DeSean Jackson Can be a Best Ball Hero in LA
Jackson could be a perfect fit for a team in need of a deep-threat guy, but what does it mean for fantasy purposes? Let’s map it out together.
DeSean Jackson the Player
Throughout his 13 years in the NFL, Jackson’s output has been all over the place, with five seasons of over 1,000 receiving yards, two with under 250 and everything in between. Injuries have plagued Jackson across his career, as he’s been sidelined for everything from a hamstring strain to an ankle fracture, causing the speedster to miss 48 games throughout his baker’s dozen career.
Jackson hasn’t played a full season since 2013 and only hit the field for eight total games in the past two years, catching 23 balls for 395 yards and two touchdowns. If being injury prone is actually a thing, which is always a fun debate, drafters may be wary of rolling with Jackson in 2021, which could present some value in certain formats.
When on the field, Jackson is an explosive play waiting to happen. He leads all active players in the NFL in yards per reception with 17.4 throughout his career, and ranks 39th all-time (tied with a bunch of guys I’d never heard of and Mark Duper). To put that into context, the next guy on the list who’s still in the league is Mike Evans with 15.5, who’s tied for 147th.
With Jackson only playing in eight contests over the past two years, I had to go back to 2018 for key stats, but he ranked high in a few Next Gen categories that year. His 19.1 targeted air yards sat second among wideouts that season, as did his average cushion, which was 7.3. That means that corners lined up around 7.3 yards off the line of scrimmage when covering Jackson, showing respect for his speed on deep targets. Jackson also made the top of the list in both categories the year prior, ranking second again in targeted air yards with 15.8 and sixth with a 7.2 average cushion in 2017.
There are durability concerns with Jackson, but when healthy he can add to a roster. How will he fit in with his new West Coast team?
Can Jackson go Home Again and Succeed?
Jackson grew up in Long Beach and went to Cal Berkely. He also played for Sean McVay in Washington from 2014-2016, where he posted a 142-2702-14 line across three seasons, averaging 10.4 half-PPR points as a WR3.
He joins a Rams receiving corps led by the duo of Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, along with Tyler Higbee and Cam Akers. This offense was already stacked and got an upgrade at QB this offseason, with former Lion Matthew Stafford joining the fold.
While LA does have an impressive group of offensive players, they’ve been lacking a true deep-play threat with Josh Reynolds heading in that direction, but he left to play for the Titans in free agency. Looking at deep-passing data (20+ yards downfield) from 2020, no LA receiver cracked the top 50 in the NFL in yards per route run (minimum 10 deep targets), and Reynolds was the lone representative from the offense among the top 70, coming in at WR64 with 6.43 y/rr on such plays.
We know Jackson has wheels, but Father Time will always come knocking. No doubt he’s lost a step, but he’s probably still the fastest receiver for the Rams and possibly the speediest on their roster, even at 34-years old.
When healthy—and we all know that’s a big if—the addition of Jackson curbs any upside Van Jefferson may have, kicking him off the fantasy radar. Both Woods and Kupp are still considered solid fantasy WR2s heading into the 2021 season, with Jackson limited to a WR5/6 in very deep-leagues for redraft. He does make for an interesting late-round pick in best ball formats, though, which is ideal for big-spike weeks without the stress of weekly lineups.
For Matthew Stafford, he gets a long-ball guy which should thrill him considering he sat near the top in some deep-play stats in 2020. For QBs who threw at least 20 balls over 20 yards, Stafford ranked fourth last year in average depth of target with 31.6, ninth in passing yards on such plays with 936, and sixth in completions over 20 yards, with 28. Consider him a low QB1 with plenty to be excited about heading into 2021.
- When healthy, DeSean Jackson is a game-changer with super speed and explosive deep-play potential.
- Jackson has experienced a myriad of injuries and has only played in 20 contests over the past three seasons.
- He joins a stellar cast in LA and is reunited with his former OC and Rams HC Sean McVay. The two were successful together for three seasons in Washington and McVay knows how to create opportunities for Jackson.
- Both Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods remain solid WR2s, with their QB Matthew Stafford slotted in as a low-end QB1.
- Consider Jackson a WR5/6 in larger redraft leagues, and an intriguing later-round option in best ball drafts - his bread and butter.