Pictures of Jackson during the Buccaneers' mini-camp practices.
As each sunrise brings us one day closer to the 2017 NFL season, we also get closer to another annual milestone for many football fans: their long-awaited fantasy football drafts.
Fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are hotly anticipating both events. Throughout franchise history, the greatest Buccaneer teams have been heralded for their dynamic defenses rather than the offensive firepower that makes for entertaining fantasy football. That has certainly changed in recent years.
As Scott Smith pointed out, Mike Evans has two remarkable fantasy seasons under his belt and is still trending upward. Doug Martin has multiple seasons finishing near the top of his position as well. And now, in 2017, the Buccaneers have added yet another fantasy football star: DeSean Jackson.
Buccaneers 2017 Fantasy Focus: DeSean JacksonJackson is well-known to fantasy football players after nearly a decade of big plays and high point totals. He has the fifth-most receiving yards of any receiver from 2008-2016, last season he was fifth in the NFL in receptions of 25 or more yards, and 22 of his 49 offensive touchdowns have covered 50 or more yards. Those are the numbers of a player that can single-handedly win you a week.
Jackson topped 1,000 yards for the fifth time in his career last season, but found the end zone just four times, which hurt his fantasy ranking. The year prior he was limited to 10 games, gaining 528 yards with four scores. These past two years have dinged his fantasy standings a bit. Here is how he looks going into the 2017 fantasy draft:
Average Draft Position (ESPN): 80.9
Position (WR) Draft Ranking: 35
2016 Fantasy Point Production (Standard Format): 174
2016 Position (WR) Rank: 39
Jackson is currently going as a mid-round pick, which essentially makes him a wide receiver that you could start in your flex spot or keep handy on your bench if the matchup is favorable or one of your starters is on the bye week. Some would think that lining up with Mike Evans could hurt his fantasy stock, but it may very well be what helps him exceed expectations this season.
Again, as Scott mentioned, Mike Evans led the league in targets last year despite facing many defenses that keyed in on him on nearly every play. The Bucs' supporting cast around Evans was largely injured last year and while WR Adam Humphries and TE Cameron Brate helped alleviate some of the pressure from Evans, they weren't drawing as much defensive interest as DeSean Jackson will surely demand.
However, defenses now face the question of cheating toward Evans, fantasy football's third-highest WR points-scorer, or Jackson, who can score from anywhere on the field. And this is not including Humphries, Brate, rookie tight end O.J. Howard or the Buccaneers' running backs. With the Buccaneers being no strangers to airing it out, and the supporting cast, DeSean Jackson and his 2016 NFL-leading 17.9 yards per reception, could see more targets and catches than he did last season as defenses struggle to gameplan against such a dynamic offense.
While the last two seasons might not jump out on paper and seem to justify Jackson going in the mid-30s at his position, history also leans towards a potential stand-out season for Jackson. He has finished in the top 16 at his position in fantasy points four times: 2009 (4th), 2010 (14th), 2013 (10th) and 2014 (16th). That's recent history, and judging from his work on the practice field this offseason, the 30-year-old has lost none of his game-changing speed.
The seventh or eighth round seems fair for what Jackson has produced in recent years, but he could very well be a bargain if you get him in that range. Receivers in his draft vicinity are Washington's Jamison Crowder, New Orleans' Willie Snead, Minnesota's Stefon Diggs, Denver's Emmanuel Sanders and Miami's DeVante Parker.
If you have built a strong receiving corps in the top half of the draft, then you might want to pass to find your QB here (Carolina's Cam Newton, Seattle's Russell Wilson and Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger have similar ADPs) or build your running back bench (Washington's Samaje Perine, Minnesota's Latavius Murray, Baltimore's Danny Woodhead). However, if you like Jackson's outlook and you're sitting in the early or middle of the seventh round with a fairly even fantasy roster – that is, with solid starters at receiver and running back and a strong quarterback in place – then taking Jackson a few notches higher than his ADP is probably a good bet. You could bring a veteran presence to your bench and have a reliable player that you can plug in when a great matchup is on the table.
The bottom line is that Jackson is a number-two receiver who has historically derived his value from big plays more than volume, so there will likely be big days and down days, but Jackson's ceiling is always very high. One week he could be held to a couple catches and a few dozen yards, the next he could go off for 100+ with multiple scores. The main thing to remember is, that at any point, Jackson is just one snap away from another 50+-yard touchdown (and 11+ fantasy points) that can give your team the W.