The best kind of DeSean Jackson is one that’s engaged, involved, active, blazing around the corners of defenses, juking and hopping before weak-kneed defenders, taunting opponents and fans with equal fervor and, yes, a nuclear level of douchiness.
That was not 2012 Jackson. The guy you snatched in the late fifth or early sixth round of last year’s fantasy drafts posted abysmal numbers that made the explosive receiver only occasionally useful fantasy bench fodder. He caught 45 balls for 700 yards, proving to be the quintessential deep threat: A fake football weapon when the deep ball connects, and a fantasy squad killer when it doesn’t.
In re-draft leagues, Jackson won’t remain as dirt filthy cheap as he is today, as he’s going in the late seventh round of mock drafts, eight picks behind teammate Jeremy Maclin. His stock is going to rise, I think, as his role in head coach Chip Kelly’s offense comes into focus over the next few months.
I don’t, however think the perception of Jackson’s value will change drastically enough to sap his value. My reasoning is twofold: Jackson as a boom-or-bust deep threat is set in stony permanence, and no matter how much Kelly and the Eagles’ offensive coaches talk up Jackson’s versatility, fantasy owners won’t believe it until they see it, and unless Kelly plans on unveiling every conceivable wrinkle of his supposedly genius offensive scheme this preseason, we won’t see what Jackson can do until real life game time – the September kind.
The second reason: The 2012 Eagles were among the worst fits for a player like Jackson. Philadelphia’s offensive line collapsed like a lawn chair under Andy Reid for much of 2012, and quarterback Nick Foles proved one of the NFL’s worst deep ball throwers, ranking 24th in deep throw accuracy, according to Pro Football Focus. Who was worse, you might ask? That other guy, Michael Vick, who ranked a cool 26th in deep ball accuracy. Jackson, deployed almost solely as a downfield threat whose sole assignment was often to beat the deepest of safeties (while his signal callers had little time to let that sort of route develop) left him as little more than a speedy decoy, seeing a miniscule 85 targets in 2012.
Like most everything in this little game, Jackson’s value will be a mystery until it’s not. We can draw from available – if sparse – information, so let’s see what we have so far.
Jackson on media row during Super Bowl Week in New Orleans let slip that Kelly’s veritable gang of offensive gurus and deities may or may not be planning to deploy Jackson like DeAnthony Thomas was at the University of Oregon, where the hybrid running back-receiver wrecked collegiate defenses for more than 2,200 all-purpose yards in two years in Kelly’s scheming scheme of a scheme.
“Kind of similar to what DeAnthony Thomas was doing at Oregon. He’s like a little brother to me. I actually talked to him,” Jackson said of Thomas in an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer. “He was passing on information to me, like I’m going to be pumped up and psyched to be in that offense. It just keeps defenses off guard any time you go in motion, fake play-action, go down the field. There’s just so many things you can do.”
Jackson is an inch taller and two pounds heavier than Thomas, meaning there’s no enormous size difference that might stop Jackson from taking a Thomas-like role with the Eagles in 2013.
More good news from the Iggles partisans at Birds 24/7: Jackson averaged 76.2 yards per game in games started by Vick in 2012, a clip that would’ve translated to a 1,200 yard year if Vick could’ve stayed upright and clear headed.
Whether it’s pitches from the option or bubble screens or end arounds or straight-up handoffs (think Percy Harvin, and to a lesser extent, Randall Cobb), it seems a fairly safe bet that Kelly and company plan to use Jackson – who is only 26, by the bye – in whatever sort of form this scheme will take on the pro level.
Jackson’s propensity to check out, to mail it in when he’s not a cog in the offense (think Randy Moss circa his entire career), disappears if he’s used anything like Kelly used Thomas at Oregon. A busy Jackson is a happy Jackson.