One of the most controversial transactions of the NFL off season took place when the Philadelphia Eagles inexplicably decided to cut ties with a high level play maker in his prime, someone who looked like a perfect fit for Chip Kelly's high powered offense, due to reported "gang ties". It's rare that a 27 year old wide receiver coming off a season where he produced over 1,300 yards and 9 TDs hits the open market, and the Washington Redskins were the lucky beneficiary.
While it may seem like a no brainer to spend a early round pick in your fantasy draft on Jackson and pencil him into your starting lineup every week, the reality is that it's not that simple. He may be able to match the dazzling numbers he put up in Philadelphia last year, but there are several obstacles that could potentially derail him.
1. The Eagles' offense catered to his strengths and made him a priority
With the Eagles, Jackson's week to week responsibility was simple: to use his superior speed on the outside and make plays. He was the de facto #1 option following the injury to Jeremy Maclin and got the majority of the touches, as he was targeted 126 times, a figure that ranked him 23rd in the NFL. Riley Cooper ranked a distant second on the Eagles, with 83 targets. The NFL's most targeted receiver? None other than Pierre Garcon, Jackson's new running mate in Washington.
Jackson's arrival does take a certain amount of pressure off Garcon, but with Garcon, Andre Roberts, Santana Moss and Jordan Reed in tow, he is bound to see a steep decline in his number of opportunities, barring injury. Alfred Morris has proven himself to be a workhorse running back and Robert Griffin III is known to bail out of the pocket to scramble for yardage, which will also reduce Jackson's number of touches.
2. Jackson is inconsistent week to week and season to season
After getting off to a sterling start in 2013, with 589 yards and 5 TDs in the first six weeks of the season, Jackson's production became maddeningly inconsistent going forward. 743 yards and 4 TDs over the last ten weeks of the season is nothing to sneeze at, but potential fantasy owners should bear in mind that 345 yards and 2 TDs, a figure representing nearly half of that production, came in 2 games against Minnesota and Oakland, two of the league's weakest passing defenses.
His other three 100 yard games came against the Giants, Redskins, and Chargers, also teams that struggled mightily defending the pass. With almost 60% of his yardage and over half of his touchdowns coming in these five games, it's safe to say fantasy owners should tread lightly. In 2012, his season was cut short by injury in Week 12, but he hadn't exactly lit the world on fire prior to going down, with just 2 TDs and 2 100 yard outings in the 11 games he did finish. In 2011, 42% of his season's yardage and half of his TDs came in the season's first 5 weeks.
Jackson did score 20 TDs over the course of the 2009 and 2010 seasons, but these numbers were bolstered by 5 additional TDs he was able to score by running the football and returning kicks and punts, two categories he hasn't struck pay dirt in since.
3. He is playing in a new system, for a new coach
Some of you may be thinking to yourselves that you'll still draft Jackson and start him in the early weeks of the season. This approach may be compromised by the fact that Jay Gruden has taken over as the Redskins' coach, which will inevitably lead to an adjustment period.
Teams typically have a learning curve when it comes time to install a new system, and considering that Jackson will be playing for his third coach in three seasons, his curve may be the steepest of all. It could be a few weeks into the season before Jackson feels comfortable and begins to produce for his fantasy owners. He's also catching passes from his third QB in three seasons and developing a rapport with Robert Griffin III will also take time.
Whether or not you select DeSean Jackson will depend entirely on the other members of your league. Many leagues have two types of players who select players like Jackson too early: the casual fan who selects starry names without regard for proper roster building or the Redskins homer who firmly believes in the best case outcome for all of his team's skill position players.
If you have the opportunity to select Jackson in the later rounds of your draft, as a bye week fill in for your top wide receivers or you feel confident that you can play the match ups to catch the 4 or 5 eruptions Jackson seemingly has every season, go for it.
Those who are thinking about drafting DeSean Jackson with an early selection, to be a plug and play receiver and a week in and week out starter? They will likely end up being very discouraged by his production.