he is more likely to eat into Jermaine Gresham’s targets. If you have doubts about Dalton, I understand, but finding players during the draft that are low risk/high upside, and that can outperform their ADP is how you win championships. That’s exactly what Jones appears to be.
A Year In Review
Jones quietly put together a very productive year last season. Using the AYA app I was able to see Dalton posted a 9.71 AYA when targeting Jones, the second-highest of any WR on the Bengals. The highest was Andrew Hawkins’ 11.06, but on a very small sample size of 18 attempts. Green posted a 6.21 AYA. Using the stats at Pro Football Focus I was able to see Jones had a WR rating of 119.2, which really just means Dalton had a quarterback rating of 119.2 when throwing to Jones, so it appears that Jones helped Dalton and the offense which should mean more snaps in 2014 for Jones but we’ll come back to that in a second. Jones also had a stellar drop rate of 5.56 percent which was sixth-best for WRs with over 75 targets last season. Drops are fluky in the NFL so that stat may not hold a lot of weight, and he only saw 77 targets compared to Green’s 171, but it still shows he’s more than capable of making plays when given the chance. Obviously the more targets a receiver has the higher the probability of drops he will have, but it’s hard to argue against Jones’ efficiency and the numbers he puts up when given the opportunity.
Talent + Opportunity = Production
I tend to favor the rule of talent + opportunity = production. It’s not an original idea but it’s effective. This is also another reason I think Jones has potential to be a big value in 2014. Jones played 618 out of 1,236 snaps for the Bengals last season (right at 50 percent). He received 77 targets on 377 pass routes, so 20 percent of the targets on pass routes. For comparison, Green played 1,155 snaps (93 percent) and saw 171 targets on 625 pass routes (27 percent). I don’t expect Jones to see as many targets as Green but he has room to both run more routes and get more targets on those routes. That combined with his efficiency and what he has proven he can do as a WR is why I believe he is undervalued. So he has the talent, now he just needs opportunity.
I used Pro-Football-Reference to track Jackson’s coaching career anytime he was a head coach or OC to see how the second receiver in his offenses performed. Overall their numbers weren’t great, but you could also argue against the talent of those WRs, at least when compared to Jones. What I needed to know was how much opportunity they had on the field to make plays. In 2007, Michael Jenkins was the Atlanta Falcons’ second WR when Jackson was the offensive coordinator, and played 68 percent of the snaps. In 2011, Darrius Heyward-Bey and his stone hands played 79 percent, and Denarius Moore saw 71 percent of the snaps when Jackson was in charge of the Oakland Raiders.1 Given the look of the depth chart for the Bengals, it would appear that Jones is in role to be the second receiver in Cincinnati, which should lead to a substantial increase in snaps in 2014.
I’m a big fan of the Sim Score App, I think it’s a legitimate way to forecast players and help see which players I may be right about being overlooked. Here are the 2014 projections for Jones.
Using the projections from the Sim Score App, I created a range of outcomes for Jones based on how wWRs finished in full PPR scoring in 2013.
- 8.8 – 140.8 – WR51
- 11.5 – 184 – WR33
- 14.9 – 238.4 – WR17
This is a good scenario, as his low projection is fair value for his current ADP, and the median and high projections represent a substantial return on investment.
Projections with Added Snaps
I wanted to see what Jones projections would look like with more usage so I created a range of outcomes using his fantasy points per snap from 2013. Jones scored 0.31 points per snap in 2013 and finished with a stat line of 51-712-10.
50 percent snaps (same as 2013) – 188.90 – WR29
65 percent snaps – 249.1 – WR15
80 percent snaps – 306.28 – WR4
My reasoning for using the two range of outcomes is not to suggest that Jones will finish as WR4 in 2014, because that’s highly unlikely. It was to suggest that it’s also unlikely he finishes as WR50. It was also an exercise to point out Jones’ upside and how undervalued he is given his current ADP, even if I’m wrong and he doesn’t see an increase in snaps like I suspect he will. The Sim Scores and my projections both think he has a strong probability to at least match his ADP. I’m not sure if he will be able to sustain scoring fantasy points per snap at .31 simply because of the expected regression of his TDs, but MJones is a low risk/high upside player with none of his upside factored into his ADP, and that’s exactly what diligent managers should be searching for this offseason.
- Also note that Jackson was the OC for the Washington Redskins in 2003 but I didn’t think it was necessary to go back that far; Jackson was also head coach of the Raiders in 2010 but I couldn’t use that year because WR was a revolving door due to injuries that campaign. (back)