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Nick Foles Doesn’t Need DeSean Jackson in Fantasy Football

How do Nick Foles' fantasy prospects hold up without DeSean Jackson?
How do Nick Foles' fantasy prospects hold up without DeSean Jackson?

Since the moment Michael Vick went down to injury in week 5 of last year, Nick Foles took the reigns of Chip Kelly’s innovative offense and never looked back. Foles went on a tear that sent shockwaves through the NFL as he went nearly point-for-point with fantasy football juggernaut Peyton Manning down the stretch. Other than him being an obvious candidate to heavily regress towards the mean, Foles skeptics point to the departure of mega-efficient receiver DeSean Jackson as a reason Foles will fail in 2014.

We’re not convinced of that.

Everyone has heard of the absurd 27:2 TD-to-INT ratio by now, but let’s take a look at Nick Foles’ final stat line: 203 completions, 317 attempts, 2891 yards, 27 passing touchdowns, 2 interceptions. An underrated part of his fantasy football success, Foles also added 57 carries, 221 yards, and 4 rushing touchdowns. And while not important for fantasy, it is still a remarkable feat that Foles’ passer rating stood tall at 119.2 – third best NFL history.

All told: 259.74 fantasy points (the #11 QB) on just 10 starts and a few other spot appearances. Someone tell me again how did this guy not win the job in preseason?

The DeSean Jackson Effect

For DeSean Jackson’s career-best 2013, his totals were 126 targets, 82 catches, 1332 yards, and 9 touchdowns. Of those numbers, 71 targets, 808 yards, and 7 touchdowns came from Foles. 1 of Foles’ 2 picks came while targeting Jackson, the other was intended for Riley Cooper.

Breaking down Foles’ numbers we see that 219.64 of his 259.74 points (84.56%) came through the air. Over 317 attempts for the season, this amounts to 0.6929 fantasy points per pass attempt – an impressive figure. Compare that to the 0.6359 points per pass attempt Peyton Manning put up as he was setting virtually all of the league passing records.

We can then look at how this particular number changed when throwing to DeSean Jackson versus all other Philadelphia Eagles targets. Throwing to Jackson yielded 58.32 fantasy points for Foles on 71 targets, or a crazy 0.8214 per pass attempt. When not throwing to Jackson, Foles put up 161.32 points on 248 attempts, equaling 0.6505 points per pass.

Clearly, throwing to DeSean was a boon for Foles, but the mark after removing Jackson was still elite, even better than Manning’s. Of course, this says nothing of the “Randy Moss Factor” DJax brings to the table, forcing defenses to account for the deep ball and potentially opening up underneath targets. That number is much harder to quantify, though, so we’re working with what we have.

To put these numbers into a full season context, we will take the games Foles both started and finished to get an idea of how many pass attempts he may have had as a full-time starter (458.67). Then we multiply those attempts by his fantasy points per pass attempt with and without Jackson (0.6929 and 0.6505, respectively). Finally, we add in his extrapolated rushing numbers (66.67 points) to come up with two different theoretical 16 game seasons.

#1 — Manning: 409.98 points
#2 — Foles with DeSean Jackson: 384.46 points
#2 — Foles without DeSean Jackson: 365.02 points
#3 — Drew Brees: 357.68 points
#12 — Ben Roethlisberger: 258.84 points

No DeSean, No Problem For Foles!

The number without Jackson is nearly a full game worse, yet both seasons would have landed Foles just behind Peyton Manning and ahead of Drew Brees as the #2 quarterback in fantasy. Both seasons also would have finished as the #1 fantasy QB in 2012 when no guy threw for 55 touchdowns. Why was Roethlisberger included? Big Ben was the #12 fantasy QB, or the last “ideal” starter in a 12 team league. In order for the “without DeSean Jackson” season to fall below that point and into the land of fantasy backups, that number would have to regress by nearly 30%. Is that realistic?

We know Foles will be worse off without his best weapon from last year. We know Foles is not going to have the same magical season – he’s going to regress some. But you have to consider that:

– Foles was still strong without Jackson
– He would need to regress an extraordinary amount (or get injured or benched) to not be a QB worth starting
– He is only entering his third year as a pro, second year in Kelly’s offense, and first year as a recognized starter
– The offense added Darren Sproles, got Jeremy Maclin back healthy, and drafted a talented receiver named Jordan Matthews in the second round

… then it becomes obvious that Nick Foles is, at minimum, still a viable fantasy football starter with the upside to return much, much more. So long, DeSean.

Numbers used for this article were rounded to make things cleaner. All calculations were done without rounding.

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