Today’s the day that Jaguars fans have, unfortunately, been waiting for since around October when it was clear the team would not contend in 2018.
The 2019 NFL Draft is upon us. Here’s the haul I’m projecting the Jaguars to walk away with, put together based on their reported interest and visits with players, needs, and emphasis on high-character prospects after a bit of a locker room fall-out in 2018.
Let’s get to mocking!
1st round – 7th overall: Jonah Williams, OL, Alabama
There’s been reports dating back to March of Jacksonville’s interest in the three year starter for Alabama, but the rumor mill regarding that interest has been spinning faster than tires on I-95 throughout the past week after reports surfaced of his top 30 visit. The Jaguars should be looking for blue-chip, polished prospects to immediately contribute to this team, both on the field and off, and Jonah Williams fits that bill. Jacksonville got to see Williams live three times in 2018.
Wiliams is a powerful lineman with fantastic hand technique to overcome length concerns, has started 44 straight games at both left and right tackle and earned multiple All-SEC and All-American honors each season, plays with more athleticism than his tests would say, and is as dedicated a lineman as they come: He tracks opponents pass rush moves on Excel spreadsheets for Pete’s sake.
Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone has a “key” connection to Williams as well, through Williams’ OL coach Brent Key during his time at Alabama. Marrone and Key have coached together previously and have maintained a relationship, and Key influenced the Jaguars’ selection of left tackle Cam Robinson in 2017.
Based on all of this, on top of conversations I’ve had with people I trust, I have a very strong feeling that Williams will be the pick at 7th overall, barring a trade-down or an elite defender falling into the team’s lap.
*TRADE*: 1st round – 29th overall: Noah Fant, tight end, Iowa
*Jacksonville sends their 38th overall pick (2nd round), 98th overall pick (3rd round, from LA Rams), and their 2020 5th round pick (from LA Rams) for the 29th overall pick.*
6-4 1/8, 249 lbs, 33 1/2″ arms, testing scores
Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said on Monday that the team had the flexibility to move back up in the draft – potentially even the first round – with the 3rd round compensatory pick they obtained from the Los Angeles Rams in the Dante Fowler Jr. trade in 2018.
Caldwell didn’t need to reveal that much info when asked about the comp. pick. He could have avoided mentioning the idea of trading back up as a whole, much less back into the first. Considering this quote, I 100% think that Jacksonville would like to do just that, if the right guy falls late into the first. And Noah Fant could be that guy, as the NFL has proven in the past that it doesn’t value tight ends in the top half of the first round often despite analysts valuing them there (see: O.J Howard in 2017). Fant had a top 30 visit with Jacksonville.
So, the Jaguars send their early 2nd rounder, their late 3rd rounder from L.A., and their 2020 5th rounder from L.A. to Seattle, who only has five picks this year and no 2nd round selection, in order to hop in front of the tight end-needy Green Bay Packers at 30th overall and New England Patriots at 32nd overall. Pats Pulpit has tracked NFL Draft pick trades from 2011-2018 to understand how the NFL values picks, and the Jaguars/Seahawks trade above comes out to a 0.15 point value difference – it’s a totally balanced trade, where Seattle inherits an extra Day 2 pick in a draft where they so badly need it. The value of the 2020 5th round pick is based on L.A.’s 2019 5th round pick, 170th overall.
Fant is a freak of nature for the tight end position, finishing in the 95th percentile or better among NFL TEs in the 40 yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump, and 3-cone drill at the NFL Combine – at about 6-4, 250 lbs. He recorded 78 catches for 1083 yards and 19 touchdowns in three years at Iowa. Fant would be an excellent addition to an offense that will heavily utilize TEs with Nick Foles at QB, especially considering the team has no one at the position to hang their hat on.
3rd round – 69th overall: Deionte Thompson, FS, Alabama
6-1, 195, 32 1/8 arms, testing scores
The Jaguars would probably prefer to go EDGE here, with a really solid group of edge rushers expected to be available that could fill the third down sub-pass rusher role that has been vacated since Dante Fowler Jr. was traded. But it’s impossible to pass on the value of lengthy free safety Deionte Thompson here, as he was once viewed as a potential first round pick before a couple of tough games to end the 2018 season.
Thompson recorded three interceptions and seven defended passes at Alabama, as well as three forced fumbles and 4.5 tackles for loss in 29 career games. Thompson frequently played opposite of now-Jaguars strong safety Ronnie Harrison in 2017 at Alabama, so re-creating that duo would be a huge plus for chemistry purposes. As mentioned under the Jonah Williams pick, Jacksonville live-scouted Alabama three times in 2018.
