Written by Mikey Ostrowski
Terrace Marshall Jr. had seen a fair amount of hype ahead of the NFL Draft, but many quickly soured on him for falling out of the first round and landing with the Carolina Panthers. Were there more ideal landing spots? Absolutely, as Carolina is VERY crowded and will be playing with quarterback Sam Darnold who hasn’t exactly proved himself just yet at the next level. However, I think you could argue that the landing spot is far from bad and may actually be one of the better teams Marshall could’ve landed on.
One thing that many fantasy players have overlooked is Marshall’s relationship with offensive coordinator, Joe Brady. These two were with LSU during their historic run in 2019, which means that Brady already knows exactly how to slot Marshall into that Carolina offense. During that season at LSU, Marshall was the third receiver on the depth chart but still put up solid numbers. He reeled in 46 balls for 671 yards (14.6 avg) and 13 touchdowns. When you think about who he played behind (Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase), it makes the numbers pop out that much more. He commanded 13 touchdowns while sharing the field with an NFL star and the fifth-overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.
The most notable of those stats is that on average, Marshall scored more touchdowns per opportunity than both Jefferson and Chase. Marshall scored a touchdown, on average, every 3.5 catches, while it took Chase 4.2 catches and Jefferson nearly 6.2 catches. Obviously, Chase and Jefferson did receive more targets and had more receptions so perhaps the averages are skewed a bit by the difference in sample size, but grabbing a touchdown every 3.5 catches over the course of 46 receptions is pretty damn impressive. Marshall is an absolute force in the red zone and I believe that we’ll see that show up immediately in the NFL. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him lead all Panthers’ receivers in touchdowns by the end of the 2021 season.
Brady knows how to use Marshall; whether it’s out wide or as a big-bodied slot receiver, Brady will deploy him with tremendous success as soon as day one of the season. I know you may be thinking “who cares? He’ll never pass DJ Moore on the depth chart, Robby Anderson had a breakout season last year, and on top of that, that entire offense is funneled through Christian McCaffrey”. These things are true… but then again, a big-bodied receiver is something that Carolina has been missing for quite some time, and you bet your ass that there will be plenty of Marshall-specific plays. On top of that, there’s so many vacated targets in Carolina. Curtis Samuel left the team and took his 97 targets with him and Anderson had received 136 targets, which is a number that I simply cannot see him repeating in 2021. On top of that, Mike Davis left with his 70 targets as well. So we’ve got 167 vacated targets and should expect to see at least a slightly smaller workload for Anderson – so let’s call it 190 additional targets for 2021.
Here’s what we know:
- McCaffrey will eat into those targets, heavily. He’ll absorb all of Davis’ targets (CMC had 19 targets in only three games last year) and probably all of the targets that won’t go Anderson’s way. Let’s say McCaffrey sees 93 of those 190 targets (bringing his target total up to about 110-115).
- DJ Moore’s workload was criminal last year. He needs more than 118 targets, and I do think that he’ll get up there. Let’s say he takes an additional 20 targets this year, so we’ve allocated 113 targets.
- Without those 113 targets, we can assume that Marshall should see around 70 to 80 targets as a rookie, which is really all you could ask for. He’ll become the primary target in the redzone for Darnold and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him finish with double-digit touchdowns as a rookie.
A rookie receiver grabbing 10+ touchdowns is always impressive, but can it really get any better from there? Yes, yes it can. Many people haven’t paid much attention to this, but Anderson is slated to be a free agent after the 2021 season. I can’t imagine they let him walk if he plays as well in 2021 as he did in 2020, but this is definitely something to monitor. If Anderson were to leave Carolina ahead of 2022, Marshall would be the immediate WR2 in Carolina and still retain the highest amount of touchdown upside on the team.
All of this would be Marshall’s perfect path to a top-15 dynasty wide receiver – but it is worth mentioning the risks that comes with this as well:
- Marshall fell past the first round of the NFL Draft because of his injury history. It’s not something I am particularly worried about, but NFL scouts clearly were.
- We’re assuming that Darnold will be the answer to Carolina’s prayers and that they won’t be scraping the barrel for a quarterback this time next year.
- We’re also assuming the absorption of a lot of Samuel’s vacated targets. While I believe Marshall will take on a majority of them (especially with how much Brady seems to trust him) there’s always the possibility of the targets being allocated to their veterans as opposed to their new rookie receiver.
Almost all rookies in dynasty football come with a certain level of risk, but I’ve planted my flag in the Terrace Marshall hill and am more than happy to assume the risk that it comes with… especially at his current price. According to the consensus, Marshall is the 1.12 rookie pick in 1QB leagues, and is going between picks 2.04 and 2.07 in most 2QB/SuperFlex leagues. Best case scenario, the dude goes off for double-digit touchdowns as a rookie and you’ve completely stolen that at the end of the first round. Worst case scenario he doesn’t break out as a rookie but will likely have an expanded role on that offense as soon as year two.
And seriously, we cannot downplay the importance of Joe Brady being the offensive coordinator. The bane of rookie receivers is not being deployed in a way that showcases their skillset… and not having to worry about that problem with Marshall landing with Brady should be enough to mitigate a fair amount of risk.
Marshall is currently my rookie WR4 and arguably offers the most upside of any rookie receiver not named Ja’Marr Chase. The situation could be a lot worse and I genuinely think we can expect very early production out of him. Marshall is a rare breed of receiver that has a large stature but also a great amount of speed. He was incredibly versatile in college and I think the NFL will be no different for him.
A player that Marshall really reminds me of is Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery didn’t do all too much as a rookie but burst onto the scene in his second year, coming down with 89 balls for over 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns. There’s a lot of similarities in their games, and while I’m not saying we should expect that sort of stat line by Marshall’s second season, I wouldn’t say that it’s out of the realm of possibilities. Oh, and for what it’s worth, Jeffery put up those numbers while sharing the field with Brandon Marshall… so don’t worry too much about DJ Moore in the long run; everyone can eat in Carolina.
In conclusion, is Marshall my top-rated rookie receiver for fantasy football? No, but he’s firmly planted in my top-four receivers and is the eighth-overall player on my big board. The situation is much better than it seems on the surface and it’s being faded much harder than it should. If you can land Marshall at the tail-end of the first round, you do it. Like I had said, you’re taking on a certain degree of risk by drafting him, but the reward that could come is definitely worth it.
I actually have a tweet somewhere that reads:
Ahh, look, there it is! Seriously though, I’ve been a massive fan of Terrace Marshall for months and do think that he could be nearly hyped up as much as AJ Brown within a few seasons.
If you pass on Marshall on draft day, you will regret it.