We’re Too Low on Alshon Jeffery

Charles Kleinheksel recently did a great series looking at the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends our composite projections are low and high on, relative to early MFL10 ADP. In his overvalued WR piece, he noted we’re awful low on Alshon Jeffery.

I’m here to tell you we’re wrong. In fact, he’s a clear WR1, and a fantasy football value at his current ADP of WR11.

The Opportunity Will Be There

According to the Fantasy Efficiency App, Jeffery was one of just five players in the NFL with a market share of targets over 30 percent in games he played.

WR Market Share 2015

What’s particularly notable about that is Jeffery played hurt and/or left early in a hefty percentage of his season, playing in only nine games. You can see he finished with under 55 percent of snaps twice last season, per The Snap Report.

CHI WR Snap ReportWhat I’m implying is Jeffery might have led the league in target share last year had he been a bit healthier.

Of course, 2016 is a different year with different personnel. In some ways that’s good for Jeffery – not even the most optimistic Zach Miller and Jeremy Langford projection should have them hogging more targets as the lead TE and pass-catching back than Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte. But in some ways that’s bad – former top-ten pick Kevin White is a much more legitimate WR2 threat than anything Chicago trotted out in 2015.

But the scenario where Miller, Langford, and White are enough of a threat to Jeffery’s potential 30 percent share – at least more so than Bennett, Forte, and Marquess Wilson in 2015 – is one that relies very heavily on White’s health, his immediate ascendance to relevancy in what is essentially his redshirt rookie year, and then also some optimistic assumptions about Miller and Langford.

There’s a small probability on that outcome.

When we consider that Jeffery might have been trending toward something more like 32 or 33 percent of targets last year, projecting him for a 30 percent share in 2016 almost feels… light.

A Fox Offense

Share doesn’t equate to targets though, and the next question is not whether this offense will be run-based, but how heavy the lean will be. Dowell Loggains doesn’t have a long history as a coordinator, but what history he does have is run-heavy. John Fox was also run-heavy for years in Carolina, as well as last year in Chicago, which seem like much more predictive tendencies to study than a couple pass-heavy years in Denver with a quarterback presence like Peyton Manning.

The expectation should be this is a run-first offense, and I’m not going to argue against that. Jeffery isn’t going to see the most targets of any player in the league, even if he hits that high-end possibility of leading the league in market share.1 But even if the offense only throws 500 times – a number which only five teams undershot last year – a 30 percent share equates to 150 targets.

If you buy Jeffery is good for that magic 30 percent number, you buy him as the recipient of a WR1 number of targets.

The Man To Take Advantage

That volume is particularly great news because Alshon Jeffery happens to be really good at football.

Jeffery is a 6-foot-3-inch, 216-pound athletic specimen, with a height-adjusted speed score, agility score, and catch radius all above the 80th percentile for WRs. His Dominator Rating, collegiate YPR, Breakout Age, and SPARQ-x are all above the 70th percentile for WRs. According to Player Profiler, his closest comparable is Larry Fitzgerald.

Alshon Jeffery Player Profiler

He already broke out at the NFL level before his injury-riddled 2015, posting 174 receptions, over 2500 yards, and 17 TDs across his age-23 and age-24 seasons in 2013 and 2014. He played all 16 games in both seasons.

In fact, here are his per-game averages over the 41 games he’s played in the last three seasons, which constitute his entire career to date save for his rookie season.

Alshon Jeffery Chart

Now fully ready to enter his prime at age 26, one might expect Jeffery to exceed some of these efficiency marks, though he doesn’t really have to.

Here is the line I projected for Jeffery seeing 30.5 percent of the 530 pass attempts2 I have slated for the Bears offense.

Alshon Jeffery Projection

For all intents and purposes, this is a projection of his career averages, hardly accounting for the upside potential of Jeffery being more developed. Here are his career rates alongside the ones I used.

Career Projection
Catch Rate 0.58 0.59
YPT 8.55 8.75
TD Rate 0.06 0.06
Rush Att Pct 0.01 0.005

For reference, only six WRs put up 300-point PPR seasons in 2015, which I’m projecting Jeffery for by essentially using career rates, a reduced target percentage from what he saw while playing hurt last year, and an offense projected for about a 25th percentile pass attempts total.

But Won’t He Get Hurt?

You probably noticed my not-so-subtle note that Jeffery played back-to-back 16-game seasons prior to 2015, but I think Jeffery’s a little less fragile than people let on. In Dr. Jeff Budoff’s recent write-up of Jeffery’s history, he notes that there is a possibility he’s more prone to future issues, but he’d be fine buying in fantasy football if an injury-related discount presented itself.

Simply put, I don’t see how WR11 isn’t exactly that. With respect to expected targets and efficiency, Jeffery looks a lot like A.J. Green, who had this happen earlier in the offseason when people started recognizing the targets he was due.

AJ Green ADP

That kind of bump might not come for Jeffery, because, well, injuries scare people. But consider him a lock for top-eight WR production in a healthy season, with a strong chance to finish top five. He’s well worth the risk.

  1. Which, remember, he nearly did last season while banged up.  (back)
  2. Which would have been 23rd in the league in 2015.  (back)

Ben Gretch

Writer. Podcast host. Former and still occasional editor. Previous work at Rotoworld, Draft Sharks. Work cited at NFL.com, Washington Post. Probably a little too obsessed with fantasy football.
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