As Daniel Popper of The Athletic has noted, GM Dave Caldwell has mentioned that newly-resigned free safety Jarrod Wilson was brought back so he “could come in and compete as that starting free safety”… but other than pure special-teamer Cody Davis, Wilson currently has no one to compete with at FS. Therefore, Popper believes the Jaguars will target a free safety on Day 2. If the board falls like this and Thompson (or another safety higher on their board) becomes a value pick, then I totally agree.
4th round – 109th overall: Justin Hollins, EDGE, Oregon
6-5 1/4, 248, 33 3/8″ arms, testing scores
Justin Hollins is viewed as a tier below the EDGE group I alluded to above, but could provide some spark as a pure 3rd down EDGE rusher opposite of Yannick Ngakoue given his mix of length, explosion, bend ability, and speed (see test scores).
Hollins is a bit of a tweener, with his tall, lankier playing frame (he played at 242 in 2018). He played a mix of defensive end and outside linebacker at Oregon, where he recorded 14 sacks, 36 tackles for loss, seven forced fumbles, two interceptions and eight defended passes in 45 career games, starting 37. Hollins earned the East-West Shrine Game MVP this year, as well as both Associated Press and Pro Football Focus PAC-12 1st team All-Conference honors. He was also a team captain in 2018.
With defensive assistant and former NFL defensive coordinator Dom Capers in house after being hired earlier in the year, the Jaguars are expected to add some versatile looks to their defense. Capers notoriously ran a 3-4 defense in his time as a coordinator, so Hollins’ versatility to play both 4-3 DE and 3-4 OLB as a pass rusher and someone who can occasionally drop back into coverage makes him an intriguing fourth round pick.
6th round – 178th overall: Gardner Minshew, QB, Washington State
6-0 7/8, 225, 10 1/8″ hands, testing scores
Gardner Minshew was an awfully late bloomer as a college quarterback, starting at Northwest Mississippi State Community College for a year before transferring to East Carolina University, where he split snaps for two years at QB. He spent his final season of eligibility as a grad transfer in Washington State’s Air Raid offense, where his career reached new heights: A 70.7% completion percentage, 4779 passing yards, 38 touchdowns and only nine interceptions.
Minshew took the reigns of an offense left by Luke Falk, a three year starter who was drafted in the 6th round of the 2018 NFL Draft, and lifted the program following the suicide of the QB who was originally expected to replace Falk, Tyler Hilinski. Washington State went 11-2 and finished 10th in the AP Poll.
I don’t believe Minshew is a polished quarterback whatsoever, and he came from a system that inflated his numbers a good bit. However, his story of improvement throughout his career and the adversity that he lifted a somber football program out of with his high-character will undoubtedly push him up the Jaguars draft board, should they look for another project backup quarterback in this draft.
7th round – 236th overall: Darwin Thompson, RB, Utah State
5-8, 198, testing scores
The final pick of a whirlwind 2019 NFL Draft for the Jacksonville Jaguars gets used on another top-30 visit prospect, which means 50% of their picks in this scenario had already visited the facilities.
Thompson is a slippery back who packs some power despite his size, and is a solid pass catcher out of the backfield with 23 receptions for 351 yards and two receiving touchdowns to pair with his 1044 rushing yards on 153 carries (6.8 yards per carry!) and 14 touchdowns in one season at Utah State. Thompson previously played at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, a junior college.
While his profile may not blow you away, he fits the Corey Grant mold at running back with better potential as an in-between-the-tackles runner, and posted fantastic production in his first and only year at the D-1 level. Thompson would likely compete for the third running back job with Benny Cunningham as a true change-of-pace RB with receiving game upside.
Jaguars 2019 position group breakdown: Running Backs
Similar to their quarterback situation, the Jacksonville Jaguars have attempted to answer some questions in terms of the run game in this year’s offseason. Jacksonville went through a full remodel in an attempt to add veteran presence that can sustain the ground attack if injury strikes the team yet again in 2019.
Two years ago, the Jaguars were a team that led the NFL in rushing at 527 attempts throughout the regular season. Nearly 50 carries ahead of any other team in the league. On those 527 attempted the Jaguars saw heights in production not seen since the Maurice Jones-Drew.
