2017 Jacksonville Jaguars Fantasy Football Team Outlook
With the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Blake Bortles. Bortles has seen his share of fantasy success at QB over the past two seasons, finishing as QB4 in 2015 and QB 9 last season thanks in large part to garbage time points. By no means has he been a good quarterback in the real world. Tom Coughlin was hired to make sure he doesn't have to be. After investing heavily in their defense through free agency (adding the top cornerback in A.J. Bouye, top defensive lineman Calais Campbell and one of the top safeties in Barry Church, in addition to using the 4th overall pick in this year's draft on the star running back out of LSU, Leonard Fournette, the Jaguars are looking to hide Bortles behind a hard-nose defense and a ground-and-pound offensive attack. Both their GM David Caldwell and HC Doug Marrone stated this offseason that all they want to do is run the ball, and if they had it their way, the ideal number of pass attempts Bortles would have in 2017 is "zero". Last season, Bortles "forced the NFL’s second-highest rate of passes into tight coverage (Next Gen Stats) while finishing dead last in Pro Football Focus’ deep-ball passer rating and deep-ball accuracy after placing 5th and 7th, respectively, in those metrics the year before" (Evan Silva, Rotoworld). Bortles has supposedly been working on his mechanics all summer, with different gurus and experts, which is great, and I'm not writing him off at just 25, but usually going into your fourth NFL season that kind of stuff is taken care of. At QB21 you could do worse, but don't expect near the same production from Bortles in 2017 as he's enjoyed over recent campaigns.
So, you get to Allen Robinson and the question becomes, was it his fault or Bortles? After a dynamite, breakout 2015 season, A-Rob absolutely destroyed drafters that invested a first or second round pick in 2016. His receiving yards and touchdowns dropped quicker than United's stock, plummeting from 1,400 to 883 and from 14 to 6, respectively. There's a point to be made from both sides. Bortles was bad, delivering 41 off-target passes to Robinson, accounting for over 27% of his total target number. Nothing he can do there. Diving in to the numbers a bit deeper, we time travel back to 2015. A-Rob saw a league-high 46 targets that traveled 20 yards or more, securing 19-of-20 targets that were deemed catchable amounting to 672 yards and three touchdowns. Fast forward a year. Robinson's target total on those passes dips from 46 to 31, which is fine in theory. But only 5 of those 31 targets were deemed catchable (Fantasy Pros). To that point I'd say positive regression is almost guaranteed in terms of accuracy on those targets, but having Blake Bortles as the quarterback doesn't guarantee much, if anything. Bortles has been, and will continue to be the problem in Jacksonville. Robinson didn't help himself much either, though. Robinson dropped a ton of fingertip catches (questionable to who's at fault) and averaged just 2.7 yards after the catch, ranking him 102nd in the NFL among qualified receivers. What was also a big red flag to me, and this isn't just pertaining to 2016, is how he performs against above average defensive backs. Robinson had a five game stretch last season (Week 11-15) in which he was held to 31 receiving yards or less in every game against Denver (Talib & Chris Harris), Houston (A.J. Bouye), Darius Slay of Detroit, Stefon Gilmore of Buffalo and Minnesota (Xavier Rhodes). It's a trend we've seen take hold throughout his career. People want to get smart and bring the momentum of the last two games of last season, when Doug Marone took over play calling and Robinson had his best game of the year in Week 16, going 9-for-147. Well, it was against the Tennessee Titans. There wasn't anyone not EATING against Tennessee. Week 14 it was Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, going 10-126 and 11-100-1. Week 15 it was Jeremy Maclin going 6-82, mind you he hadn't put up 50 receiving yards in a game since Week 4 heading into the Titans matchup and finally it was DeAndre Hopkins in Week 17, posting a 7-for-123 line in his season finale at Tennessee. So, before we get ahead of ourselves on how Robinson finished the year, let's just say the Titans weren't the best at pass defense. It's probably safe to assume he settles between where he finished in 2016 and 2015, averaging out to 77 receptions, 1,142 yards and 10 touchdowns, and that TD number is probably even a little bit high (no player has seen more targets over the L2 years (25) inside the ten-zone than Robinson, likely drops with Fournette here), so let's make that 8 touchdowns. Those numbers, in 2016 would've made A-Rob WR10 (STD), WR11 (0.5PPR) and WR12 (PPR). Furthermore, it's probably smart so skin a bit more from the top of those numbers since about 150 targets in each of the last two seasons, something unlikely to happen again. Ultimately, if Robinson's ADP (31, WR16) continues to slip, he'll become a value as I imagine a bounce-back year of sorts. I actually prefer Robinson to Demaryius Thomas and DeAndre Hopkins, but I don't love and I won't reach for either of the three.
