Locker Room NFL Sleepers Bracket Finals: Marvin Jones vs. Justin Hunter
This post appears as part of our 2014 Ultimate NFL Sleepers Bracket – a 16 player battle to determine the ultimate sleeper, with Jones and Hunter the last two standing. To read in depth analysis on each of the others who vied for the title (and are all worthy sleeper candidates in your league) check the overall bracket and reach out to our supporting authors on twitter.
[This series appears as part of our 2014 Fantasy Football Draft Guide]
Dennis Esser opens, putting his support behind Marvin Jones:
Marvin Jones has been undervalued from day one in the NFL. It all started in college at Cal, where he was supposed to be a part of a high powered offense, but found himself being under-utilized as the best receiver in a program on the way down in the Pac 10. Jones still managed to put up nice enough statistics (156 receptions, 2,270 yards) to have him invited to the Senior Bowl. While at the Senior Bowl Jones injured his knee during an eight yard touchdown reception.
Jones only had a few weeks to recover from the knee injury before he participated in the 2012 NFL combine in Indianapolis. His height/weight measurements were perfect for a wide receiver one in the NFL as he measured 6’2” tall and weighed 199 pounds. He blazed to a 4.46 40 yard dash, but suffered from a pedestrian vertical and broad jump. The sub-par numbers in the agility testing did not match up with what people saw on tape in his time at Cal. He showed great leaping ability on passes where he had to go over defenders and regularly showed explosion in his route running. The knee injury clearly hampered him and the Bengals were the beneficiary of his so-so combine showing when they drafted him with the 166th pick in the 5th round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
On the note of injury, we should acknowledge that Jones is likely to miss the rest of the preseason after breaking his foot this past weekend. The news isn’t all bad though, as speculation is that he should be available at some point in September, if not for the opening. If anything, this presents an even better buying opportunity on a player who has proven talent and fit with his Quarterback but should slide down draft boards because of troubling offseason news.
The fact that he was an after-thought in the Bengals draft and that his combine numbers didn’t wow anyone has made him a great sleeper. Speed/Metrics guys didn’t like what they saw in his numbers and film guys didn’t like what they saw because of the bad quarterback play at Cal. Jones has had to fend off other receivers in Cincy to claim the 2nd wide receiver role, but it looks like he has finally been given the opportunity. His preseason ankle injury is keeping him from the field the first week of training camp and that has his name not being mentioned all over twitter. Sometimes a little preseason injury is actually good for value on draft day. Remember Jordy Nelson getting a procedure on his knee last preseason?
Sleepers are few and far between in today’s fantasy football world, but some players seem to slip through the ADP (average draft position) cracks each and every year. Last year owners were rewarded with wide receiver one returns on their investment when they drafted Josh Gordon and Alshon Jeffrey. Gordon’s slip in ADP was because of his two game suspension to start the year and Jeffrey’s was because he had an underwhelming rookie year and was part of a Bears’ Offense that was a bit of an unknown (not too many fantasy writers #TeamTrestman) going into 2013. While there probably isn’t a wide receiver one sitting in the mid to late rounds of fantasy football drafts this year, there are wide receivers that are being drafted WAY too late for the returns I expect.
Marvin Jones is target number one on the list of undervalued wide receivers in fantasy football right now. His cumulative ADP has him being drafted outside of the top 50 of wide receivers right now. Golden Tate is going off the board around the 30th wide receiver off the board in drafts and Marvin Jones’s numbers at the end of the season should be on par or better than the former golden domer. Terrance Williams and Rueben Randle are two receivers that could end up around the same production as Jones yet they are regularly going two rounds before Jones.
I’m not trying to knock those other wide receivers. I’m just showing that wide receivers with similar expectations are being drafted well ahead of Jones. Marvin Jones finished last season as the number 21 scoring fantasy receiver in standard leagues in 2013 and the number 29 scoring wide receiver in full PPR leagues. Not bad for a player that saw the field less than 50% of the time. Imagine what his numbers will be this year as his involvement in the offense grows.
While I love Jones a sleeper in fantasy football, some actually think he is a bit over rated. I find that hard to believe with his current ADP finding him barely inside the top 50 wide receivers off of the board, but I will discuss one of the red flags that people seem to see. Marvin Jones only had one big game in 2013 (8 receptions for 122 yards and 4 TDs) that accounted for 40% of his TD production.
It would be easy to dismiss Jones based on the one hit wonder scenario, but that wouldn’t be doing justice to his final four games of the 2013 season. The Bengals were in the middle of playoff hunt and Jones became the number two target that Dalton desperately needed. He scored a touchdown in three of the Bengal’s final four games and had receiving lines of 3 for 60, 5 for 48, 6 for 85, and 5 for 61. With a touchdown added to the 1st, 2nd and 4th, game listed Jones numbers look pretty impressive in standard and PPR formats.