That production staggered in yardage and overall sustainability of the offense with their lackluster quarterback play last season. This was all due to the injuries of star running back Leonard Fournette and the majority of the offensive line. Without Fournette, the Jaguars only accumulated half the yardage in 2018 Fournette produced in 2017 with T.J. Yeldon and Carlos Hyde leading the affair.
Being a strong part of the offensive system, the Jaguars win total saw a sharp decrease and the team swagger that carried them to the 2017 AFC playoffs had vanished.
Jacksonville looked to replenish their running back room and get back to the strong, effective run game they saw in 2017 that made them so successful.
Adding Alfred Blue, Benny Cunningham, Thomas Rawls and more through free agency, as well as, drafting former Temple running back, Ryquell Armstead the Jaguars made a good move in adding reliable to back up Fournette in the backfield.
Projected Running Back Depth Chart:
*italicized indicates starter, underline indicates picked up via draft/free agency
Leonard Fournette, Alfred Blue, Benny Cunningham, Ryquell Armstead.
Leading the pack coming into 2019 is Leonard Fournette. Fournette is a player that has all the major attributes to be a star player in the NFL if he could just stay healthy. Fournette missed eight games last season and seven due to injury which caused the Jaguars offense to stall in his absence.
He is a player that combines strong downhill running with game-breaking speed. Abilities not many can combine nevertheless replace. He is a generational talent who looks to return to his rookie form in 2019.
Fournette looks to be getting back on track this season and “refocused on football.” Him being able to stay on the field will be a huge plus for a Jaguars team that has struggled offensively for many years.
The next two players on the depth chart are veteran backs Alfred Blue and Benny Cunningham.
Blue being a signee from the Houston Texans roster and an experienced back who knows how to get yardage necessary to sustain drives. While receiving very little touches in the Houston offense he played the backup role well and was a reliable source of receiving out of the backfield.
Blue will be used more as a third-down back in the Jaguars offense.
The same goes for Cunningham. Coming over from the Bears, which last season saw two top-caliber running backs in Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen sharing carries, Cunningham got lost in the shuffle. Cunningham is a great receiving threat out of the backfield and can play solid minutes in his role on his new team.
Having two players that can play roles, and play them well is vital for any team in the NFL. Taking fatigue and potential injury into account getting Cunningham and Blue was one of the more important moves the Jaguars made this offseason. The Jaguars acquired two reliable backs for new quarterback Nick Foles to work with on downs where Fournette is not in the game.
Next on the team’s depth chart is the Jaguars 2019 fifth-round pick out of Temple, Ryquell Armstead. In his senior year, Armstead scored 13 touchdowns and averaged nearly 6.5 yards per carry. Armstead’s progression through his college career was a sight to see. After starting his career as a bulkier strong runner, Armstead slimmed down to become a more complete back and utilized his opportunity at Temple to make it to the NFL.
Posting 2,987 yards and 34 touchdowns over his career, Armstead looks to carry on those impressive numbers at the next level. Armstead is a runner with great field vision and patience behind the line of scrimmage. He bursts through the open hole and is willing to lower the shoulder to gain extra yardage. Armstead says that he models his game after former Giants running back Brandon Jacobs.
He describes himself as an angry runner. “I run angry, I run violent. I look for contact— that’s something that makes me unique.” Armstead stated in an interview with CBS sports.
The type of physical running Armstead brings to the table is something the Jaguars have had success within recent memory. That willingness to create contact and run hard for his team to succeed is an attribute any team would love to have with their running back.
A player that very strongly resembles Leonard Fournette in terms of running style was a guy the Jaguars looked at as a potential steal in the fifth round. An aggressive, one-cut runner who can run over opponents or bounce it to the outside and take off down the sideline.
Armstead had the second-fastest time in the 40-yard dash among eligible running backs at the 2019 NFL combine at 4.49 seconds. Being a player with blazing speed mixed with a downhill running style, Armstead could see minutes directly behind Fournette later in the season. Armstead is an intriguing prospect but his development as a pass-catcher out of the backfield will need to improve for him to solidify the playing time this season.
While the Jaguars have many running backs on the roster, all of them cannot stay. Unless there is a huge jump of progression when training camp starts later in the month, Thomas Rawls and Taj McGowan have very little shot of making the team.
After last season, the Jaguars have done whatever it takes to assure they have depth at this position. Being able to provide multiple sources of production is important for any team. By providing this depth, the Jaguars hope it can get the job done and they can return to the success seen in the running game just two seasons ago.
REPORT: Jaguars to sign former WVU WR Marcus Simms
The Jacksonville Jaguars have made a roster move signing former West Virginia WR Marcus Simms according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Simms was slated to participate in the supplemental draft after filing the paperwork on June 20th.
