DeSean Jackson broke out in a big way in 2009, not only for the Eagles but for anyone who drafted him onto their fantasy football team. In tying the NFL mark for most touchdowns of over 50 yards (eight), Jackson established himself as fantasy football's biggest home run threat. In standard scoring leagues, Jackson was the league's fourth-highest scorer on the season (behind Andre Johnson, Randy Moss and Miles Austin), and he was even more valuable in a league with bonus points awarded for long touchdowns.
However, because a lot of his value was derived from those fireworks, Jackson has been ranked toward the bottom of the top 10 receivers in fantasy leading into this season. NFL.com stacks Jackson up eighth among receivers and 26th overall, putting him around the third round of most drafts. He's the Eagles' highest-ranked fantasy player in NFL.com's top 200. But is that still too low?
Well, in Kevin Kolb's two starts last season, Jackson combined for 10 catches for 250 yards and two touchdowns. And while it may not be fair to expect Jackson to match his historically high production from beyond the 50-yard line last year, he may see an uptick in production on quick screens with the accurate Kolb under center. All told, Jackson is a trustworthy No. 1 WR, especially if you can get him in the middle part of the third round or later.
Jackson's counterpart, second-year man Jeremy Maclin, is on tap for his own breakout fantasy year. After an impressive rookie season when he posted 56 catches for 773 yards and four touchdowns, Maclin heads into this year having had a full off-season to improve his body and his knowledge of the playbook and his status as a starter is unquestioned. With his body control and strong hands, Maclin could also emerge as more of a red-zone option and improve on those four touchdowns.
There's been some noise made this off-season that Maclin has the ability to overtake Jackson as the nominal No. 1 wide receiver, and while that may not quite be the case, that Maclin has the skills to emerge as a premier pass-catcher is apparent. NFL.com has Maclin ranked as the 29th wide receiver, behind players like Santana Moss of the Redskins, Robert Meachem of the Saints, Michael Crabtree of the 49ers and Hakeem Nicks of the Giants. He's ranked 75th overall by NFL.com, which could be a bit low. As long as the rest of the roster's been addressed early on, Maclin is a safe No. 2 WR and could deservedly be plucked somewhere around the sixth round. In a points-per-reception league, mark Maclin up a tick.
What about the rest of the receivers? Jason Avant is next, of course, and he's a draftable player who could merit a matchup start in a pinch during the season. Avant had 41 catches for 587 yards and three scores last year, which doesn't sound elite but he did have three games with at least nine standard fantasy points, including his 156-yard output in San Diego. The best reason to spend a late pick on Avant would be to handcuff either Jackson or Maclin.
Neither Hank Baskett, Riley Cooper nor any of the other receivers fighting for a roster spot is fantasy-relevant at the moment and it would likely take an injury to make them so.
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-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 8:27 p.m., July 25