Brandon Marshall(notes) caught 101 passes for 1120 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Denver Broncos last season. During the 15 games in which he played — you'll recall that he was deactivated for disciplinary reasons in Week 17 — every other Denver wide receiver totaled 95 receptions, 1170 yards and five TDs.
So yeah, it would be fair to say that Marshall was a non-trivial part of the passing attack.
Now that he's been dealt to the Miami Dolphins for a pair of second round picks, these are the names atop the depth chart at receiver for Denver: Eddie Royal(notes), Jabar Gaffney(notes) and Brandon Stokley(notes). The first member of that group was one of the biggest fantasy busts of 2009, the second is an eight-year vet who's never caught more than 55 passes in any season, and the third is … well, it's Stokley. His upside is 40-450-4. It can be argued that in recent years, Stokley's primary role with the Broncos was to stop Marshall from committing premeditated penalties.
Simply put, there's no obvious reason to be excited about the Denver offense in 2010. With Marshall in '09, the team ranked 20th in the NFL in scoring. Without him, the Broncos are left with a thoroughly unimpressive receiving corps and an equally unimpressive quarterback duo (Kyle Orton(notes), Brady Quinn(notes)). The absence of a credible passing game is never good news for a backfield, either.
The Broncos may of course choose to address wide receiver with one of their early draft picks — they have the No. 11 overall selection (from Chicago), No. 43 (from Miami) and No. 45 — but it's not as if they don't have other areas of extreme need. Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain makes sense at No. 11 (and he's fantastic), and the Denver Post's Mike Klis makes a compelling case for Florida center Maurkice Pouncey. It would be a bit surprising to see the Broncos target receiver Dez Bryant after ostensibly shedding Marshall over chemistry/character/signability concerns. Perhaps the Broncos hope to snag a next-tier wideout like Golden Tate or Arrelious Benn with a second round pick.
But no matter how they address the position, they'll lack a receiver with Marshall's resume. He's delivered three straight 100-catch, 1100-yard seasons, and he transitioned remarkably well from the Cutler/Shanahan Era to the Orton/McDaniels Era.
In a nutshell, this deal punishes the Broncos from a fantasy perspective. They had exactly one skill position player who scared opposing defenses and now he's gone. If any member of the current roster can benefit from Marshall's absence, it's Royal. Because he can't sink any lower. He had 91 receptions as a rookie, but was targeted just 79 total times in 2009.
The fantasy impact of this deal for Miami is much easier to spin: Everyone wins. Even Ted Ginn Jr.(notes) wins, since he was just traded to the San Francisco 49ers. (The Dolphins received a fifth round pick as compensation for a player they once drafted ninth overall. Yikes). Miami suddenly has a multi-dimensional offense with an outstanding O-line, and Chad Henne's(notes) strong arm can be put to better use.
The National Football Post's Matt Bowen(notes) asked the essential question on Thursday: "How do you scheme against an offense that can run the football and now can use Marshall to draw safety attention on every down?"
On paper, the Dolphins are just a brutal match-up for any defense that doesn't employ Darrelle Revis(notes) — and they're no layup for the Jets, either. Marshall's presence figures to benefit the Miami running attack in no small way, and it vaults Henne into the fantasy discussion in basically all formats. He's a bench/bye-week option in smaller leagues, and a clear starter in 16-team configurations. The rest of Miami's receiving corps — Davone Bess(notes), Greg Camarillo(notes), Brian Hartline(notes) — may not necessarily receive a bump in value, but what were your draft plans for them anyway? They were final-round roster filler. They'll now fight for Marshall's scraps while facing defensive backs of lesser quality.
Understandably, Marshall is all smiles right now (see above. Or watch this video). He's already demonstrated that he can shift successfully to a new system without losing any fantasy utility. This time, for a change, Marshall is making the transition without being at war with his head coach and the subject of endless rumors. Don't bet against him having another brilliant year. If you're projecting an 85-1100-8 fantasy line, I'll take the over.
Photo via AP Images