Source: The #Jaguars are signing former West Virginia WR Marcus Simms, pending a physical tomorrow. Had several offers after today's supplemental draft ended. One to watch in camp.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 10, 2019
Simms will make for interesting competition for the Jaguars as we inch closer to training camp. Simms accumulated 87 receptions for 1457 yards and eight touchdowns in his three-year career at West Virginia. Simms has also made his name known in the return game totaling 992 yards as a kick returner. According to reports, Simms ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4-4.49 seconds, with a vertical jump of 36″, a broad jump of 10-2 and three-cone time of 6.91 seconds. After his physical tomorrow, the Jaguars will have to make a corresponding move.
Simms will look to compete for a bottom-of-the-roster position with players such as Terrelle Pryor and Keelan Cole. If the Jaguars intend on retaining six receivers Simms will have a good shot at making the roster. By all accounts, Simms was a draftable player.
2019 Jacksonville Jaguars Fantasy Football: Nick Foles Preview
Quarterback Nick Foles signed a four-year, $88 million dollar contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason. Foles is a much-needed upgrade behind center and may be the best signal-caller the franchise has had in the past decade. Jaguars fans have high expectations for how he’ll do on his new team. Here’s what you should expect how he’ll do on your fantasy team.
Poor Fantasy History
Throughout the entirety of Foles’ career, his fantasy football production has been underwhelming. Foles has only finished as a top-25 fantasy quarterback once in his seven years in the league.
Part of the reason Foles never produced solid fantasy numbers due to the fact he has never played a full 16-game season — the most games he’s played is 13 back in 2013 when he was fantasy’s QB9. Foles played more than eight games just one other season. To remove the effect of the number of games played, we can look at fantasy points per game (PPG), but those statistics are also disappointing:
-Foles averaged 20.46 PPG in 2013, his best fantasy season. His second-best fantasy season was last year when he scored 15.00 fantasy PPG, which was tied for 24th — with Eli Manning. His career mark is 13.04 fantasy PPG.
-For comparison, Blake Bortles’ best fantasy season was in 2015, when he finished with 20.25 fantasy PPG. In 2018, he scored 13.31 fantasy PPG, which was 28th. His career mark is 15.88 fantasy PPG.
Bortles has been a viable fantasy option partly because of garbage-time opportunities in his first couple years and increased rushing production in the last couple years, but it’s still a tough look for Foles to have worse career fantasy numbers than Bortles by over two points. Long story short, Foles has frankly been a bad fantasy quarterback throughout his career save for one good season.
Fewer Passing Attempts
Another warning sign for Foles is a likely decrease in passing attempts after playing for the Philadelphia Eagles the past two seasons.
-In five regular-season starts last season, Foles had 39.0 attempts per game and averaged 15.04 fantasy points per game.
-In 12 regular-season starts last season, Bortles had 33.0 attempts per game and averaged 13.32 fantasy points per game.
-Foles and Bortles each averaged 0.35 fantasy points per dropback, per Player Profiler.
Foles finished with more fantasy points per game than Bortles, which was partly due to Foles simply throwing the ball more often. Foles’ higher passing rate can essentially be boiled down to two factors: team defense and rushing rate. Jacksonville’s 8thranked defense last season allowed the Jaguars the freedom to run more often and Philadelphia’s 18thranked defense sometimes forced the Eagles to pass more often (weighted defensive efficiency rankings via Football Outsiders). Additionally, Jacksonville (49%) ran at a higher rate than Philadelphia (43%) in game-script positive situations (rushing rates via Sharp Football Stats). To summarize, due to differences in defensive production and offensive play calling, the Eagles pass a lot more than the Jaguars.
Despite the new additions of Foles and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, the Jaguars will likely continue to rely on running and defense. As a result of transitioning from Philadelphia to Jacksonville, Foles will almost certainly throw fewer passes, and therefore is unlikely to produce numbers like he did last season- which already weren’t exceptional.
Fewer Red Zone Opportunities
Foles also isn’t likely to have as many opportunities to score in the red zone as he did with the Eagles, which is another fantasy red flag.
-In the past two seasons, 36.1% of Foles’ fantasy points have come from in the red zone, while 32.5% of Bortles’ fantasy points have come from in the red zone, per fantasy data.