What's really interesting to me is just how far Allen Hurns has fallen off the radar after a slight hamstring tear along with a concussion that limited him to an 11-game season in 2016. In the two years prior (2014-2015), Hurns was on the come-up big time after going over 1,000 yards, catching 64 balls and scoring 10 touchdowns, with 5-of-15 games eclipsing 100-yards in just his sophomore season. I guess I'm not surprised why he's fallen, but I think I'm more surprised I haven't seen a ton of bounce-back content on him. Hurns is still just 25-years old, has a great size (6-3, 205), good enough speed (4.55), and excellent hands to just write him off. In hopes to stay in the field more, Hurns added (supposedly) some muscle this offseason, but will still have to battle Marqise Lee for second receiver duties after letting him slide in the door last year. I'm not saying I love Hurns, as he has more competition and the Jags should be leaning on the run way more than in previous years under new HC Doug Marrone, but he's being drafted 180th overall at WR57, when he's likely to give you WR4 value given a healthy season. Marqise Lee, also 25-years old, was a highly touted second-round pick coming out of USC in 2014, but hasn't managed to stay on the field much since entering. Last year, Lee was asked to step up and did just that, accumulating 851 yards on 63 catches, scoring three times. We really haven't heard much about either guy this offseason, but for argument's sake, let's assume their both fully healthy. I like Lee (6-0, 196) to slide back into the slot role and Hurns reclaim his spot opposite A-Rob on the outside. Hurns, who played 60% of his snaps on the outside in 2015, was asked to play way more slot in 2016, something that probably hurt his production. Lee is the 162nd player off the board as WR55. Being picked around the same spot, I prefer Lee in full PPR, but Hurns in both standard and 0.5 PPR. Dede Westbrook, Jacksonville's 4th-round pick from Oklahoma, will face a big uphill battle after missing OTA's and some of minicamp with an undisclosed injury. But Russell isn't the only Westbrook balling out as of late. Through the Jags first two preseason games, the rookie wideout posted lines of 1-42-1 and 6-131-0. Albeit, Marqise Lee has been sidelined with an injury, his 42-yard touchdown was a complete bust by the defense, and he's lining up against back ups, but he's been impressive. A rookie with massive question marks at QB, and three young, talented wideouts slotted ahead of him, Westbrook will need an injury to provide value to fantasy owners that take the flier on him.
It's hard to imagine any sort of production from the tight end position in Jacksonville this season. After letting Julius Thomas sneak away to the other Florida-based team in Miami, the Jaguars are left with Marcedes Lewis and Mychal Rivera. I'm pretty sure Lewis is still getting paid from that ridiculous contract he received from Jacksonville back in 2010. He hasn't surpassed 230 receiving yards or two touchdowns in any of the last three seasons, and will probably forfeit passing down work to Rivera, who once had a decent fantasy season long, long ago. That's all I have to say here. Both players are way off my radar.
So, let's get to the moment we've all been waiting for. With the fourth overall pick, the Jaguars opted to take LSU's Leonard Fournette. I'll be the first to say, I'll be owning very few, if any shares of him at his current ADP (22, RB11). Fournette, weighed in at 240 pounds, ran a 4.51 40-yard which equated to a 96th percentile weight-adjusted speed score, also "the fastest 40-time ever recorded by an RB weighing 240+ pounds", per Evan Silva. While the upside is easy to see, my concerns are pretty wide-ranging. I really don't see Fournette having a much better situation than Todd Gurley in Los Angeles, which you guys know my thoughts already about Gurley. They have a bad offensive line (27th per Football Outsiders), they're in the bottom quarter of the NFL in scoring (19.9 points/game) and they have a decent pass-catching back on their roster already. Even with his size, Fournette wasn't a great blocker in college, and he dropped 8-of-48 catchable passes at LSU (PFF). I'm nervous it could be the same for Fournette. I get that as the 4th overall pick, the Jags absolutely want to mold him into the three-down workhorse, I'm just afraid it doesn't all pan out as smoothly as people drafting him think it will. We look at how many touchdown opportunities will Fournette have? Last year, Chris Ivory led Jaguars backs in rush attempts inside-the-5 with seven (7), tying him for 22nd in the NFL. Yeldon had just one. You're thinking, hey, maybe they throw less down there, but Bortles didn't see a ton of work here either, ranking 23rd amongst QBs for pass attempts inside-the-10. If volume is all you're looking for, Fournette can be your guy, but that ain't me. There's no question that Jacksonville wants this to be a run-oriented, hard nose football team and to mask Bortles as much as possible, but Fournette just seems like strictly a volume play to me. Once a new QB is under center in 2018, I'm all for Fournette as a top-5 pick in fantasy, just not in 2017. Give me Doug Baldwin, Lamar Miller or Travis Kelce before Fournette.
The pass-catching back I was previously referring to was T.J. Yeldon. Yeldon caught an impressive 50 balls and was tied for 7th in the NFL with 68 targets as a running back. While inefficient, they're clearly comfortable with Yeldon catching out of the backfield, and like I said, if Fournette struggles with blocking and receiving, there's not a lot of reason to keep him on the field for all three downs. Yeldon's already received praise from coaches for his pass-blocking at camp this offseason.
"Competing" with Fournette for early-down work is the 29-year old Chris Ivory. Ivory is third on the depth chart and is coming off by far the worst season of his 7-year tenure in the NFL, but posted 4.1 yards per carry in the three seasons prior with the New York Jets. When healthy, Ivory has proven he can be a bruiser at his size (6-0, 223), or at least give a breather to Fournette. I wouldn't suggest investing fantasy picks into anyone in this backfield other than Fournette, and the fantasy community would agree as both guys are going undrafted. With rumors emerging about both guys possibly being let go this offseason, Corey Grant, the 25-year old with elite 4.28 speed is a name to monitor in really deep/dynasty leagues if you want to handcuff Fournette. He got the start in Week 17 against the Colts last season, turning 18 rushes into 122 yards and a touchdown.