Marvin Jones Jr. has had an interesting career thus far in Detroit. The Lions aggressively courted Jones after Calvin Johnson’s sudden retirement in the 2016 offseason. At the time, some believed they overpaid for a receiver that many thought was not good enough to be a No. 1 option.
Despite an impressive 2016 season, in which he set career highs in yards and yards per catch, that feeling lingered into 2017. When Jones had a total of just 184 receiving yards through the first five games, many—myself included—wondered how the Lions were going to get out of his pricey contract.
But not only did Jones thrive after Week 5, he was one of the most valuable receivers in the entire NFL. In his final 11 games of the season, Jones pulled in 47 catches for 917 yards (19.5 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns. Those stats are highly impressive on their own, but his play also led to this stunning next-gen stat:
Marvin Jones had an underrated awesome season. He averaged 26.5 yards per catch and scored 5 TDs on tight window targets (only Jimmy Graham scored more) #NextGenStats— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) January 26, 2018
Compared to the rest of the league, you may not think Jones’ season was all that special. You’d be wrong. Though he finished 39th in receptions, he was ninth in total receiving yards. His 18.0 yards per catch was the highest the league (among receivers with at least 30 receptions).
But that wasn’t the most impressive thing about Jones in 2017. It was the fact that Jones was the second-best receiver in the entire league according to Football Outsiders’ DYAR metric (defense-adjusted yards above replacement).
If you’re wondering what DYAR is, here’s a brief summary from Football Outsiders:
This gives the value of the performance on plays where this WR caught the ball, compared to replacement level, adjusted for situation and opponent and then translated into yardage
Jones finished with a DYAR of 394, meaning his play gave the Lions 394 more yards than the average receiver would have if he were put in an identical situation. Only Steelers receiver Antonio Brown finished with a higher DYAR (429).
One interesting thing noted by Football Outsiders was Jones’ ability to draw pass interference. According to the advanced metric site, Jones drew seven defensive pass interference calls for a league-high 159 penalty yards. Those are the kind of stats that are never accounted for when determining a player’s value, even though they are as good as a reception.
So while four months ago, it seemed like Jones may be on his way out before his contract ends, now it seems like the Lions got a bargain for the burgeoning receiver.