-In the past two seasons, the Eagles passed on 53% of red-zone plays, while the Jaguars passed on 47% of red-zone plays. The Eagles passed on 57% of red-zone plays in games Foles started, and the Jaguars passed on 42% of red-zone plays in games Leonard Fournette started.
-In the past two seasons, the Eagles averaged 3.4 red zone attempts per game, while the Jaguars averaged 2.6 red zone attempts per game, per Team Rankings.
Based on the 2017-18 seasons, Foles may not reach the red zone as much nor pass in the red zone as much as he was accustomed to in Philadelphia.
Offensive Talent Downgrade
One of the more talked about storylines regarding Foles’ signing with the Jaguars is his prior supporting cast in Philadelphia compared to his current one in Jacksonville. Foles must transition from a receiving core of Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, and Nelson Agholor to Dede Westbrook, Marquise Lee, and rookie tight end Josh Oliver. The difference in each group’s production is obvious:
-Ertz, Jeffery, Agholor, and Golden Tate (who played for Philadelphia in the second half of last season) all surpassed 100 fantasy points and 60 receptions last season. They have four combined career Pro-Bowl appearances.
-Westbrook was the only Jacksonville receiver to surpass 100 fantasy points and 60 receptions last season. In fact, he is the only player on the current roster who caught over 40 passes last season. The Jaguars receivers have zero combined career Pro-Bowl appearances.
The argument that Westbrook is as good as Agholor is feasible, but Agholor was Philadelphia’s third receiving option at best last season, and Jacksonville has no weapons who can come close to the skillset or production of Ertz and Jeffery. Additionally, Foles targeted Ertz a lot and he generated impressive numbers – which creates a lot of buzz for the imminent Foles-Oliver connection – but Ertz’s success was likely due more to his own talent than Foles’ supposed rapport with tight ends:
Per Sports Info Solutions, Foles targeted tight ends at the highest rate in the league (35%) last season. However, he posted a worse completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdown percentage, interception percentage, and quarterback rating when throwing to a tight end than the wide receiver or running back last season. Foles also ranked 42ndamong all quarterbacks (min. 10 attempts) in passer rating when targeting tight ends. Ertz finished top-three in targets, receptions, yards, touchdowns, and total fantasy points among tight ends last season. However, he ranked only 20thin fantasy points per target and 18thin yards per target among tight ends (per Player Profiler), which suggests that his massive target volume was a big benefactor towards his production. That large target volume combined with Ertz’s individual talent masked Foles’ below-average efficiency when targeting tight ends.
Now Foles is in Jacksonville, and his top tight end has yet to play an NFL snap. 2019 third-round pick Josh Oliver has a lot of potential to succeed in John DeFilippo’s tight end-friendly offense, but it is unreasonable to expect him to approach Ertz’s skill level or production in his first season. It should also be noted that rookie tight ends historically don’t have a large impact– in the past 15 years, only two rookie tight ends have surpassed 600 receiving yards, and only two have finished as a top-five fantasy tight end. Consequently, Foles may have even worse ratings when targeting tight ends this year. Foles’ supposed strength of throwing to tight ends could be revealed to simply be a result of having an All-Pro tight end to throw to ten times a game in Philadelphia. Overall, Foles is leaving a group of proven/productive receivers and joining a group of young/inconsistent receivers.
One last personnel issue to consider is the strength of Foles’ offensive lines. According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles ranked 17thin pass protection last season and gave up 40 sacks. The Jaguars ranked 27thin pass protection and gave up 53 sacks. Jacksonville’s linemen couldn’t stay healthy as it seemed like backups of backups were starting late in the season. If rookie tackle Jawaan Taylor makes an impact and the starters stay healthy this season there shouldn’t be too much of a problem, but it is worth mentioning that Foles’ new offensive line is just one more variable that could hypothetically make 2019 harder on him and hinge his fantasy potential.
Foles Overall Outlook
Foles ranks 12thin career winning percentage (per Football Database) but 34thin career fantasy points per game among all active quarterbacks (minimum 10 starts). Foles can win games without having to put up lucrative passing numbers, which is exactly what the Jaguars are expecting of him. Based on his past fantasy performances and his new environment in Jacksonville, Foles doesn’t have much of a fantasy ceiling and should not be drafted in single quarterback leagues. He has value as a streaming option/cheap DFS play when he has favorable matchups against weak pass defenses, but for the most part, it’d be wise to look elsewhere when finding a fantasy quarterback.
Note: All fantasy numbers are in standard format (non-PPR). Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are via Pro Football Reference.
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REPORT: Jaguars to sign former WVU WR Marcus Simms