Those late season numbers are exactly why I am targeting Marvin Jones. You want players that finished up 2013 strong and have room to grow as a player and as a fantasy producer. Jones has growth factor in spades when you look at his situation in Cincy.
I want to open my closing argument for Marvin Jones and his candidacy in the 2014 Ultimate NFL Sleepers Bracket by thanking you, the dedicated fantasy football crazies, for voting Marvin Jones into the finals against another young and up and coming wide receiver in Justin Hunter. I was going to go ahead and delve into his usage numbers and try to disprove the fact that his new offensive coordinator, Hue Jackson, is not necessarily a run-first offensive coordinator, but some of the best in the fantasy football Business did it for me. I was going to do both of those things until I saw that some of the best in the fantasy football business already made my case for me.
First John Paulsen, Senior Editor at 4for4.com, wrote a great sleeper article on Marvin Jones on August 5th. My favorite piece of the argument John made, that I didn’t already include, was the fact that Marvin Jones went for 8 receptions for 130 yards in the Bengals playoff game against the Chargers. I was already impressed with the numbers Jones was able to put up towards the end of the season, but looking at those games added to the big playoff output has to get you excited about Jones’s usage this season.
Adam Levitan of Rotoworld.com also had high praise for Marvin Jones as sleeper in the later rounds. Here is a quote from Adam about why he thinks Marvin Jones could break out this year.
Former OC Jay Gruden’s questionable talent evaluation skills meant Jones played on just 48.0 percent of the snaps last year as he rotated with Mohamed Sanu, but he still posted a 51-712-10 line. New OC Hue Jackson won’t stand for that usage, as he immediately inserted Jones as his primary bookend to A.J. Green and moved Sanu into the slot. Now Jones will likely be playing 75 percent of the snaps at a minimum. He has a real shot at 70 catches and 1,000 yards even as the Bengals shift to a more run-based approach.
How can you argue with me AND two of the best writers in the fantasy football industry? Do the right thing and give Marvin Jones the belt as the 2014 Ultimate Fantasy Football Sleeper.
Dennis M. Esser is the Owner of Coachesser.com, host of The Fantasy Sports Coach Podcast available on Itunes and Stitcher Radio, and co-author of The Fantasy Football Black Book 2014 Edition available on Amazon.com and in the Kindle Store.
Rich Hribar follows with Justin Hunter:
I’m representing Justin Hunter as the best late round option in 2014. The Titans’ front office has always had affection for his skill set as evidenced by the team trading up to the 34th selection in last year’s draft to select him. As a rookie, Hunter struggled with drops and irregular playing time, but still managed to grab 18 passes for 354 yards and four scores as a 22-year-old rookie. Hunter is big play option who had 39 percent of his targets on passes over 20 yards downfield and turned three of those targets into scores. He also posted the tenth best touchdown per snap ratio out of all receivers in the entire NFL last season, scoring once per 85 plays on the field.
For 2014, the Titans have brought in Ken Whisenhunt who has had no issue going vertical with the football in nearly all of the stops he’s made in the NFL. He’s also been around some pretty good young receivers such as Santonio Holmes, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and just recently, Keenan Allen and has been effective at getting them the ball. He still has growing to do and pesky Nate Washington is still hanging around, as well as overcoming Jake Locker’s accuracy issues, so I understand the pause. But Hunter is coming off the board after receivers like Steve Smith and Danny Amendola, who at their ceilings aren’t winning you titles. For a receiver you can select after the 12th round, Hunter possesses WR2 upside and is an arbitrage play on Terrance Williams, Riley Cooper and Aaron Dobson.
Do you know what helps aid a sophomore breakout? Playing six games in the AFC South. Do you know what is even better than playing six games versus the AFC South secondaries? Adding four games versus the NFC East secondaries. Hunter has everything you look for in a prime sleeper, cheap cost, young age, path to volume, offensive minded head coach, a favorable schedule and an unlimited weekly ceiling due to his splash play ability.
At 6’4″ with great leaping ability (check the combine numbers) and plus-speed Hunter is an athletic talent who had a relatively quiet season in his first year.That quiet year is causing many to sleep on Hunter, despite his having the talent and the overall context to succeed.Ken Whisenhunt just coaxed outstanding seasons out of Keenan Allen, Philip Rivers and co. and is generally viewed as a positive for Tennessee’s offense and for Jake Locker‘s development. Kendall Wright, with great hands and run after the catch ability should be the prime beneficiary in an offense predicated on short passes but Hunter will be prepared to do work over the top as well.
If you’re choosing between Hunter and Marvin Jones, Hunter has to be your choice when you’re talking about true week-tilting ceilings. With a clearer path to significant volume than Jones, you know what to do.