Can fantasy owners trust anyone other than Leonard Fournette on Jacksonville’s offense this season?
Former No. 3 overall pick Blake Bortles was signed to a 3-year, $54 million extension this offseason after helping lead Jacksonville to the AFC Championship Game, and the team was a Tom Brady comeback away from reaching the Super Bowl. In the regular season, Bortles completed a career-high 60.2% of his passes for 3,687 yards, 21 touchdowns, and a career-low 13 interceptions on his way to a QB13 finish. He also did damage on the ground with 57 attempts for 322 yards and two scores. And remember, Bortles previously led the NFL in touchdown passes (35) in 2015, and he is just entering his age-26 season.
However, I think Bortles will be an unreliable streaming option that could put up disappointing numbers in any given week this season. The Jaguars are heavily reliant on the running game and play-action passes, so if their quarterback—who himself has admitted he isn’t a natural thrower—has an off day, fantasy owners probably need rushing production from him to be worth a start. I think in real life, Bortles doesn’t get enough credit, but from a fantasy perspective, he’s outside my top-25 quarterbacks in a deep group, and you’re probably better off drafting another signal-caller this summer.
Leonard Fournette was the centerpiece of Jacksonville’s offense as a 22-year-old rookie with over 300 touches in 13 regular season games, as the LSU product rushed 268 times for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns, also adding 36 receptions for 302 yards and another score. In the postseason, he handled even more work with 77 touches in three games, which would have been 411 touches over 16 games. Durability is really the only concern for Fournette dating back to his time in college, as when he’s on the field, he is a physical, tone-setting runner with a 1,200-yard floor and legitimate 20-touchdown upside, especially after the Jaguars signed First-team All-Pro left guard Andrew Norwell earlier this year. Still, I can see why Fournette, currently being drafted as a borderline top-ten pick, would go as high as No. 6 in fantasy drafts, but I have other options pushing him down the board towards the end of Round 2 for me.
Relegated to a change-of-pace role following the selection of Fournette last year, 2015 second-round pick T.J. Yeldon rushed 49 times for 253 yards (5.2 YPC) and two touchdowns in his third NFL season, also adding 30 receptions for 224 yards. I think the former Alabama star is sort of a Le’Veon Bell “lite” with good patience and a creative running style, but he provides little standalone value backing up the Jags’ workhorse. Yeldon would be the top waiver priority if Fournette goes down, but the 24-year-old might not be worth a pick in 10-team leagues because there’s no way to earn fantasy value barring injury. Now might be the time for get Yeldon in dynasty leagues, though, as he could have a lead role somewhere else in 2019.
Former undrafted free agent Corey Grant averaged an insane 8.76 yards per touch on 33 touches last season, which is obviously a small sample size, but the tape doesn’t lie either; Grant is extremely dynamic and explosive when he gets his hands on the ball, and he showed that in the AFC Championship Game with three receptions for 59 yards against New England. I would get the 26-year-old more involved on a consistent basis if I were Jacksonville, but he will probably only have fantasy value this season as a big-play-dependent FLEX in the case of a Fournette injury.
The Jaguars decided to re-sign Marqise Lee to a four-year, $38 million deal instead of keeping Allen Robinson (three-year, $42 million deal with Chicago) this offseason, so the former USC standout will be the team’s top receiver for the foreseeable future. Lee is a dynamic route-runner that had at least 65 yards in seven of his 14 regular season appearances in 2017, and he has been relatively healthy over the past two seasons with just two games missed. He doesn’t have the upside that Robinson did in Jacksonville, but Lee boasts a solid floor with room to grow into a 1,000-yard receiver, which I think makes him a really good value at his Round 14 ADP.
Donte Moncrief signed with the Jags on a one-year deal to rebuild his value following a sub-par season in Indianapolis, and he is hoping to breakout in his fifth season in the league. Turning only 25-years-old next month, the former second-round pick can do a little bit of what the team was counting on from Allen Robinson last season as a big-bodied, big-play threat. I’ve been lower on Moncrief than most throughout his career, but I think he has double-digit touchdown potential as a jump-ball winner that should see a lot of one-on-one coverage on the perimeter. He’s barely on the fantasy radar for most, but I think Moncrief is worth considering as a late-round flier if he can hold off the young trio of deep threats on the roster.
I have Dede Westbrook right behind Moncrief in my fantasy rankings, but one could pull away from the other with a strong camp. It’s certainly worth noting that the former Heisman finalist dominated in the preseason last summer with a combined 13/288/2 line in three games, but a core muscle injury required surgery and forced him to miss the first nine games of the regular season. However, he returned to catch 27 passes for 339 yards and one touchdown as a rookie, appearing in seven games (five starts); and Westbrook also started all three playoff games. If he has another strong preseason, the 24-year-old’s stock is sure to rise.
Jacksonville really loaded up on wideouts when they selected D.J. Chark with the No. 61 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, but I’m not expecting him to make a huge statistical impact as a rookie. The six-foot-four speedster with 4.34 wheels only had six receiving touchdowns at LSU, and I think it’s a tall task to come in and earn a full-time role ahead of Moncrief or Westbrook. He should make some big plays in as a situational deep threat, but Chark is just a weekly desperation option in 2018 for me. And I also like Westbrook’s long-term outlook more if he’s focused.
2017 undrafted free agent Keelan Cole actually led the Jaguars in receiving yards as a rookie with 748 yards on 42 receptions (17.8 average), and that gives fantasy owners reason to be concerned about everyone other than Marqise Lee this season because the three speedsters and Moncrief could end up cancelling each other out by frustrating with unpredictable production. Fortunately, we will be able to see how the depth chart shakes out this summer, but if everyone rotates pretty evenly, all bets will be off.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins signed a two-year, $10.5 million contract with the Jags earlier this year, and he will look to build off a 50-catch season with the Jets from a season ago. The former second-round pick will give Blake Bortles a large, six-foot-six target over the middle and in the red zone, but I’m not sure how much upside is there to warrant borderline top-15 consideration at the position, as ASJ is currently going as the TE16 in fantasy drafts. In my opinion, there are much better late-round options for those punting on tight end.
Jacksonville also signed veteran Niles Paul in the offseason, but besides a 39/507/1 line in 2014, the former Redskin only has 29 receptions for 349 yards and one score in his career. Entering his age-29 campaign, Paul is unlikely to become anything more than a little-used move tight end and core special teamer.
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