In 2007, three wide receivers were on the field for 55 percent of pass plays across the NFL. In 2015, that mark was 71 percent.
The evolution of NFL offenses has led to a greater demand at wide receiver, which explains why Marvin Jones was a lock for a big payday as the top available free agent at the position. Jones, who turns 26 in a few days, is best viewed as a No. 2 wideout and is expected to be a starter opposite Golden Tate in Detroit.
The Lions, of course, have a massive offensive void to fill after Calvin Johnson surprisingly called it quits this offseason. Since 2007, Johnson has been on the field for 83 percent of Detroit's offensive plays (86 percent when the team is passing) and was responsible for 24 percent of the team's targets. With Johnson out the door, the Lions were left with Tate, 2014 sixth-round pick T.J. Jones and 2013 sixth-round pick Corey Fuller.
Enter Jones, who has had an up-and-down career since entering the league as a fifth-round pick back in 2012. After playing a limited role as a rookie, Jones exploded for 712 yards and 10 touchdowns on 51 receptions despite playing only half of the team's offensive snaps in 2013. Jones missed the entire 2014 season due to ankle and foot injuries, but bounced back with 65 receptions for 816 yards and four scores last season.
Jones is a solid wide receiver, but don't get too attached to that 2013 touchdown production. Although he was lauded as a force near the goal line, scoring touchdowns is more about opportunity than it is an actual skill. During his 10-score 2013 season, Jones caught all nine of his end zone targets. In 2015, he caught one of eight. The league-wide conversion rate on end zone targets to wide receivers during the span was 34 percent.
The Detroit offense is unlikely to score as often as Cincinnati did last season, but the Lions called passing plays a league-high 68 percent of the time in 2015. Head coach Jim Caldwell's teams have operated a very pass-heavy offense during four of his seven seasons as a head coach. Jim Bob Cooter didn't take over as offensive coordinator until just before the mid-point of last season, but he did not adjust the team's pass-heavy gameplan.
With the scheme unlikely to change in 2016, Jones is in position for an every-down role in a pass-heavy offense that figures to finish near league average in scoring. Even if he plays an expected second fiddle to Tate, Jones will see enough volume to allow borderline WR3 production in 10-team leagues. He's a good bet for roughly 70 receptions, 870 yards and five touchdowns. Tate, meanwhile, should be viewed as a strong WR3 with WR2 upside, especially in PPR formats.